Shandra Patton is our Seedlings Fellow at Augusta Lewis Troup School in New Haven. She teaches preK and is collaborating with kindergarten teacher Gyna Grant and art teacher Rebecca Looney, both two-time participants at the SEC summer workshop, to integrate curriculum and explore process art at various age levels. Below is Shandra’s first blog entry describing how one integrated unit emerged in her classroom in the beginning of the year. 

 

I have been fortunate to be able to work with other like-minded educators that are both creative and well versed on the meaning of developmentally appropriate practice and project based learning.  By attending the Seedling Educators Collaborative one of the most important things that I have learned are the advantages of using an integrated curriculum. Use of an integrated curriculum is a natural way to not only provide activities, projects, and challenges based on the children’s interest, but also a way to add another element to existing materials and activities. Integrated curriculum is a more intentional way of stimulating a child’s natural want and desire to explore, discover, and play.

With the ever-changing demands of state standards, accreditations, and assessments, this balanced learning approach is what NHPS School Readiness Consultant & Professor Beth Young calls, “planning to get more bang for your buck.”  With an integrated curriculum you are able to aid in the development of a variety of areas.

The movie and the accompanying description here is an example of a beginning of the year integrated unit in our Pre-K class at Troup involving language skills, process art, math, science, fine motor, and movement.

 

At the beginning of the year our introduction of phonemic awareness word list consisted of words like: blue, beach, bounce, bubble, ball, and bobble.

Slide #1

After looking through several objects this child selects an object that he believes will bobble. This alone demonstrates development that takes place in the cognitive and mathematic domain indicating use of logic reasoning, and an understanding of attributes and relative properties of an object. Look at this child’s curiosity and wonder as he explores sensory materials while layering his art with white paint.

Slide #2

This child selected an object that she predicted would bounce. She went on to count the number of white circles she created on her blue painting.

Slides #3, #4, #5, #6

This small group instruction was inspired by conversation during a phonemic awareness activity. This specific conversation about the things we find on the beach prompted teachers to use information from a book about sea glass. Our investigation of sea glass generated a powerful conversation that allowed the group to use old ideas to create new ones, encourage an appreciation of books, explore concepts of print, matter and its properties, and question cause and effect.

Slide #7

Please note that these wonderful outcomes were sparked by a simple phonemic awareness activity and the interests of the children. This led to the construction of a community art piece that incorporated a multitude of activities and discoveries, while weaving together several learning progressions across most of the children’s developmental domains.

Slide #8

After deciding what our essential question would be for the school year, it was clear that we dedicate some of our focus on community, and provide the children with multiple opportunities to discuss their school community and the things that they may discover around it.

Slides #9 and #10

Plan a nature walk for the children and you will see how often exploration leads to many developmentally appropriate opportunities.

In these pictures we see the children collecting evidence and discussing what they see while they explore new vocabulary and language. When the children got back to the room they were able to examine their natural finds and discovered something…

Remainder of slides

The children discovered a creative way to use the natural materials they found by using it to create 2D art, and it is displayed to summarize their experiences. During this open-ended visual arts experience children created and discovered patterns, were exposed to positional phrases that aided in developing their knowledge of spatial awareness, and used their fine motor ability to manipulate a variety of materials.

 

There are times when a process art idea or activity will start with a question, use of evidence or an investigation, and naturally transform into an integrated learning experience that all the children are excited about. Within these pictures you can see the support of cooperation with peers, use of different materials, acquisition of new skills, a better knowledge of letters in the alphabet, and a fortified understanding of phonemic awareness.