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Kindergarten Is Great for People of All Ages

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Education | Volunteering

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I’m going to kindergarten again, and enjoying every minute of it! That is, I go to kindergarten at Cesar Chavez Elementary School to work with some of our educators who teach a science class to the children from kindergarten to fifth grade as part of a partnership that the Aquarium of the Pacific has with this nearby institution of learning.

I love children of all ages, as I know I’ve said in previous blogs, but my favorites may well be the little ones, so I chose to help out with the kindergarteners, who truly have proved to be a lot of fun.

Recently, we taught the youngsters about what happens with the sun when it gets dark outside at night, with Shelley and Emily alternating in teaching the lesson and me helping out as needed.

Asking the children questions is a lot of fun, because some of their answers can be quite comical, and also show that these children are able to retain what they learned during in earlier lessons.

Previously, Shelley and Emily taught the children about land formations and what makes up the earth. During this class, the children learned, among other things, that the word “soil” is synonymous with dirt (I had to miss that session, unfortunately, because of a mixup).

Holding up an inflatable globe, Shelley pointed to land shapes and asked, “What is this green stuff?” “Grass, soil, dirt,” came the answers. “And this blue stuff?” “Water,” several of the children replied.

“You totally remember from last time,” Shelley nodded approvingly.

During this session, our second of the year, we explained to the youngsters how nighttime and daytime are created, and introduced a “fancy” word for spin. “The Earth spins, or rotates, and the sun stays in the same place, so when the sun is shining on Long Beach, it’s daytime here, and when it’s not shining on us, it’s nighttime,” Emily told the children, showing on .

“What do we see at nighttime,” she asked. “The moon, the stars. At nighttime we go to sleep,” came the answers.

“What do you do at nighttime?” she asked another group. “We eat dinner, brush our teeth, and we wake up to sunny,” said one little one.

“What do you do in the daytime?” she asked again.

“You can have coffee at your house,” replied one little boy.

“Does the sun actually move?” Emily queried. “No, the Earth does,” came another response.

Emily then held up the blow-up globe. “Why does this look like a ball?” she asked, after which she explained that the Earth is round. She also showed the kindergarteners the location on the continent of North America, the United States, and the State of California.

During one class, Shelley pointed to a red dot on the globe–it exemplified Long Beach–and asked: “Do you know what this little dot is?”

“A period,” answered one little boy, as serious as he could be. It was all I could do not to laugh aloud, he was so cute!

“Do you see the sun at nighttime?” Shelley further asked the children.

“Yes! I mean, no,” responded a confused youngster.

Another question came following the explanation that the sun stays in the same place and the Earth rotates, thus creating day and night.

“What happens to the earth?”

“The sun goes down,” replied an eager little one.

“What happens when it’s nighttime?” came another question from Shelley.

“It’s really dark,” came another response.

“What if Long Beach was not in the sun. Would it be daytime or nighttime?” asked Emily. “Nighttime,” many children replied in chorus, absorbing like sponges all the new science information..

In each class–Emily and Shelley alternated teaching them througout the day–came a query for a volunteer to be the sun. Once selected, the child recieved a flashlight to shine on the “globe” being held by one of the two educators. The lucky chosen ones proudly wore construction-paper suns around their necks.

Emily and Shelley always rotated the globe numerous times during this part of the class, asking the children the time of day–dayk or night?–in Long Beach.

At one point during each class, we divided the children into pairs, giving one in each a flashlight and the other a smaller replica of the globe–it had a stick through it, to be turned as the globe turned.

The children were to spin the globes and their partners were suppsoed to aim the flashlights on them, then explain whether it was day or night in Long Beach; the children then traded items and the other was asked to answer the same questions.

No matter whether the Long Beach dot was facing the flashlight, one little boy kept telling me that it was nighttime, but most of the children seemed to grasp the concept easily. When I explained it again to this particular child, for about the fourth time, he finally seemed to get it.

Toward the end of each class, we had all our little charges pretend to be the Earth, asking them to stand up facing the classmate who represented the sun. With their noses being Long Beach, they were asked whether it was day or night in Long Beach. Then we told them to turn around and asked them the same question again. (Repetition is everything to learning, especially at this age!)

“Let’s puff up like the Earth,” Shelley told children at the end of one class session. She held her arms out around her body to give impression of being large and rotund and puffed up her up her cheeks, encouraging them to join in. As they did, giggle chimed out across the room. and all the children did the same, some of them giggling because they were having so much fun.

“Face Fernando the sun,” Shelley said during one of the classes.

“How do you know when it’s nighttime in Long Beach,” she asked.

“Because we sleep at nighttime, and it’s dark,” said one youngster.

“Is the sun out at night,” she asked.

“No!” came a chorus of voices from several of the children, with almost all of the youngsters finding the concept of a sunny nightime a bit comical-they’ve never heard of the Land of the Midnight Sun! LOL!

Walking the inflatable globe to a large wall map of the U.S. and, after explaining to the children what a map represents, explained the concept of states, and then pointed to California. “Has anyone heard of California?” Emily asked during one of the approximately 40-minute sessions, to which a few of the children responded in the positive. “Who lives in California?” she continued, and a few hands shot up in the air.

“Then there are cities,” she continued, pointing on the map to Long Beach. “Where do we live?” she asked.

“California!” came a prompt reply. “That’s a state,” she chided softly. “We live in a city, in a state. We live in Long Beach,” she said, as a chorus of youngsters said excitedly that they live in Long Beach, too.

After all of this, when the children again were asked their city of residence, one little boy replied matter-of-factly: “I live in my house.”

Oh what fun it is to be able to hear these answers first-hand. Kindergarten is such a great age, and being a volunteer at the Aquarium enables me to be there to share these lessons with them. I can’t think of anything that is much more fun to do.

This is one of the many things you, too, can experience. All you have to do is sign up to be a volunteer at the Aquarium of the Pacific!

Kindergarten Is Great for People of All Ages
Shelley asks children to tell her whether photos she shows them depict day or night scenes.  | Josie Cabiglio
Kindergarten Is Great for People of All Ages
Emily demonstrates to children how to pretend to be the sun, while Shelley holds an inflatable model of the Earth.  | Josie Cabiglio

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