Monday, June 28, 2010

Preschool Summer Camp

DuPage Children's Museum is a preschool campground this summer. Program staff at DCM are offering a learning through play approach both in the classroom and through Museum exploration. Alternating between low- and high-energy activities that connect learning to weekly themes, children stay engaged with both individual and group process. Although the focus changes each week and the activities change daily, the continuity of a daily schedule supports this age group's best practices for learning. Here's what the schedule looks like:

Focused Material Exploration - A time set aside while children are arriving and may involve children playing alone, alongside another child or cooperatively with one or more other children and/or a preschool camp facilitator. Children are given the chance to test their ideas, themselves, their relationships and the materials.

Welcome Gathering - The welcome gathering helps set the focus for the day. After the teacher reads a story, children can retell the story, ask questions and participate in planning of the rest of their day.

Museum Exploration - In groups of five with a camp facilitator, children explore, invent and challenge creative solutions in the neighborhoods in the Museum. Special emphasis is placed on the neighborhood related to the weekly focus.

Snack Time - A regularly scheduled snack time, not only provides nutrition for the morning but also gives children opportunity to practice emerging social skills.

Focused Activities - At least two activities, based on the theme for the week, are offered daily. During last week's Summer Preschool Camp, Let's Build, children had the opportunity to practice emerging spatial and geometric abilities as they built forts, created sculptures and made graham cracker houses.

Goodbye Gathering - For young children, understanding and making sense of their world is rooted in what they know and the everyday events in their lives. This is an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas about what happened during camp today! Parents, too, are given a play-at-home ideas, related to children's daily activities.

We just finished our first Preschool Summer Camp week, Let's Build.

For more information about Summer Preschool Camps, click here. Some of our weekly camps still have a few openings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Exploring Physics in Childhood

How did you explore the concepts of physics when you were a child? Do you remember the toy, Slinky? This was a toy that helped you intuitively learn physics. My sisters and I each owned a Slinky and had races with them down the stairs in our house. We were experimenting with how fast or slowly we pushed the Slinky off the steps, in actuality, an inclined plane. A physicist would have told us we were experimenting with force versus distance.

You don't have to be a physicist to explore the concepts of physics; you just need the right materials for exploration and discovery. Some concepts of basic physics involve exploring motion, gravity, friction and speed while using simple machines such as wheels, gears, pulleys, inclined planes, wedges, screws and levers. The exhibits in Make it Move (MIM) were developed so that children could explore some concepts of basic physics while playing with simple machines. As children play with the exhibits in MIM, they can begin to intuitively understand some of these concepts and, with the support of their grown-up play partners, learn the vocabulary to describe them. Look at how many words (bold) we can use to describe simple machines and some of the basic concepts in physics.

Children explore gears at our Gear Table. Here they discover that a gear is a wheel with teeth, which allow it to interlock and turn another gear. They may also notice the ratio between a bigger and smaller gear.

Playing at our Cam Ball Lifter, children observe cams, which are wheels or gears with an offset axle used to make something happen in a specific order. Here it does just as the name implies; it lifts the ball towards the funnel for increasingly greater energy in motion for the awaiting ramps.

Speaking of ramps, there are lots of opportunities to discover that ramps are inclined planes that help the speed of a ball move more easily, slower or faster. A simple machine that does the work for us! After all, isn't that what working with simple machines is all about, that is, using a force to move an object a distance?

The momentum of the object at the Experimentation Station may vary depending upon what object is chosen. Even our youngest visitors can be observed experimenting with balls and spools down one ramp and trying out the car on the magnetic levitation (mag lev) ramp.

To learn more about the design and building of the exhibits in Make it Move, read an interview with Mark Wickart, Exhibit Fabrication and Maintenance Manager; and Peter Crabbe, Associate Director of Exhibits and Design, here.

If you and your child would like to explore (and have fun) with a Slinky, you can purchase one in our Explorer Store.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Making Connections to Math

Almost everything we do is connected to mathematical thinking! Imagine setting a table or preparing a meal without some understanding of math concepts. How would you know how many plates or glasses are needed? The foundational understanding of math begins very early in life through everyday experiences. Children actively construct informal mathematical concepts and strategies through the opportunities they encounter with a variety of objects and their important grown-ups and play partners.

Do you want to know more? Stop by the Family Resource Center to view the parent support materials for our current focus, Making Connections to Math. Discover what your child is learning about math through investigation and experimentation and by taking time to think deeply about these experiences. Learn about how you support your child's math learning by using math vocabulary in the exhibits.

The materials for the focus, Making Connections to Math, will be available online and in our Family Resource Center through the end of August.