For the past year or so, Silas and I have been doing "theme week" learning. It's pretty simple and laid back (and we also took a several months hiatus during my first trimester of this pregnancy), but it's really helped to keep me motivated to create opportunities for learning as well as to keep his interest engaged. We've done weeks on strawberries, wool, bread, robins, farm machinery, and more. Our rhythm consisted of a morning circle time with songs, fingerplays, and verses on the theme and a new book each day (some picture books and some nonfiction) on the theme. I'd also plan one open-ended art experience and one open-ended science exploration for the week. Easy peasy.
It was working really well. We were discovering some really great books, he was excited about starting each day, and we were having a truly wonderful time together. But then, as seems to always happen, Silas' needs started to shift and change. While he still very much looks forward to circle time, it seemed that a week was only just enough time to scratch the surface of a topic and it started to become more and more obvious when his interest was piqued by something that he wanted to explore more deeply. We needed to make time for that. Time for him to think and to wonder and to come up with his own answers. So, I dusted off all of my Reggio and Emergent Curriculum books and ideas and we've made a full-force return to project-based learning.
We did a theme week on migrating animals earlier this winter, which sparked a keen interest in the arctic circle and, specifically, polar bears. It's been our main topic of exploration for about a week and a half now and the unpredictable, winding path this journey of discovery has taken has been nothing short of amazing.
We've read books, done sensory activities, built a model of a polar bear den, and drawn; with me documenting, discussing, and recording conversations along the way. I wanted to share just a little peek of this project, if for no other reason than because I am so absolutely taken with this method of co-learning; it is so very exciting. It's scary to jump in without a plan, but it is oh-so worth it.
Right now, in this moment, we're talking about polar bear dens. I invited Silas outside with me to try to dig a den of our own. We experimented and discovered that it's really hard to dig into a crusty snow drift. How does the polar bear do it? We talked about our hands and polar bear paws and Silas observed how they were the same and how they were different. He noticed that polar bears have much sharper claws/nails than we do, so he decided to try out some different tools to make his hands more like polar bear paws. Much experimentation and conversation followed, not to mention the full morning spent actively working our bodies out in the fresh air and snow.
I have no idea where we will go now, what we will do tomorrow, or how long this interest will last and that's okay. Silas is in the driver's seat here. I'm just (happily) along for the ride.