As the big children continue to mature in their learning I am trying to move them towards more independent learning and learning to work together to do a project or master a concept. As I set up the schoolroom upstairs I tried to think about making spaces that would encourage them to work together with minimal help or supervision from me.
One natural place for that kind of work is in science- so I decided to establish a science center and to have them work with each other on the both scientific areas we had chosen for this year.
I tried to make the space inviting and to have them work in it every day. All of the materials they might need are nearby and the little table provides enough space to work without isolating them from each other.
Science In Epiphany:
I thought it would be appropriate to study the stars during Epiphany so I collected materials on constellations and stars and wrote assignments into my planner.
So far I’ve learned the following:
- Neither of them is very good at explaining their ideas to the other. There tends to be a fair amount of perceived disagreement with me sitting on the other side of the room working with the little boys and saying things like, “Neither of you is in charge.”, “Listen to him/her before you say ‘no, that won’t work”, “Do you need to take a break?”
- Both of them have a good grasp of how to read something and pull out the important information. I’m pleased because I haven’t really taught them this intentionally.
- Mouse is capable of much neater work than Buggle, but he is more likely to insist on her doing careful work than she is. He will make her get a ruler and cut labels straight before he accepts them. She’s ready to move on to the next thing when she’s made some kind of label.
- He has a tendency to be over meticulous. She shakes him out of that.
- Their retention of information when working together is impressive. They both tend to “teach” the little boys random facts from their own lessons. The level of accuracy and detail when they have studied something together is much greater.
- These assignments are going to take longer than if they were working individually.
In two weeks they have read two books about stars, started a “galaxy of star facts” on the wall, and made and mounted a diagram of the life cycle of a star.
We’re not moving as quickly as I had thought we would, but I’m not unhappy with that. Science is something we do all year and I’m very pleased with the way having them work together with very little input from me is helping them to deal with their strengths and weaknesses. The skills they are developing in listening, making a plan for a project, figuring out who should do what to accomplish it and actually implementing their plan are skills that will be useful for their entire lives. They are learning the material thoroughly even if slowly and that’s a trade off I’m content with for now!