How documentation informs teaching - Part 2 - Mid-Pacific Institute

Kindergarten Hitomi

How documentation informs teaching - Part 2

Posted on October 7, 2017

by Ms. Hitomi on October 7, 2017

Teachers now wondered if the children would interact with any space as they did in the Bamboo Forest. Would their imaginary play continue? Would they continue to look for and observe relationships between the living and nonliving things in the space? Would they continue to explore the sound of the space? In pursuit of our research, teachers took the children to three different spaces on campus.

Behind the Advancement Office, the children were drawn to the mysterious sounds coming from the brush on the perimeter of the space. They later realized that it was a cat, but the sound had lured them to the fence along the perimeter, through which they could see Ms. Jordan's yard! In the brush, the children were excited to find many snails.

During our whole group meeting the children reflected and speculated what the snails might be doing, again revealing their ideas about relationships:

S1: I saw a whole bunch of snails at the house, and I saw a snail that was already open, and it was slugging away, and it was slow.

Why was one running away?

S1: Because it wants to see its family.

Don't the other ones want to see their families, too?

S1: I think it wanted to adventure first.

S2: The other ones were laughing at it, and that's why it ran away. It hided, but the others didn't follow him and told the teacher.

Why do you think the snail went away?

S4: Because he's scared, because they're mean to him.

S5: I think maybe they're trying to be friends, but if they play together, they'll make more friends.

Why was that one going away?

S5: I think they didn't want it to be friends.

How come?

S5: I think they're playing kind of too rough with each other, so they didn't want to play with each other.

S6: I think the snail was running away because they were being mean.

S7: I saw four snails that were a family. Daddy, Mommy, big sister and baby brother.

Remember the antagonistic and unfriendly relationship the children described between the two crayfish at Wailele Spring? Notice here that the children's theories about relationships have deepened. They now designate different roles to the snails, as they might be observed in these relationships: family, friends, students. The children also prescribe character and personality traits to the snails, which helps to verify WHY the snail was moving away - it was scared, others were mean, it wanted adventure, it is gentle ("they're playing kind of too rough"), it felt hurt ("other ones were laughing"), others are helpful ("told the teacher").

Teachers then took the children between the baseball field and Kamanele Park. The following conversation begins with a statement about what was observed. Through prompts given by the teachers, the children are able to share more of their thinking, revealing why this spider was so interesting to them. The idea of relationships resurfaces as one child shares the possibility that the spider and millipede they saw were friends. Notice that as more of the children join in the conversation, they co-construct a more complex and detailed theory, which includes speculation of an underground society, as well as a possible relationship between bugs and people.

S1: I found a spider.

S2: The white spider.

How many of you have seen a spider before? What made you stop to look at this one?

S3: Because it was big and it had stripes.

Does anyone have something else to share about the spider?

S4: It was in the dirt. I thought they live in grass.

S5: Maybe it was in a hole, and it came out. Maybe it jumped out to see if there was food. And it was interesting because it was gray, and I never saw a daddy longlegs. Because the baby ones are tiny.

S6: That one was the biggest one I ever saw. I saw a red thing on its face, and that was his eyes. He was also really fast.

Notice the details the children are able to provide about the spider, from its color, to specific markings, to where it is thought to have lived. In addition, the children speculate why it came to the surface, as well as how quickly it moved, contrasting it to what was probably observed with other spiders.

S7: The spider and millipede were looking for food together.

So they were friends? They weren't like the crayfish we saw the other day. Why would the spider and millipede be friends?

S7: Because they became friends because they're different.

Notice how this child uses the word "became" to explain the friendship between the spider and millipede. This suggests that the differences that exist between the two are the catalyst for their friendship, which differs from the notion of accepting and valuing another's differences because of the friendship. Profound!

It's okay to be friends when you're different?

S7 nods yes.

S8: I think they were school friends.

What does school look like for the spider and millipede? Do they go to school at Mid-Pacific?

S8: No, they go to school in a tiny hole.

Underground? What does that look like? What do they do?

S8: The teacher is a cockroach.

What does the teacher teach them?

S8: Math, spelling, multiplication.

Why do they have to know those things?

S9: They don't speak human.

