Summer in Minnesota is a great time to move your classroom outside. It is critical for helping our students make meaningful connections about how our world works, as well as good for their health (see previous blog Going Green.) This past week, we explored the sun. Thankfully, we had a week without incelement weather. I asked a simple, open-ended question to guide our discussion: “What can you tell me about the sun?” We came up with the following list:
- It is shiny.
- It is this big (arms above your head).
- It is yellow.
- It is hot and sweaty.
- It is a circle.
- When I go outside it hurts my eyes.
- It is like on another planet.
- It helps the flowers grow.
After we made our list, I had a fun experiment to try. I reminded my students that the sun creates heat and we were going to use it as our oven. I covered a pizza box with tin foil and had each student put a graham cracker, piece of chocolate and a marshmallow on the bottom part of the box. Then we went outside and picked a spot to put our solar panel oven. In a little less than an hour we had delicious S’mores and my students were amazed at how the sun had melted the chocolate and marshmallow.
This kind of experiential, tangible learning is so crucial to our children’s development. They are able to visualize, manipulate and have a “real world” experience that connects them to the concepts they are learning about. The beauty of hands on learning is its ability to encompass such a wide variety of subject levels. Throughout this lesson, for example, we practiced our language and vocabulary skills, developed analytical and scientific thought, and engaged in social interactions among our classmates. And let me tell you, almost everyone wanted S’MORE!