By Eric Eyman
Last year, many of the Olive Room children developed a deep appreciation for marine life. Because of this interest, several meaningful connections formed between children. They often enjoyed drawing sea creatures and researching them. They created watercolor paintings of seashells and coral; a large canvas painting of their favorite deep-sea dwellers; and the creation of the “Deep Sea” room in one of the office spaces of our school. Wyatt, Benton, Julian, Ethan, and Liam were a few of the children who participated in many of these projects. They returned for kindergarten this year and continued exploring this interest through their drawings and conversations. I was excited to see how fascinated they still were with marine life and wondered how I could incorporate their interest into our Investigations Workshop.
Recently, our director Linda gave us a new book titled, “How Long Is a Blue Whale?” by Alison Limentani, which explores the sizes of different sea creatures. I couldn’t wait to share this book with the group and thought about how well it could tie in with our math unit. I invited the five boys together to read the book. I felt the same amount of enthusiasm from them as last year when we first began researching marine life. Each page we looked at sparked what felt like an endless flow of dialogue between the group; sharing various stories and information. At one point, the group had the following exchange:
Benton: Blue whales are bigger than any dinosaur that ever lived!
Liam: Well anglerfishes when they turn on their esca, the other sea creatures don’t see them, and then when they turn it on, they can eat the other sea creatures!
Julian: Well, the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean.
When we finally reached the part of the book that showed a giant picture of a blue whale, the group quickly reacted, shouting, “WOAH!” Many questions arose in their minds as they tried to make sense of how big a blue whale is. Benton asked, “What do ten thousand blue whales equal? The WHOLE earth?!”
We continued our investigation the next day by studying a few different charts. The charts showed the blue whale in comparison to other sea creatures and various objects, which piqued their curiosity even more. Wyatt observed one chart and shared, “A gray whale is half the size of a blue whale.” Liam, Julian, and Ethan looked at another chart and worked together to count the number of school buses, smart cars, and elephants that equaled the length of one blue whale. Afterward, we hashed out a plan to measure the actual length of this gigantic creature on the side yard and got to work. We began measuring by using just one ruler. Wyatt, Liam, and Benton helped count each foot while I moved the ruler across the pavement. At one point, Liam and Benton brought over two yardsticks and one more ruler for us to measure with, and we discussed how many feet and inches made up a yard. We then tried a different strategy by putting the two rulers and two yardsticks together and continued measuring in eight-foot increments. After a while, we finally got past 60 feet when it was time for us to move onto the next activity. Benton seemed a little disappointed that we couldn’t finish measuring all 108 feet that day. He shared how he wished an airplane could land on the side yard to see the full length of a blue whale.
The next day we continued our measurement, which extended into the backyard near Leo’s home, where Wyatt made the final mark. Ethan used the measurements to draw a full-size blue whale using one whole piece of chalk, and the group celebrated by running around the drawing with huge smiles across their faces. Wyatt shouted, “I can’t believe we measured a whole blue whale!”