Provocation and a Child’s Interest

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I’ve talked before about how young children sometimes will be curious about a provocation or not.  I’ve also talked about how using the materials you have is a great way to incorporate recycling into your curriculum.  Above I had set up a small provocation using boxes, blocks and wooden dolls, our fairies.  And I used a piece of fabric to place them all onto.  I had no idea if this would be an interest or not, but I tried anyway.  

It turned out that one of my students chose to remove the blocks from the table and take them to the construction/ block interest area to build with.  The boxes, dolls and fabric were all left behind.  So I decided to follow this child and put the boxes and dolls in the construction/ block area too.  At first block building dominated and no interaction with the dolls took place.  However, just as I was about to give up on my provocation entirely, this student decided the dolls needed furniture. 🙂

2008-01-01 12.27.51  It turns out that the provocation wasn’t a fail as I thought it was.  This child made it her own and took it in the direction she wanted.  She moved the blocks to an area she could build, then she used the blocks to make furniture for the dolls.  She explored, constructed and planned using her own timing and ideas.  I mentioned the word “planned” second because often times young minds construct first and formulate ideas and plans as they go.  Constructing knowledge as they engage in hands-on projects enables their young minds to experiment with the many ideas running through their heads.

Sometimes it can be very difficult as a Teacher to sit back and wait.  Sometimes it is important to follow the child’s lead and then step back again.  Waiting, watching and listening are all part of  the documentation process and of being a Teacher, Mentor and Facilitator.

100_8294  As this child started to story tell about the dolls/ fairies she used our wooden tool bench, tools, and alphabet puzzle pieces and incorporated them into her story.  This child was also integrating the content areas such as mathematics when building, for example, measuring, comparing sizes, shapes and balancing each block.  She also entered into literacy development when she started story telling. Allowing young children to express their individual ideas and creative thoughts is all a part of a strong learning foundation.  This simple example is what enables children to take risks with their learning as they grow older.  We want children to have confidence and the ability to make difficult decisions as they grow into adulthood and become responsible citizens.  It all starts in the early years of development.

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT 🙂

The Marigold School of Early Learning

Fabic Pieces and Interest Areas

The Marigold School of Early Learning is a morning preschool for young minds aged three to five years.  School resumes the week of January 4th through 8th, 2016.  We are ready to jump into learning fun at 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., so come join us so you can enjoy learning too! 🙂

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Using fabric pieces, interest areas can move about the school or be more visible to young children’s eyes.  When I first bought the fabric scraps I knew I would use them for something, I just didn’t know exactly what. And then it hit me!  Portable interest areas or provocations with a similar concept to movable centers.  

In the Construction/ Block Interest area there is a rather busy carpet.  Some children actually do use the roads on the carpet while most do not.  So since it was such a busy background I put down one piece of fabric and moved the lacing cards to the Construction/Block Interest area.  The lacing cards were more visible and it freed up our table for play dough fun! 🙂


We also found that the same piece of fabric could be used as a table cloth on our kitchen table.  So it turned out I had plenty of uses for my pile of fabric scraps. 🙂  Not only did using the fabric for multiple things work, we discovered how easy it can be to gather materials and put them in their proper place when they are on fabric that can be easily and quickly turned into a makeshift bag.  Of course we made sure all four corners were up and tied together before moving the materials.

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Setting up a provocation using fabric and other materials sparks a young child’s mind into thinking along creative pathways.  Using the materials in endless ways keep the children expanding their thoughts and understandings too.  Fabric is large, small, soft, smooth, rough or bumpy.  Fabric is portable not static and can be used in many different ways to enhance quality learning for young minds.  Children experience color, texture, patterns, size differences and the many uses that come from having fabric as an educational tool. 🙂

100_8468 This child used puzzle pieces and buttons as cat food.  We put down a piece of fabric in the reading corner.

100_8481  Back to the Construction/ Block area we used another piece of fabric to use blocks and mini checkers for sandwiches.  And yes, this was a three year old child’s idea.

100_8524  Another day we used blocks, wooden bowls, geo shape blocks and other fun items to make a picnic!  The imagination of a child never stops and the wonderful part of all of this is the endless learning that is unfolding!

Come join The Marigold School of Early Learning if you want your 3-5 year old child to experience the joy of learning through inquiry, exploration, discoveries and many more developmentally appropriate learning opportunities! 🙂 

100_8527  An unopened canned soup made it’s way onto our picnic area! This is all the creative work of a three year old child! 🙂


Heidi Scott, BA and MIT

Halloween Tour!

100_8205  The Marigold School of Early learning is having a tour on Halloween!  Please join us between 3:00-6:00 p.m. for an up close look at the preschool and treat bags!

100_8217  I love teaching young children and if you are looking for a small play-based environment for your child aged three to five years please come and see us rain or shine!

100_8214 You are welcome to come and visit between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 Halloween Night!

100_8122  Artistic expression is a large part of the curriculum, yet so is constructing, dramatic play and science exploration!  Eight young minds can come each morning at 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m to wonder, question, explore and create!

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I look forward to meeting you all  and wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween!

