How can you build about your experience in the blocks?
This question is one often considered by children in the Big Room upon returning from a trip into the field to research and explore a place connected to our theme of study. Blocks are the perfect medium for expression.
In late September Four Big Room children worked collaboratively for several days to construct their experiences at The Cedar River Watershed Education Center near Rattlesnake Lake. After touring the area, the forests, lakes, water pipes, laboratories and offices were carefully reconstructed with blocks.
Prior to visiting the Education Center and Rattlesnake Lake, children pondered this question:
Where does our water come from?
In the upstairs classrooms, children thought about the water cycle; how water moves from oceans to clouds to mountaintops to streams and back to oceans. As we drank water, we imagined where it came from and where each water molecule had been. Had it been on the wet fur of a bear in Alaska? Had it been in the teacup of a child in China? Had it been in the bathtub?
Children looked at maps of the Puget Sound Region and familiarizing themselves with the 90,000 acres of land within the Cedar River Watershed. They traced the water from the Puget Sound, through the Ballard locks, Lake Washingtion, up the Cedar River and into Chester Morse Lake. Children calculated the distance water travels from its source to our city reservoirs and individual homes. We wondered about the volume of water in our watershed and how the water stays protected and clean.
At the beach, children worked collaboratively to build models of the Cedar River Watershed in the sand. In the classroom, the children attached blue ribbon to the blocks to represent water. At the beach, they carried water from Lake Washington and poured it into basins representing Chester Morse Lake.
On the day of our trip, rain spattered the windows of the bus and we emerged in full rain gear to explore the land surrounding the source of Seattle's water. The Beginning Room spent their day on the shoreline of Rattlesnake Lake. They stacked rocks and climbed enormous tree trunks, all the while imagining the town of Mocton, that once stood at the center of the lake.
One group of mixed age children from both the North Room and Big Room also traveled the rocky shore of the lake picking up specimens and collecting water to look at more closely through microscopes at the nearby laboratory.
What life lives in water?
Why is life dependent on water?
What does a drop of water look like under a microscope?
What's in a leaf that we can't see with just our eyes?
What people drink this water?
The other group of children from upstairs classrooms visited the source of Seattle's drinking water and learned of the Duwamish Tribe's rights to the water and the protected site. When we looked up we noticed enormous water pipes carrying clean water to the cities to the west.
What animals depend on this water?
At Chester Morse Lake, a large lake above Rattlesnake Lake, the children quietly walked along forest trails, considering the many animals that consider the Cedar River Watershed home. We learned the deer, elk, bears, salmon and a variety of smaller mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds consider the watershed their home.
How can we take what we've learned back to school?
Children ended their day along the shoreline of Rattlesnake Lake. In silence they used watercolor paints to reflect on their experiences. Realizing how dependent so many plants and animals are on the water in the Cedar River Watershed stimulated thoughtful conversation about protecting the health of the water. We are grateful to access and drink such clean and plentiful water.