Children's Wild Imaginations: Making of Natural Toys


Research on natural materials
In the summer holidays, children traveled to different places with their families and collected many natural materials they saw. After the semester had commenced, these children not only shared the stories of their time on holidays, but they also brought all kinds of leaves and seeds which they had gathered from many places. Through the sharing and researching in the learning corners, they were able to have a deeper understanding of those natural materials, and were nourished from the knowledge learned.
The research on natural materials continued in the learning corners. Children observed and described features of different plants and seeds using their daily experiences. These features, including their weights and colours, are drawn down with pen and pencils, and children were able to categorise these materials using different features as a guide.

A ground full of natural materials
A few days later, after a typhoon had blown down the trees, seeds, flowers, leaves and branches in the playground, children from Rainforest class brought these materials back to their classroom and started to discuss where else they could find other natural materials. Since there is a park close to the campus, everyone decided to go on a field trip to the park. However, the teacher noted that while the children were at the park, they were simply picking up everything on the ground instead of distinguishing things that they actually needed or things that are worth preserving. The teacher decided to let the children to discover and resolves these issues and other possible future problems as they went on.

A detective of nature
Pinecones, Hazel Sterculia, Sweetgum and Golden shower trees, the gathering of these seeds and barks had brought different perspectives into the classroom discussion. Children discovered that there are many more secrets in the wild waiting for them to find out.
Teacher: Everyone has gathered so many different materials, did you find anything interesting?
Chi: I found out that dried leaves would make a lot of noise when they drop onto the ground.
Sheng: You could hear sound coming out of the seeds of Hazel Sterculia when you shake them!
Chen: There are a lot of lines on the leaves, they look like roads.
Yu: These seeds were green, but today they became yellow, and some became brown.
Meticulous observations were terrific opportunities for children to interact with the wild. They were able to use their eyes, ears, and noses to discover the nature. All changes of the wild became surprises for children, and they acquired the abilities to sharpen their senses for future observational opportunities.

The seeds are moldy!
As there were more and more natural materials being gathered into the classroom, the categorical boxes were no longer big enough to place them. Arrangement and positioning those materials became a priority for the children. They attempted to re-categorise the materials according to their features and varieties, however, the boxes they had are simply not enough to place them.
During a learning corner period in an afternoon, a child in the science corner had a major discovery- the seeds molded! Many seeds were covered in black or white spots, and reeked of terrible smell. Children began research on how to properly store the seeds so they would not be molded. Methods such as putting the seeds in boxes so that bacteria would not go into them, or plant the seeds back into the soil so they would not mold were proposed. However, as children had not yet not possessed the knowledge of the matter, some of them raised four theories based on their own experiences, including plant the seeds back into the soil, soak them in water, expose them under the sun and put them into sealed boxes. The teacher had to held back the urge to tell the children the answer, and support them in their experiment process of observe→ propose questions→raise theories→ experiment→justify.




Research on ways to properly store the seeds
After a few days observing the seeds, the children discovered that most of them were still covered in black and white spots after the proposed experiments. Only the experiment where seeds were soaked in water was not covered in spots, in stead, the spots floated to the surface and the color of the water changed. Some children considered this a valid way to properly store the seeds, while other children suggested that their parents had told them that sun exposure should be a better method. As the time consuming observation continued, more and more materials were becoming moldy, we needed to find a valid method right away! Therefore, the children decided to conduct research on the topic to quickly gather information.
This time, children in language corner designed a worksheet in accordance with everyone’s need to find the best way to store the natural materials. The worksheet made sure that information would be recorded down, and through the sharing and integration of those information, children concluded that keeping the seeds dry is the best method to prevent them being molded.
Chun: I found out that the ways we did were wrong, only the one with sun exposure was valid. The seeds need to be dried.
Shin: The seeds molded because they were wet. Therefore we should seal them in boxes after mopping them dry. Or constantly expose them to the sun to stay dry.
Teacher: So what can we do?
Kai: We can dry them by hanging them.
Sheng: We can put them into damp-free boxes.
Yu: We can dry them with fans.
Although the children gathered a lot of information conducting the research, teachers reminded them to think about the feasibility of the methods. Viable options were then taken into learning corners to further improve their designs. Lastly, the children concluded that having the seeds dried is the most effective way to store natural materials, and the five feasible methods include sun exposure, air drying, hang drying, covered with newspapers, and putting desiccants into the storing boxes.

Reconstructing the science corner
The situation of seeds being molded had forced the children to re-examine the science corner and to look for reasons of them being molded. The children noticed that the storage boxes in the science corner were containing too many materials and were placed without ventilation. As the materials were wet and unventilated, they became molded easily. The children thought that they should reconstruct the science corner for easier storage and categorisation. This time, the children decided to use a new set of storage containers and transparent plastic bottles, and categorise the dried materials inside them. The containers and bottles were then hung on metal stands, giving the science corner a brand new look. As a result, categorisation of the materials was clear and the materials became easy to be taken and used by the children.



To be continued.