Typically in a class, there is a general interest in a “preschool-type topic” like fish, transportation (trucks, trains, etc.), community helpers, animals, dinosaurs, etc. Developmentally, these subjects really appeal to kids this age. Occasionally, one or two of the kids are really well-versed and into a particular area. This is great because their excitement for learning more and exploring something particular is contagious and other kids start to become curious also.

Learning about AB patterns by creating orange and white stripes on Clown Fish for our Ocean Diorama

Since our curriculum is project-based, we ask our teachers to really tune in to the kids’ interests and tendencies toward particular topics. Then, teachers use the Key Developmental Goals for their classroom to inform their planning, better known to our staff and families as “Weekly Intentions”, for how they will go about their exploration of that topic in order to help the kids develop age-appropriate knowledge and skills, both surrounding the topic of study and in general.

Feeding Nurse Sharks on our Field Trip to the Austin Aquarium

Ms. Baley and Ms. Liza recognized that many of their Hummingbird kiddos were really excited about fish. One little guy in particular was really interested in fish and other ocean life from a trip over the summer where he visited an aquarium. Ms. Baley got a Beta fish for their class when she discovered that taking care of a fish really piqued this little guy’s interest further. Then, his enthusiasm for ocean life began to permeate through the class. Other kids were asking questions and excited to learn more about fish and the ocean. This began The Hummingbirds’ Ocean Exploration Topic Study!

Feeding the fish on our field trip to the Austin Aquarium

From Ms. Baley and Ms. Liza

Our Classroom Ocean Diorama

This year in the Hummingbird Classroom, we dove into exploring the ocean!

Developing fine motor skills and color recognition with an experiment using baking soda, blue water and starfish

Every week, we created Weekly Intentions surrounding a particular aspect of ocean life. As the kids learned about different fish, mollusks and coral through sensory exploration activities, children’s literature, songs and examining footage from the depths of the world’s ocean floors on the SMART Board, they steadily worked on creating these different sea creatures and objects. We placed their marine masterpieces on our ocean floor backdrop that covered our classroom walls so they could create a visual representation of their learning as we went.

Experimenting with objects to see what floats and what sinks

In addition, we had been working on a longer term side project with our letter of the week prior to beginning this Topic Study. Each week, we’d focus on a new letter and work to develop recognition of the written letter and phonetics. We traced the letter on paper, in salt and with our fingers on sand paper letters. We sang songs about each letter’s sound(s) to develop phonemic awareness. And, we created an Alphabet Book with a page for each new letter of the week and the kids’ writing and artwork of items that begin with the letter. When we began our Ocean Exploration Topic Study, we based our letter of the week on different sea creatures (i.e. N is for Narwhal, O is for Octopus, P is for Pufferfish).

Learning about the letter “P” and creating Pufferfish pages for our Alphabet Book

At the culmination of our Topic Study, we took a field trip to the Austin Aquarium to see and interact with many of the sea creatures we had been studying in class. It was so exciting to see things come full circle for the kids as they were able to recall so many details about each of the sea animals and objects we had been learning about!

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