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT   The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂

Oak Trees

100_8126 Oak trees are so pretty, but sometimes they will react to bees trying to infest the branches to make their nests.  The infestation causes the tree to form galls.  In the picture to your right are two oak leaves and one example of a gall.  For those of you who have oak trees galls are something you may want to get rid of, but for the purposes of education I wanted to explore this as a provocation for young minds.

100_8129 Here is a close up of a gall from an oak tree.  Notice the cream color with darker brown spots.  Galls are a great way to teach children about how not all plant life is meant for insects and how insects can hurt a tree.  For young children I would start out with stories about the specific tree or plant life I want the children to explore.  This may not be an interest to the children yet, but once we visit the topic in very well may become a huge interest.  To learn more about the tree I would encourage discussions around the topic.  Next I would set up a project approach with the children.  This way the children are partners with me, the Teacher, and will be engaged in the whole process of learning about galls without this being a Teacher driven and directed project.  The children will plan each step of the project with the Teacher; we are partners in learning.

100_8130  For a project approach, like other first steps in provocations there are many questions.  So the children and I will ask questions about what a gall is and how it is formed and why does it grow?  I will write down all of the children’s questions and all of my questions.  Next I want the children to not only be exposed to the books that tell us all about oak trees, but I want pictures of healthy and unhealthy oak trees.  Oak tree pictures with no galls and ones with galls.  Having a real gall and leaves for the children to touch and feel and examine is always my preferences for young concrete minds.  From our initial discussion the children and I will go back and forth with more inquiries, explorations and ideas to express understanding in different ways.  In other words we will use all of our materials  and interest areas to explore this scientific topic.

100_8134  One way in which the children will construct knowledge about this subject is by drawing their own version of a gall.  So I’ve set up one provocation allowing for only one child at a time to examine and draw the gall if she/ he chooses to.  For a project approach other areas of interest are set up with more information about oat trees, so the rest of the class is engaged in different investigations of oak trees and the formation of galls.  With projects their are aspects that children will engage in together as a whole group, in two’s as a team or as individuals.  All aspects will come together as a whole in the end.  Depending on how in depth the children wish to go with this scientific inquiry, we may end up doing a culminating event in which we not only show the process from start to finish and all of the in between, but all of our reflections as well.  We may be able to display our findings and put together an event for families to come and learn about galls too! 🙂

100_8131  One thing to always remember is that no matter what content is explored and used throughout the project, the children are the ones leading the way with their interests.  As the Teacher I am a support, facilitator and partner in this project.  I am not giving direct instruction and telling the students what they need to know about oak trees and galls.  I am the one providing rich scientific literature and a variety of resources for the children to explore this subject thoroughly.   I don’t want children to skim the surface of subjects, I want them to dig deep and actually learn about the world we all live in by constructing knowledge together.  I want to prepare and strengthen the foundation for all future learning.  Young minds are capable of deep understanding if only given the chance and faith from the adults around them. 🙂

Investigate the formation of galls on your own and see what information you find!  Share the types of plant explorations you’ve investigated with your young minds!  I would love to read all about your experiences too! 🙂


Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning!

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Clay, Buttons and Oil Pastels

100_8083  Using clay and buttons as a simple number provocation is another way to incorporate mathematical experiences into your classroom.  Some children will come over and use the oil pastel to try and trace the number and the buttons.  Other children will copy the number and buttons free hand.  And still others may squish the clay and use the buttons to create something entirely different.  Children not so comfortable with textures like clay will push the clay aside and use the oil pastel to draw instead.  These are all things I have seen many children do each time I’ve done this provocation or a similar one.  

100_8084  Provocations like these are meant to get the children thinking.  When asked, “what number is this?”  “Zero!” is always the reply.  Zero is also a circle shape, head, eyes, balls etc.  Children will take this as a number symbol or use any of the other forms it takes to create a unique picture.  Sometimes a child will have a lot to say about his/her creation and other times just the moments spent working with clay and allowing themselves to relax before engaging in other areas that require social interaction will be enough.  What each child gains from a provocation is not always up to the Teacher.  Children will stick to the surface or dive deep with their inquiries, explorations and creations.  As a Teacher I am close by to push the child’s thinking a bit further when I can.

100_8087  I chose an autumn theme for the colors of clay, buttons and oil pastels, but you could always choose the colors you see and hear your children wearing, choosing and telling you they like.  This was my way of incorporating a seasonal color theme without all the “cookie cutter” close-ended units and lessons.  I find it fascinating to be able to set up a provocation and wait to see how the children interpret the meaning for themselves.  And I love being able to scaffold with each child, building onto and opening doorways in their minds for deeper understanding.  The button alone could spark a brief discussion on the buttons a child has on his/ her shirt or coat.  The child may remember a family member like a Grandfather or Grandmother having buttons to play with when they visit.  Children have rich memories and experiences each brings to the classroom and I never know what provocations will spark special memories.  Memories are worth writing down and appreciating.

