In anticipation of two pending births within families at Free to Be, Morgan’s and Teacher Brandon’s, we decided to undertake a project on babies. We discovered several children had baby brothers and sisters as well. Almost everyone knew a baby somehow. With this common knowledge as a basis for our study, we began our project …
In September we measured the bellies of our very pregnant mothers. Children interviewed both moms, which further helped us to understand what they were interested in, what they understood and also what they misunderstood. Next, we created a “web” to visually record what the children already knew about the topic. It formed a guide as to how the project might progress.
First we asked the children “Who has a baby at home?” The responses were tallied and graphed. Invitations to visit were then sent to all our families with babies. A questionnaire was prepared in advance to help the children interview the families. Visiting babies provided first-hand experiences, the best opportunities for learning to take place. The visiting siblings also provided big sisters and brothers the chance to be “experts” and share with their schoolmates. Their schoolmates benefited from observing babies up close and personally!
BABY VS. TODDLER
Children used their analytical thinking skills as they struggled to decide if the “visiting babies” were actually babies or toddlers?? After much discussion they created a list of characteristics for each. Babies “have no teeth, wear diapers, drink milk, eat baby food, can’t walk, cry, have a crib and can’t talk”. Toddlers “have teeth, might wear diapers or use the potty??, drink a lot of things in a sippy cup, eat other stuff, walk, cry sometimes, might have a crib or a little bed and say words”.
Children were asked to bring in pictures of when they were babies. The display aroused much curiosity. They were interested in finding their friends’ photos as well as showing off their own. Name recognition was an important part of this activity. Next, the photos were used to create a book, When You Were a Baby. Each child had a page which included a baby picture, a current picture and his/her description of what it was like to be a baby. The end result was a very interesting book!
We borrowed a pregnant mouse from the Stockton animal lab so the children could make observations of the life cycle first hand. They voted on a name for the mother mouse. “Gerry” was the popular choice. The children predicted how many baby mice would be born and when. After nine days we counted twelve babies! We watched them change as they grew under the care of Gerry. In turn, we had the responsibility of caring for the mother mouse. Children found out about the different needs of mothers and babies.
While the mice were visiting, we read and reread If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. This led to the children creating their own version: If You Give the Babies Juice. This book turned into a play, which was performed for parents at the end of the project.
The Big Room was setup as a Nursery and a Pediatrician’s Office to facilitate our study of babies. It was supplied by donations from families. The purpose was to create an environment to explore role playing and care taking. The children had the opportunity to fill out birth certificates, tend to sick babies, dress them, weigh them, etc. Imaginative play is a very important component of learning for preschoolers, both cognitively and socially.
Children revisited their days of being a baby when we offered baby food in a jar at snack time. Fortunately, we had the resources to make our own organic baby food. Children went out in the front year, picked pears off the tree and then helped process them into baby food.
At the end of the Baby Project families were invited to visit a display of the learning that took place during the Baby Project, to watch the children perform in two plays about babies and to enjoy refreshments -- our homemade baby food.
After reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, The Hippo Group wrote their own version of this story, If You Give the Babies Juice. There were some twists in the plot, but in the end all the babies arrive safely at home and get to use the potty again!
The Elephant Group performed a play adapted from the book “Smile, Lily!” by Candace Flemming. The actors used various strategies to stop a baby from crying: a rattle, a bottle, a lullaby, etc., but in the end, it was the brother/sister’s smile that brought a smile to the baby’s face. Parts were rotated among the children, allowing them to try out different roles or work as technical support, according to their comfort level.