The Polar Express is an enchanting holiday tale of a young boy who doubts that Santa Claus truly exists. On one special Christmas Eve, as the boy skeptically waits for the sound of sleigh bells, a magical train appears outside his home and the conductor invites him aboard.
What lies ahead is an extraordinary adventure of self-discovery through which the young boy learns that for those who believe, the wonders of life never fade.
This beautifully made film, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, was one we enjoyed learning about for a day or two.
We began our journey with reading a condensed version of the book. We then used flour, tracks, and automated train cars to create our own version of the story!
In preschool classrooms, you may observe children enthusiastically counting collections of erasers, small toy animals, colored cotton balls, and buttons, then represent their counts on paper—often by drawing the objects or a circle to represent each item and placing the objects on their representations to ensure an accurate count.
They may seem like they are just playing, participants in a silly game of little significance. This could not be more untrue.
Play versus academic skills: It’s not a zero-sum game.
Did the children engaged in these activities know they were participating in math lessons?
Probably not. But they were indeed learning math through what I refer to as playful instruction. As part of our curriculum, we are constantly using everyday items to count, sort, and label their physicality.
For one week in December, we talked about the shapes that make up snowflakes. We discussed triangles, hexagon, squares, and circles and their relevance to the snowflake shape. We initially matched pieces of a snowflake into a pre-made puzzle and then cut up paper to construct our very own!
The American black bear is the smallest of the three bears species found in North America, and are found only in North America.
Black bears have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent tree-climbing ability.
Black bear fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown muzzle and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests.
Eastern populations are usually black in color while western populations often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to black.
Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier) bears and these unique color phases are only found in coastal British Columbia, Canada.
The Snowy Owl, also known as the Arctic Owl or White Owl, nests on Arctic tundra habitats throughout its northern circumpolar breeding range—often adjacent to coastal Arctic seas.
This is one of the largest owls in the world, and has the most northerly breeding and wintering distribution of any owl species.
Plumage is unmistakable in this species. Adult males are almost pure white, and adult females are white with brown barring.
As part of our snowy owl component, we created both these creatures and their nests.
The materials used by your little ones include feathers, clay, googly eyes, and sticks!
In addition to learning about the snowy owl, students accessed several areas of development, including lateralization, sensory registration and divergent thinking.
The porcupine is the prickliest of rodents. Its Latin name means “quill pig”, which is the regional American name of the porcupine.
There are more than two dozen porcupine species, and all boast a coat of needle-like quills to give predators a sharp reminder that this animal is no easy meal.
Some quills, like those of Africa’s crested porcupine, are nearly a foot long.
As part of our forest theme, we created porcupines using toothpicks and potatoes. Students strengthened their hand-eye coordination and counting skills while creating the perfect prickly friend!
Boreal forests are only found in the northern hemisphere of Earth, mainly between latitudes 50° and 60° N. With short, cool summers and long, cold winters, these forests form an almost contiguous belt around the Earth, sandwiched between temperate deciduous forests to the south and tundra to the north.
Due to the short growing season in these regions, deciduous trees don’t have enough time to regrow their leaves, and very few of them are able to survive.
Instead, coniferous dominate because they don’t have to regrow their leaves and are better adapted for a colder climate.
As part of our forest theme, we learned about all kinds of forests: temperate, tropical and boreal! We talked not only about the trees and the weather, but the animals that inhabitate them!
With this activity, we created boreal forests out of branches, sticks, play dough and animals such as the arctic hare and arctic fox!
Students enjoyed construction their own forests and then collaborating with their friends!