S10: Some of them have two languages.

S3: The cockroach teaches them.

How does the cockroach do that if he speaks a different language? How do they talk to each other?

S3: I'm sure they just show their... [motions with hands - shares that his teacher in Seattle said that some people use their hands to talk].

Here we see the children bring up another big concept, this idea of language and how different bugs might communicate.

S5: I saw a tunnel. Maybe the tunnel leads to the school.

So there's bug tunnels underneath our school? What are they doing?

S5: Work. They're copying us, what we do, because they have cameras...Maybe it goes to a sewer. Maybe there's more bugs down there because maybe they're building homes down there.

S11: But what if the camera's on right now in the dirt, they watch us during circle time.

You think they're watching us talk about them?

S11: Maybe they want to copy us what we're doing. What if they copy us what we're saying?

Why would they want to copy us?

S5: Maybe they just like Mid-Pacific and the art that we do.

S11: Maybe they like our school. Maybe they like owls.

A whole underground system with a school...what an incredible theory! We also hear the children talk about a relationship between people and bugs and this idea that perhaps the bugs are watching us and even emulating us.

Intrigued by this theory of an underground civilization of bugs, teachers asked the children to draw their theories - What do you think is underground?

As the children shared their drawings and theories with the class, larger concepts surrounding relationships began to emerge, such as interconnectedness - bug:bug, bug:human, bug:environment - and the more intricate idea of relationships within a society.

What are the ants doing? "Finding stuff, different kinds of bugs. They eat bugs. Many ants carry the bug to their home and eat." What do you think their home looks like? "They live in a tree. They go underground to get food and carry it to the tree. They live inside the branches. Dad brings food back to his family. Grandpa helps Dad get food. Son stays home and watches t.v. The girl washes the plates. Mommy washes the kids. Grandma sleeps."

Although the drawing doesn't clearly depict his theory, look at all the complex details that this child has thought about: what happens above ground and underground, what bugs eat, what are the dynamics of the family and each bug's responsibility, even to include that the grandma gets to sleep.

"There are different kinds of bugs. They invite each other to parties. [There's a] spider, cockroach, ants. They are still growing in the egg. The egg's underground so people won't step on it." Are there a lot of different kinds of bugs or just a few? "Just a few different kinds, not a lot." What happens in the hole? "The spider makes a web, cockroaches get food. There's a bed. These are tunnels to go to the different holes to get to different sides, to the different bugs." Didn't you mention a school the other day? "The home is by the school so they won't be late." What do they do in school? "Eat lunch, do journals. They copy us."

This child describes the underground interactions bugs have with one another. He theorizes about the infrastructure of this society, including tunnels, buildings, furniture, and borders, as well as tasks that might be undertaken. Notice that this society is modeled after the community in which we live, and that they "copy us," suggesting that we have a community worth imitating.

"The spiders are crawling to make new friends. They make friends with the caterpillars and bumblebees, but not the snail. They will eat the snail because it is tiny. They are dancing to music. When the worms move, they make music. There's little pieces of hard rocks. When their body moves on top of the hard rock, it creates noise. The caterpillars can also create noise when they walk across the rocks."

This child creates a theory about friends, and indicates that size may be a factor in who is befriended. She also begins to describe a relationship between the bugs and their environment, theorizing that sound/music is created when the creatures move the rocks, or just move, in their environment.

The children's theories vacillate between what they have actually observed in their own personal experiences, the ideas their friends have shared during our group meetings, and what they imagine happens in the unseen world underground. Some of their theories combine all of the above. Teachers also observe that the children often revise their initial theories as they share them with the class. Clarifying questions, posed either by the teachers or other students, as well as alternate perspectives offered by peers, often prompt new ideas which the children then weave into their original ideas.

It is fascinating to think that a whole other world exists underneath, and among, us! Are its inhabitants just like us, or do they live in a completely different kind of society? How do they interact with each other? The children have many ideas about how the bugs feel about us, but how do we relate to them, and what is our relationship to them? And what role does the environment play? What kind of relationship do bugs have with the trees and rocks in which they are living? In Part 3 of this series, we will share how our documentation led us to the work we are now doing in Kamanele Park.