A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.” And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”
Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. Today’s blog will focus on the Outside Time segment of the Kindergarten day, with suggestions for integrating the Common Core Standards and their ambient math counterparts that appeared in this blog on Days 8, 9, and 18. The standards may be paraphrased and will appear in blue.
First a note on the Outside Time and its function, both in the Waldorf Classroom and in the homeschool setting. Outdoor play is essential to us all, but especially young children! If you think about your typical day, you will be shocked at how little of it is spent outdoors. I know I don’t get out there nearly as much as I’d like or need to. The walk from the house to the car, and then from the car to the store, dance studio, library, etc. We’ve lost our heritage: that of our connection to everything found outside.
As a child of the 50’s I was out of the house every day without exception, from 3 pm till dinnertime, and after dinner till bedtime when daylight permitted. Summers and vacations, I was outside all day. I lived on a dead-end street, no cars to speak of, so it was a huge asphalt playground for the whole neighborhood. Let’s see, roller skating (with a skate key on a cord around my neck), stoop ball (with those amazing pink rubber balls), sledding in the winter, every street game you can think of (hopscotch, red light-green light, hide and seek . . . ), and more!
Outside should be an integral part of every school day, especially the Kindergarten day. “Forest Kindergartens” are cropping up everywhere around the world. They’re held outside, literally in the forest, every day, rain or shine. Parents dress their child(ren) appropriately, knowing that the children are only brought in when the weather is extremely hot, cold, or stormy. Mother Nature teaches most lessons. “Nature Deficit Disorder” is real. It was coined by Richard Louv who wrote a book called “Last Child in the Woods,” which has sparked many organizations devoted to spreading the word. “No Child Left Inside” is a movement and an awareness that’s gaining momentum.
Time outside should be devoted to pure play and exploration. That said, there are many academic lessons that would do well in an outdoor setting. Although only three of the blog Days are featured here, please do not hesitate to adapt any of the activities and lessons to the great outdoors. Read the suggestions below in that light.
Operations and Algebraic Thinking K.OA
Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from. 2. Solve addition and subtraction word problems, add and subtract within 10 by using objects to represent the problem.
Using content from a familiar rhyme, song, or story helps to provide a familiar, lively context for word problems, keeping them from being overly abstract. Play acting and movement are wonderful here as well, as the child(ren) bring the song, rhyme, or story to life. Use natural objects like sticks and stones as counters.
Operations and Algebraic Thinking K.OA
3. Use objects to decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way.
All of the activities in this post can be taken outdoors, including the drawing part. Use sidewalk chalk to make the circles on pavement, or a simple stick to draw them on the ground. The constructed circles and their activities outlined in this post work really well outdoors, especially the flags. That one’s my favorite. Do have the child(ren) help make them, since there’s no investment in learning like making their own learning materials. The main reason I like this one so much is because it’s large and colorful, which seems to be the winning recipe for engagement and success. And do liberally mix in fun and games, remembering that play is always, always paramount.
Analyze, compare, create, and compose shapes.
4. Analyze and compare two-dimensional shapes, using informal language to describe their similarities and differences.
Informal language can also be non-verbal. Experience is the best teacher. A concept brought in a concrete rather than abstract way is most successful. Using the pegs and colorful yarn to create the outlines of shapes on the grass can be a truly dynamic lesson because the sharp corners of the square and triangle vs. the flowing round shape of the circle will be qualities that are experienced and remembered far more than if the shapes are circled or chosen on a worksheet.
Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal. More Kindergarten tomorrow!