Learning at the Farm
'Okay everyone, this week we will be learning about the farm. Who can tell me something about the farm?'
How many times have we as teachers introduced a new theme like this? You sit around at circle time and talk about how there's a farm in paw patrol and sing Old McDonald and then you go on to creating farm activities throughout the week and building on the children's knowledge then. Throughout this circle time you could have loads of children telling you stories about how they saw a sheep in a field, or you could have to constantly ask questions to try and get answers.
But what if we changed it?
What if we introduced our topic by having a farm tuff tray set up for when the children come into the classroom? What if we played first and then discussed later? By giving the children the opportunity to explore your theme through their senses in a more relaxed and playful environment it will allow them to make more meaningful connections to the outside world. About how they played in the sand pit at the farm they visited, they could tell you they were at the Ploughing Championships before or how someone told them that milk came from a cow but that doesn't make sense because it comes from the shop. Encouraging the children to use their senses to come together and explore, question and discuss a new topic will open up a much broader scope of interests to follow on from.
Here's an idea
If you were to sit down and ask children about the farm they might tell you all the animals that live there and maybe mention the tractors. However, if you set up a farm tuff tray using farm animals, blocks, sensory bases (e.g soil, oats, lentils, leaves, twigs, etc.), fine motor tools and bowls/containers.
Products used in set-up:
Tickit Wooden Rainbow Architect Set
Erzi- Small World Farm Wooden Figures
LR Fine Motor Tweezers
Fine Motor Tools Classroom Set
Colour Sorting Bowls
You can open up so many more conversations such as, where the animals prefer to live on the farm, what do they eat, what do we eat from the farm, how they clean themselves, who looks after all this, how can we get around, and so much more. Each child will have their own unique way of seeing and approaching this play experience and they can share these ideas, questions and concerns with their peers or even the teacher if they have the time to give.
Now, observe and direct
By observing and directing the play through questions you can then be more open to where the topic should go next, what are the children doing with the toys, what are they unsure about, what questions are they asking. You can then create your future curriculum from these playful moments. Maybe next you create a messy play activity (cocoa powder with water and a bit of flour) with the pigs because the children said that they like to be dirt
Throughout the activity you can ask prompting questions such as 'why do think the pigs like to be dirty? What happens if they're hungry? Where do they eat?'. By asking these questions you can encourage the children to begin critically thinking about the information that they receive. Just because someone says it, does it have to be true? You can use this method going forward, try it once and see the difference.
Play first, learn later!
More ways to extend the farm
- What do we get from the farm? Explore the end products of what comes from the farm- apples, wheat, corn, hay. (you could ask the children to bring in one thing from home) Where do they grow? How do they grow?
- Plant your own vegetables.
- Vehicles on the farm- what they're used for.
- Tractors, diggers, with sensory base such as sand, soil, bark
- Build stables, barns, etc for your farm. Small (lego, blocks, etc.) Large, (large outdoor materials, large blocks, polydrons, etc) Discuss what the different animals like/need on their area to live.
- Bring it outside- what can you plant outside in your outdoor space? You can use chalk to draw out areas you think you could use to create a farm. Role play having a farm out in the garden- give each child a job/task to do, get some children to pretend to be animals.
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