Children learn “All About Me” while using science tools

Beginning a new school year often means teachers have new students to get to know, and vice versa. Returning students have report cards or portfolios from the previous year. Children who are attending the school for the first time don’t have those records so information from their family is especially important. But there is much to learn! Starting the year with a look at ourselves, “All About Me” (a favorite theme of young children and adults!), is one way to learn about the child’s life—family, favorite books and foods, and places to visit, gain an initial appreciation of their personality and skills, and introduce the beginnings of scientific inquiry.

Child smells cinnamon sticks and smiles.Explorations about the senses of smell and touch and charting the “favorites” teach that each of us have different preferences, and can lead into a discussion of why we record and reflect on data. Cover small containers of freshly cut lemons, onion, cinnamon stick and coffee beans to smell. Surprisingly to me, onion was the favorite for a few of my children.

 Feely Boxes with a small opening for a hand reduce our reliance on our sense of sight. Child measuring with hand shapes.Using science tools for measuring, such as a bathroom scale to see “how hard you will be to lift” and a length of hand prints or a measuring tape to see how long your arm is, help children become familiar with tools that remain available all year for other explorations. Child puts together a skeleton puzzleChildren or teachers can list the descriptive words they use as they look at their hands and hair with a magnifier, another tool they will use year-round, perhaps learning new words, or some in additional languages. Putting together a child-size flat foam puzzle of a human skeleton is often a group effort with much discussion about who gets to put on the head, the relative lengths of arm and leg bones, and who is taller, the skeleton or the child.

Here are a two books for thinking about diversity in animal/human bodies:

Two Eyes, a Nose, and a Mouth by Roberta Grobel Intrater. 2000. Scholastic. A book of face photographs with rhyming text delighting in the variety in human faces feature by feature.

What do you do with a tail like this? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. 2003. Houghton Miffllin. Unique and interesting body parts and questions lead to finding out how animals’ body shapes and functions help them survive.

Two more books, for talking about how our bodies relate to who we are:

I Like Me! by Nancy Carlson. 1990. Puffin. What do we like about ourselves? Carlson’s pig knows her strengths and what she likes about herself.

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow. 2004. Harcourt Children’s Books. Making silly faces, doing near impossible feats, and all while appreciating herself, a sweet child uncovers all the ways she likes herself.

I like the smell of chocolate.


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  1. Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    These are great ideas, Peggy. This coming week in my classroom I’m going to introduce weighing and measuring by recording how tall each child is and how much each child weighs. (I don’t compare children to each other. At the end of the school year we measure and weigh everyone again and note the growth individually.)

    We’ll also record growth in our new classroom baby guinea pig. The plan is to weigh and measure weekly.

    I’ll invite children to also measure different parts of their bodies. Then we’ll cut yarn as long as their foot, arm, hand, whatever, and they’ll look for items in the classroom the same length. They are thrilled to discover, “This book is as tall as my arm!” I’ll have a variety of scales available so they can weigh everything from blocks to sand pails.

  2. Peggy
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    We use an “All About Me” unit of study each year which focuses on the senses. My students love to participate in a cooking activity in which they cut up a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other foods (sweet peppers, onions, different kinds of apples, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, pickles, cheese, breads) and then taste then at snacktime. This is usually a great success, with the children using all of their senses as they explore and describe. Some like to eat the experiment and others just like the cutting.

  3. PeggyA
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Yea another “Peggy”!
    What kind of knife do you use? Do you pre-cut the harder things such as onions?
    I wonder how your class could document their unit?

    Marie, how do you record the numbers for weight and height? With numerals or another way? I work with 2 and 3 year olds who don’t yet read numerals so I’m looking for ideas. (I’d love to see pictures of how you measure the length of a guinea pig–sounds like fun! Will those be on your website?)

  4. Carmen
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Peggy A,
    Thank you for your post on how to use science tools during a unit on all about me. As you state children love to learn all about themsleves and I think it’s great that you’ve brought in technology as a part of the exploration. I also think the books you’ve suggested are all wonderful examples of books which focus on the body. My Pre-K students love the book What do you do with a tail like this? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. They enjoy trying to figure out which tail goes to what animal and why their tail looks the way it does. My only question is Where did you get your foam skeleton puzzle? I’d really like to get one for my classroom.

  5. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Carmen! Search online for “foam skeleton puzzle” to see a list of many vendors selling the Learning Resources product. After years of making cardboard replacement pieces or throwing away a puzzle because of missing pieces, I now buy two of each puzzle so I’ll have spare parts. This means buying fewer puzzles but the children often want to work on the same one as a classmate so it works out.

  6. Posted September 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    My students are 4 and 5 years old so I do use numerals for measurement.

    As we moved from learning about me, to growing seeds I read The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. To continue the measuring enthusiasm, we measured the children’s height in carrots, using long (approximately 9″) carrots. Each child lay down on the floor and we ran a strip of orange masking take the length of his/her body. Then they lay the carrots end to end to see how many carrots tall they were, using a 1/2 or 1/4 carrot if necessary. We talked about how measuring in carrots wasn’t as exact as measuring in inches. Afterwards they glued small construction paper carrots on a paper to represent their height. The carrots didn’t go to waste. I scrubbed them well, then the children peeled them and we made carrot salad.

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