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The Disappearing Cow

Headstart students seek the cow on the moon.

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Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Exciting things are happening in the Headstart class as the students blast off into outer space to look for the cow. From boarding the shuttle to exploring the moon to building a land rover and space probes, the class is learning math, science, literacy, gross motor skills, and social skills.

Headstart teacher Fran Stidham developed the idea of heading off into space after reading the nursery rhyme to her students.

“One thing in the PreK guidelines is to ask a lot of ‘what if’ questions and prediction questions,” she explained. “We were predicting what happened to the cow and one kid said ‘the cow’s in space.’ We evolved a whole story just sitting on the carpet about the cow being in space and what that means.”

From there she spent several days preparing the centers around the space theme. Using some online resources, Stidham created a space shuttle with an instrument panel, pilots seat, gears and widgets, a command center, and a jet pack for exploration. In this center she and her paraprofessional Anessa Woodard spent a couple of days in guided play with the students.

“We had dry erase sleeves and markers and they used their marker and to trace a line for their flight path,” Stidham said. “There was also a checklist. They checked the gear, counted the passengers on the plane, choose their flight plan, and typed in their code. If it broke down, they used the little hammer and the gears and widgets to fix the shuttle. They could use their jet pack to go off and explore the moon and use their binoculars to look for the cow.”

But the center is not just about a shuttle ride, it is about learning.

“When I do a big center like that I always make sure there’s reading, math, and science,” Stidham explained. “I also try to have social/emotional skills such as playing together, interacting and having to share. That’s why there’s only one jetpack, they have to share it. Sharing is a big deal in Headstart.”

From the shuttle the students moved on to the parts center. There they used many assorted parts to build land rovers, space probes, dinosaurs, and many other objects.

“One student wore a dryer vent for half hour one day as an arm,” Stidham recalled. “He would go around and we would push his button and he would make his arm extend. We talked about length, we talked about robots, and what you could use a longer arm for.”

The purpose of the parts center was to help develop gross motor skills by using construction and deconstruction. It was also used to help the students learn to work together.

Besides the shuttle center and the parts center, Stidham also created a research center for exploring, measuring and weighing moon rocks. The exploration done by the students helps fulfill the PreK guidelines for math and science. It also helps fulfill overlapping guidelines set by Headstart and ELOF, Early Learning Outcomes Framework.

Even though the preparation for class is time consuming, Mrs. Stidham really enjoys teaching Headstart students.

“I feel like I’m where I should be,” she remarked. “I enjoy the PreK kiddos, and I enjoy the Headstart kids especially. They have a lot of love to give and they are a sponge. They want to learn.”

The centers in Headstart are constantly changing in order to keep learning fresh and interesting for the students. The space themed centers, one of the longest lasting, will be up for approximately two weeks before the four-year-olds began to get tired of it. But there are always centers to encourage playing and exploration.

“Kids learn through play. That’s why having centers and free play in the classroom at age four is very, very important,” Stidham said. “You have to give them the opportunity to apply the things they are naturally interested in and also the things that you’ve taught them.”

So, after space is explored, Headstart will be on to the next unit and the next topic designed for learning, exploration, and discussion.