ARCHIVED—Lesson Learned: Grass Table
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It was a simple science project to begin with: build a frame, fill it with soil and plant grass seeds. It turned out to be a wonderful teaching opportunity about the Plains culture of the ancestors of the children in Tanis Kohls' care.
All by itself, the grass table is a great teaching tool, says Kohls, who works at the Awahsuk Aboriginal Head Start Preschool in Surrey, British Columbia. "The children have all sorts of opportunities to experiment with digging and scooping and pouring, not to mention all the sensory and social play that happens with the activity. At the time of planting, they can make predictions about how long it will take to grow. When it does begin to grow, then they can begin to maintain it by watering and trimming the grass with scissors."
Kohls noticed that the children soon began moving animal figurines into the grass and playing with them. "So I moved some buffalo figurines in and made a small teepee to place on the surface as well. This ignited the children's curiosity; they wanted to know why I had done that."
Kohls' answers inspired further discussion of how the children's ancestors lived on the plains years ago and that moved into discussions of then and now, featuring information about different types of homes and foods and cooking and transportation. "That connection to their culture helps the children learn about themselves and where they come from, and builds self-esteem," adds Kohls.