Well, it’s the New York State math test this week, so I signed up for the block room again.
This time it’s a little different though. We’ve just started learning about colonial America. On Monday we looked at a painting of the Speedwell, talking about the people and the journey they were about to make, and the story the painting might be telling. That got us talking about how a group of people might need to set things up when they get to a new place that’s totally unfamiliar, lacks the resources they’ve come to take for granted, has resources they might not know how to use, and is home to very unfamiliar people.
This is about when my own personal line of inquiry about learning through play popped into my head. Of course history provides wonderful content that can be accessed through play. I had been thinking with my grade-level colleagues about how to make the beginning of the study feel more active and exploratory- more of a way to stimulate curiosity. I had already signed up for the block room several weeks ago, and it just seemed like a perfect match.
This is the very beginning of our study, so kids still have very little knowledge about pilgrims, colonists, New Amsterdam vs. New Netherland vs. New York as a colony, not to mention any of the other colonies. Over the course of the two weeks in the block room, we’ll be learning more content in the classroom. We’ll be reading lots of books, watching videos, looking at art and other kinds of documents from the time period.
Meanwhile, in the black room, we’re building a settlement.
On the first day we looked at some books and thought about what a group of pilgrims would need in order to get started. Kids agreed on these things:
- a meeting hall
- a church (they thought that since they were willing to make this journey for religious freedom, their religion must be very important to them)
- a garden and farming area
- access to natural resources, such as water, animals to eat, and wood
- food preparation and storage
We split into groups and went to the block room to allocate space.
On Day 2 groups just read and started to draw plans. I noticed some assumptions and misconceptions. (Some kids referred to a place to keep ice, assuming it would always be available, for example). I heard the ‘homes’ group having a debate about wood vs. brick homes. They found pictures of both in our collection of books. This made me realize that I need to create a visual timeline with the students so they can see how daily life changed between 1610 and 1778, and also when significant historical events happened.
As kids play in this way, they’re feeling an urgency to know more about the subject of their play. They have asked to bring the books back and forth to the black room so that they can research right away when questions arise.
I’m eager to see how this shapes up.