From cow to conechildren explore ice cream
On a field site visit to an ice cream shop, children gathered information about the tools, equipment, and skills needed to make and sell ice cream and discovered answers to many of their questions.
When the teachers of one inner-city preschool class paid close attention to the daily play and conversations of the children, there were two recurring (and, thankfully, not intertwined) themesbugs and food. The children demonstrated a great curiosity about food through conversations, dramatic play, work with clay, and drawings. When the teachers asked the children which topic they wanted to explore, the preschoolers voted to investigate food. From this very broad topic emerged a class favorite: ice cream!
Ice cream was not the teachers' first preference for a topic due to concerns about nutritional value. However, it met criteria for a practical topic: Children could easily relate the topic to prior experiences, families would have access to needed materials and information as well as an interest in ice cream, and many curricular goals could be addressed through the process of exploring ice cream.
The preschoolers had not yet learned how to participate in large-group settings for class meetings or in smaller-group settings. They also needed to develop the social skills to listen to others. Based on their initial observations and assessments during the first three months of school, the teachers built into the project a number of activities to help the children learn how to work in small groups, to share thoughts verbally, and to listen to the thoughts of others. The teachers also provided opportunities to practice webbing as an organizational strategy by having the children dictate their thoughts to adults.
The class began the project by discussing ice cream in small groups and reading fiction and nonfiction books about ice cream. The children represented ice cream in drawings and play doughand even snow. They voted on their favorite ice cream flavor and made graphs of their preferences. After visiting an ice cream store, the preschoolers built an ice cream store of their own in the classroom, creating signs, a menu, a refrigerator, ice cream machines, and money. This led to making ice cream in the classroom and composing songs about ice cream. Later, the children visited a farm to see where the milk in ice cream comes from.
The topic of ice cream was highly integrative with the Ohio Early Learning Content Standards in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies; the Creative Curriculum goals in the physical, social-emotional, and cognitive domains; and the Head Start Learning Outcomes. The children's activities naturally flowed from their curiosity. They fulfilled literacy requirements by reading books about ice cream, creating a vocabulary related to ice cream, and representing their experiences through various media and play. The preschoolers addressed mathematical standards by tallying and comparing votes and creating data analysis graphs. They used critical thinking and problem solving to create an ice cream shop and fulfilled social studies content standards by working cooperatively, voting, and collaborating on many activities.