100_8086  I tried to pick out buttons that were similar in color yet have a different appearance.  Each button is of a different size and has specific surface details.  The picture above has two yellow buttons, yet each is of a different size and has a different number of holes.  The surface textures of both have a different design as well.  These are details I noticed and sometimes the children will notice these on their own and be interested in the differences.  Other times children will not pay attention to these fine details because they do not consider them to be important details.  This is where as a Teacher I can point out and question the children about what they see as being the same and what is different.  Pointing them is a direction I would like them to notice sometimes leads to more questions from the children as to why the buttons are not the same.  It can also spark memories of experiences with other clothing or toy items that are different and the same.  Keep the conversations open and keep them going when you see an opportunity.

100_8085  Color differences are also noticeable between the clay, oil pastel and buttons.  This could lead you to set up more provocations with the color spectrum in mind.  Exploring colors and how color is created could lead the children into a great scientific exploration.  Discuss with the children things in nature that are green and all the different shades of green.  Bring in leaf and grass samples to set up and compare the differences in color.  Since it is Autumn you could also use this time to teach the children about how the leaves turn in the fall and why.  Nothing too heavy because the children are ages three, four and five, but enough scientific information that keeps them asking more questions and keeps the topic open for further investigations.  Let the children lead you in what you add to the curriculum.  Rich learning and strong foundations for further learning happen when we, Teachers and Parents respect the interests and knowledge young children inquire and talk about.


Heidi Scott, BA & MIT   The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂

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Fabric and Buttons!

100_8100 Using textures and small manipulatives like buttons for beginning patterning provocations is another way to introduce mathematic concepts to young minds in a non-intrusive way.

100_8096 This is an example of how you can display biggest to smallest using buttons.  The idea when setting up provocations like this one with fabric and buttons, is to keep in mind this is an open-ended exploration.  Watch, listen and observe how one or all four children at the table use the materials or choose not to use them.  Revisit this provocation and from the observations and words of the children formulate questions to spark a discussion of possible uses for fabric and buttons.  You may be surprised at what non-conventional ways the children will come up with. 🙂

100_8097 Using different nature based or Autumn colors is another way to stimulate a child’s young mind in terms of creativity.  Here is a cream colored fabric with yellow buttons along with leaf patterns and a star shape.  These small details may be noticed by the children and this could inspire one or more to draw or paint a picture of leaves or stars.  The children may ask for clay to sculpt a flower.  You never know where a young mind will take a provocation.

100_8098  Now you may be thinking this is too abstract, not enough information for a young mind.  However, my expectations are for the young mind’s capacity to question, explore ideas and take risks creating things inspired by a provocation like this one.  Conversation and deep discussion can come about from the children for different uses of fabric and buttons.  Sizes, shapes, colors, textures are all a part of the natural and artificial world in which all children live and breath.  Use what you have to provoke deep thought, questioning, exploring and constructing minds of the young children you teach or care for.

100_8099  Patters are in real nature and they are in artificial nature.  Here is an example of using the colors in the fabric to create with buttons a red and yellow pattern.  Again this is a provocation which may lead a young child to extend the pattern, or it may inspire them to draw or sculpt.  As a Teacher my ideas and adult expectations have to be put on the back burner.  I have to be patient and wait to see how young three, four and five year old minds will interpret and create with exposure  to a provocation like this one.  The types of questions I ask to further exploration may differ for each age group or I may observe how each child of a different age influences another’s ideas and constructions based on this one provocation.

Give this provocation a try!  See what your young preschool children come up with.  Let me know how it worked out for you.  Let me know if it did not work and how you changed the provocation.  How did your discussions on this provocation unfold and what insights did you gain in terms of how each child interpreted the provocation?  I want to hear from you!  Please like and share!


Thank you!

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning 🙂



The joy of a wooden tool bench and more!

100_7894  This is another addition to the building and construction area!  I prefer wooden toys that really do what they claim.  I also enjoy the fact that the tools all work and are just right for young developing fine motor muscles of children ages 3-5. 🙂

100_7893  This particular learning set is one the children could have worked on as a cooperative team to put together.  Instead I put it together and that is how I judge whether a toy is a toy or an actual learning tool.  When you are out searching the stores for toys that are also educational keep in mind that you should play with it first.  If you take the time to play with toys/ educational materials before you give them to your child, you will have a much broader understanding of how versatile or not your purchase is.  You will discover quite quickly if it is just a toy for entertainment purposes only, or if there are many learning experiences packed in the gem you found.

100_7891  This wooden tool bench is perfect for two children to enjoy.  Three could use this as a small group, however if tools are popular I have another possible solution.

I have a standing area for one or two children to explore a plastic version of tools as well.  So even though plastic is not my first choice, this will do if tools are the popular item of the moment.   When setting up extra materials that are popular with the children I always take into account their actual physical play patterns.  This way I can set up interest areas based on where they would naturally explore.  This may or may not work even with my considerations taken into account, but at least it is a good try for capturing their curiosity and encouraging deeper thoughts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 100_7895


As you can see the children are once again able to engage in mathematical learning experiences that incorporate communication if working as a team or small group.  Each is also exploring shapes, spacial relations, eye-hand coordination and developing fine motor skills while thoroughly enjoying themselves! 🙂

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Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning