Under the Sea! A Summer of Learning and Exploring
This month our topic is under the sea! And we’ve enlisted the help of Keli Garcia Allen from Learn Safari to share her ideas and experience with everything ocean and sea related! Keli is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works in a bilingual Pre-K and Kindergarten classroom. She is also the Head of Content for Learn Safari and is currently working on Spanish Safari, a Spanish Learning game for children 4-10 years old. Over to you Keli…
Sea and summer equals fun and learning!
Summer is here and we just love it! It’s synonymous with holidays, the sea, pools, ice cream and fun! But it’s also often a time that’s associated with the Summer Learning Slide, a period of the year where children lose some of the gains made at school.
However, summer time can also be rich in opportunities for learning and play (which, of course, is also learning!) So why not take advantage and turn the summer into a chance to grow skills while having fun?
One of my favorite things do to over the summer is to discover the sea and ocean. After all, it holds many mysteries that are just perfect for child (and adult) exploration. So, whether at home, summer camp, preschool, or even a party, these activities are perfect to explore not just the sea, but language use and the imagination.
Create the scene
Setting up the environment for learning is fun not just for kids, but for adults as well.Why not showcase your theme and do a room transformation featuring the ocean?! You can do a lot or a little, but either way, it will have a big impact. Here are ideas of some of the things you can do:
- Hanging up pictures and posters of the sea
- Create a mural by using kraft paper and painting an ocean scene to hang up on the wall
- Add a sand table
- Display shells and sea creatures (you can find sand dollars, starfish, crab shells and even blowfish at many tourist shops and garage sales)
- Display ocean themed art work created by the children
Read books about the sea
One of the most important tasks we have when it comes to the education of children is helping them develop a love of learning. Reading aloud should start from the time of conception and continue even into high school (at which point you and your children/students can take turns reading to each other).
- Choose books in the majority and minority language about the sea to display around the room.
- If you can find the same book in both the majority and minority language, use them! Then you can compare and contrast the two versions of the book.
- For younger children, use Dialogic Reading. This reading method involves using the same book for 5 days as you ask increasingly more involved questions.
- For older students, provide writing prompts about the books you read.
Charts to explore a sea theme
For visual learners (such as myself!) charts are a fantastic way of making sense of a ton of information. Kids will often respond really well to charts, especially if they participate in making them! I often make my charts bilingual, by using two different colors for the text.
- KWL Charts. I love using these when we begin to explore a subject such as the sea. I usually make these on a poster board and draw the 3 columns and label them: Know, Want to Know, and Learned. Then I have the kids give me their suggestions for what to put inside. We then revisit the chart several times throughout our theme.
- Labeling Charts. We’ve used these a lot during our sea theme to explore different animals. I make a large drawing and write the labels on the cards. I paste the labels onto the drawing with the kids and then I have them draw and label their own.
- Venn Diagrams. There are a great way to get kids talking and thinking about things. Pick two sea animals and ask the kids to compare and contrast. Record their answers on a dry erase board (or a simple paper with the Venn Diagram circles will do).
The importance of art in education has been established through extensive research. It’s not just important as a creative and emotional outlet, but it has many benefits including improved motor skills, improved focus, better decision making skills, increased collaboration with others, more positive attitudes to other cultures, and even improved academic performance. In fact, according to PBS “A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”
The best thing to do is to give students the freedom to create art with as little aid as possible by you. It’s about the process and not about the end product. Instead of focusing on how the children do their art, just give them ideas, inspiration and talk to them about their process as they create. For my students, I often create a sample and place it on the table along with the supplies. Other times I will give students a topic, maybe based on one of the stories we read. Finally, I like to simply have art supplies available at all times for kids to be able to create whatever they want at any point during our school day.
Here are a few links for sea art inspiration:
Science and observation of the world around us is a crucial skill for all students. Luckily, from a young age, it also happens to be a natural skill that simply needs to be honed and developed. I have students of various ages and levels in my classroom, but I can do the same science demos and activities across the board. I simply develop a few different requirements depending on the students. There are a ton of really cool science activities out there, just check out Pinterest if you don’t believe me. Here, however, I am linking to some that I’ve tried in the classroom that have been very successful with my students.
Finally, one of the greatest activities to complete your under the sea theme this summer is a trip to the beach! You can observe in real life the things you have talked about and discovered with the kids.
What about you? Will you be exploring the sea or ocean this summer? Do you have any new ideas to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!