When children walk into school with runny noses in various hues of green and yellow, you know flu and cold season is upon us or at least right around the corner.
So it was only appropriate during this time to choose a medical/hospital theme for our activities and projects. The thought was to set up the stage for and segue into the next unit on healthy habits and lifestyle.
The unit kicked off with an introduction to some of the tools used by doctors. The mother of one of our children, who is a nurse practitioner, donated a bundle of real medical supplies: stethoscopes, otoscopes, pupil gauge flashlight, plastic syringes, gauze bandaging, reflex hammer, etc.
During Art Studio, the overall project was to create a life-size drawing of a child and add on one organ at a time as they learn about them as well as to build a “doctor’s bag” in which there would be several tools and “prescriptions” for patients. Mr. David presented the stethoscope in more detail and talked about the heart. While the group colored pictures of stethoscopes and heart, Mr. David took aside one child at a time to have him/her listen to the beat of their own heart using a real stethoscope. Children usually don’t have a consciousness of their own organs; when they heard their own heartbeats, though, the expression on their faces indicated a newfound realization: whoa, I do have a heart! When every child had had their turn, they were asked to do a set of jumping jacks and then listen to their heartbeats again. The increased heart rate told the children that their heart/beat changes based on what they do. Afterwards, one of the boys went up against the board and the other children came up one by one to trace a part of his body.
Then organ after organ went up on the body in the coming days with a short lesson on each while the children continued to accumulate tools and “prescriptions” for their doctor’s bags. The children also watched videos on the heart, stomach, and digestion interspersed with questions like, “How do you know blood goes to your hand? Does it go to your hair? How do you know?” and discussions related to burping and stomachs growling. (You knew this was coming at some point.)
Once the children had filled up their doctor’s bags with tools and prescriptions, Mr. David told them stories of various sick scenarios and the children gave appropriate prescriptions for each ailment.
Then the chalkboard wall was divided into three sections: “I Feel Sick”, “Hospital”, and “All Better”. After the children drew characters and objects to depict these headings, some of them went up to tell stories of the drawings. This activity gave the children opportunity to create a narrative using anyone’s drawings on the board. Allowing young children to verbalize their work helps them understand their own thinking as well as perhaps the other children’s thinking and they are able to produce large units of coherent speech; they’re essentially learning to communicate. Children may know how to play and they know it’s fun to play but somehow verbalizing about their play adds another layer of understanding and they’re better able to retain the information. They are also learning that they can use visual ways to tell a story.
According to the Zero to Three organization, a national center for infants, toddlers, and families, “Story telling is perhaps the most powerful way that human beings organize experience. Some have argued that narrative thinking is the optimum form of thinking for learning and expressing what we know about our selves and about other people (Bruner 1986, Schank 1990).”