A Week at the Zoo

Updated: May 6

Hello parents! Welcome back to the Big Bear Cub’s experience, where I give you an inside look at what some of the things your children will do in my class at Honey Bear Preschool. We started this blog to give parents a better understanding on what goes on in our classrooms each week and I hope you all have been enjoying learning about my classroom so far. If you read last week’s blog, you will know that my theme for the week was all about the President’s Day holiday. My students learned so much about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington through fun games and activities. President’s Day is a perfect opportunity to give my students some exposure to the history of our country and help them learn about some of our most important presidents. Throughout the week the Big Bear Cubs had a great time

This Week in the Big Bear Cubs Classroom, 3/14/22 - 3/18/22

During this past week, my students were busy at the “zoo”! Throughout the week learning about animals was a main focus for my class and I thought that having a day for a fake trip to the zoo would be a great way for the Big Bear Cubs to have fun, and learn about animals in a more engaging way. Animals hold a specific fascination for young children. From the long-necked giraffes to the gigantic desert tortoise, my Big Bear Cubs were captivated by the amazing variety of creatures that were displayed at our pretend trip to the zoo, which happened on our playground.

To set the stage for our visit to the zoo I had my students talk about what they thought they might see there. You had your usual collection of childhood favorite animals including lions, tigers, and rhinos, but my students also thought they might find snakes, turtles, and even a dragon (that last one seems pretty unlikely though!). In addition, we started our week off with a fun art project. I asked each student to draw a pretend map of a zoo to allow everyone to show off their idea of what a zoo map should look like. I loved seeing everyone’s unique spin on their zoo maps; some maps had a “P” for the “potty”, while others had petting zoos with farm animals. With the preview of the zoo done, it was time for my class to take an adventure to the zoo and learn all about the animals that live there! Here are some of the activities that my students enjoyed throughout our week at the zoo.

Zoo Maps

I already mentioned this but the zoo maps were so popular I decided to talk about them twice. My students loved the anticipation of going to the zoo and their zoo maps were a perfect way for me to see what they were excited about, and what they were expecting to see at the zoo. In addition to being a fun activity, map drawing is great at stimulating some types of thinking that are not often emphasized at the preschool level. When students learn map skills, they are learning to visualize and interpret, rather than simply create. They must think ahead to what they want their zoo to look like, forcing them to plan out their maps and make a concentrated effort to stick to that plan. This sort of critical thinking is not easy to stimulate especially for young students but we believe it is still very important to try and mold some activities towards this purpose.

Zoo play-dough Tray, an Open-Ended Materials Activity

If you have read Ms. Jackie’s blog (our amazing 3 year old teacher) on open ended materials, you will know that we make it a priority here at Honey Bear to include activities that stimulate your child’s creativity, critical thinking, motor skills, and problem solving. I try to make a number of activities as open-ended as possible to force my students to learn to think for themselves, and make decisions about what they are trying to accomplish. Our Zoo PlayDoh tray was one of our open-ended activities for this week at the zoo.

The only goal that I gave to my students was that they should try to make something that was related to animals. Their materials were playdoh, one of the best open-ended materials because it allows for such a wide variety of creations to be made. One of the necessary factors for open-ended activities to be successful is a lack of structure. The goal is to force students to make their own decisions and while my zoo PlayDoh creation was not 100% open-ended, I feel there was enough of a range of possibilities for it to still be considered an open-ended materials activity.

As you can imagine, a significant number of my students decided to sculpt animals. I saw elephants, lions, tigers, bears, birds, giraffes and hippos. Some of my students however, got creative and decided to make sculpted habitats and homes for their animals. After the other students saw this they decided they needed to make habitats also and before I knew it all of my students had an animal and a place for them to stay! These are the types of breakthroughs that are only possible with open-ended activities. Of course sculpting with PlayDoh is great for strengthening a child’s fine motor skills, however by letting my students be creative with what they wanted to make, they ended up doing something that was far more interactive and engaging. My students were able to first work on what they wanted to create, and then after interacting with each other and learning what everyone else had done, decided to work on something new as well. This collaboration builds great social skill and is another great benefit of open-ended materials activities.

Easel Painting

This activity is as simple as the name implies! I set out easels for all of my students and we painted zoo animals together. To support my little artists, I also put out real photos of different zoo animals on each easel to give them some inspiration for their painting. Drawing animals can be very difficult for children and I wanted to make sure none of them got discouraged. Having a reference point to work off of can be a great motivational tool for preschool age students. `Especially when drawing something difficult like zoon animals, by giving them something to compare to I have found that students are much more willing to get creative and paint something amazing. As they looked at the photo, they decided what color and/or part of the animal they wanted to paint. Some student’s paintings looked like their pictures while others went in their own direction and painted unique animals. I just love how talented and unique my Big Bear cubs are!

Sensory table

This activity involved using dry peas, fake plants and rainforest animals to simulate a rainforest environment. My students were able to learn about the jungle using theme related vocabulary, as they played with the animals and plants. While at the sensory table my students were able to play together, developing their communication and language as I encouraged them to talk about the jungle plants and animals they had been learning about throughout the week!

Zoo writing center

I kept my writing table exciting by adding new writing tools, like lower/upper case stamps. I’m always surprised at what my students will find exciting and they absolutely loved stamping the zoo vocabulary words on zoo paper. This activity not only helped with spelling and word recognition, it also developed my students deductive reasoning. They had to figure out which stamp went with which word, using the missing letters and pictures on each stamp as clues.

Coming up next week

My students will have fun learning about rainbows. This opportunity to study rainbows will allow my students to explore color mixing, weather and even some spanish! I included tons of great rainbow books, along with arts and crafts, math and lots of other fun and engaging activities. Come back next week to read all about the amazing time we had with this week’s colorful rainbow theme!

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