As time moves, and lockdown continues, we are gradually adapting and becoming more experienced at presenting our online circles in a way that engages the children fully by getting them involved and piquing their desire to learn and absorb. It has been very rewarding to be part of this different journey with all of them online.
In the nursery the children are happy to be observers of an activity, dipping in to give hands-on help, answer questions and then subsequently have a go by at that same activity after circle as part of the classroom work cycle. Observation and interaction are important during the circle times as it enables the imagination to spark, questions to be answered and allows for our lovely children to become critical thinkers. In doing so they learn and also increase their understanding through a process of addressing concrete concepts, breaking them down, thinking of answers to questions and also asking questions themselves. Above all what continues to hold true, whether online or present together, is engagement and practical involvement are the keys to happy learning!
So onto the Digestive System. This was particularly chosen to be able to replicate at home from gathering simple materials found around the house.
In the first week I marked up a T-shirt drawing the digestive system onto it. My 15 year old daughter then kindly offered to paint it and label it and also added a finishing touch which went down well with all of us who never grow out of toilet humour!
Each morning I wear the T-shirt each as Tim and I greet the children, say our ‘Good Morning!’ and then begin circle time. We started the digestive system topic with looking at the T-shirt and considering an overview of the journey of food through the body and also asked the significant question ‘why is food so important?’ Here we had help from Mummy and Daddy Pig (of Peppa Pig’s family’). Our same 15 year old daughter had kept all her Peppa Pig toys and the remote control car has come in very handy for this one. The children were able to liken the petrol used to make the car drive to food giving us energy. They were particularly delighted when I used my banana petrol pump to fill the car with fuel. ‘Glug, glug, glug’ was the sound I made as the banana pump filled up the car with petrol. And imagine their delight when the car drove off! It was great seeing their faces enjoy the car speed off and delight in the equally bad driving (as Tim, out of sight of the screen, struggled to get to grips with the steering!). I asked the children if Daddy Pig needed driving lessons and all the children were unmuted and shouted ‘Yes!’.
The children were easily able to liken the car’s petrol to the food that we eat. We agreed food gives us energy to breathe (we took some deep breaths together), to move (we shook our hands, blinked our eyes, jumped up and down) and grow. I was really thrilled to see some of the children had made their own digestive system T-shirts and are really embracing and enjoying their home learning!
This last week has seen the children move on into considering what happens in the mouth. It has been great as we have been really able to step up the involvement at home. At this point a big thank you to all the lovely parents who have helped to make this happen. I tasked all the children if they were able to bring to circle a banana (or other soft food) a blunt knife (suitable for children), a masher, a spoon and some water. I had some extra bits but the children were asked to bring those basics. And they did with enthusiasm and joy! It has been fantastic as this week we have simulated the start of digestion the mouth! We considered that the three important components in the mouth to break down food are the teeth, the tongue and saliva. The children looked onscreen at our model of the teeth and identified that the front teeth (incisors) were sharp like our knives and these are used to bite food. So we all sliced our bananas using our knives. The teeth further back were flat (molars) and these are used for chewing and mashing up food. So we all mashed up our bananas with the masher. The tongue was used to move food around the mouth. So we all used our spoons to stir the banana. And finally we needed saliva to make the food wet to help break it down even more making it soft and slippery to slide down our oesophagus. So the children and I all poured water for saliva (I added oil for mucus too) onto our bananas. From that point I looked up and all the children were busy cutting, mashing, stirring, and adding water. And the lovely thing was they all held their food ‘bolus’ up to their screens to show their results. I provided a running commentary for each of the children on the state of their boluses and what stage of preparation they were at as some were taking time over slicing their banana, some were racing ahead and busy with the mashing and others had really gone to town with plenty of saliva!
Really good fun and one mum posted a picture of the banana cake she made after our united demonstration of what happens to food in the mouth!
So plenty of fun to be had, lots of learning absorbed and a thriving community. All is well. :-)