Monday, January 21, 2013

The Wonder of It All

Today's post is from @bluskyz, a kindergarten teacher in Virginia, USA.

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Discovering magnets for the first time!
Kindergarteners come to school with a huge sense of wonder. They are constantly questioning, pondering, discovering, wondering, exploring – it’s just a natural part of who they are. I absolutely love this part of working with four and five year olds! I think it’s my job to keep that sense of wonder alive and to encourage it as a part of the learning experience. While most of us have a curriculum and/or state standards to follow, I find that the standards are simply a departure point. If I only teach the standards as they are written, in order to “cover” an objective, I miss many opportunities to get kids excited about learning. I once had an instructor tell us, “if you’re only going to cover something, you may as well bury it in the backyard.” This stuck with me and I try very hard to create learning experiences that are ongoing, meaningful, deep and full of discoveries.

Setting up the baby beetle habitats – counting how many we have
Life cycles are a part of our curriculum. Our county provides us with an ant farm, which is a fun way to study life cycle, but I like to go beyond that by extending this study throughout the year. We start the year with monarch caterpillars in our classroom. We witness the amazing transformation to butterflies and then track their migration to Mexico. In the winter we bring “baby beetles”, commonly called mealworms, into our classroom. The children observe the tiny wormlike critters go through their transformation into large, black beetles. We count, record and observe the changes. We get them out of their habitat and look at them closely, feel them crawling on our hands and experience their life cycle firsthand. We get an incubator in the spring and learn about chickens – watching the baby chicks hatch in our classroom. Through these many experiences, students truly learn about the life cycles of living creatures. They also learn much, much more.

Playing with the dinosaur sensory box while making a book about dinosaurs

This year my class is extremely interested in dinosaurs. I started a dinosaur box the first week of school in order to appeal to this interest. I filled it with dinosaur books, toy dinosaurs, pictures of dinosaurs and fabrics, rocks & stones to create dinosaur habitats. We also have a dinosaur sensory box, an app on our ipads that teaches kids how to draw dinosaurs as well as an app that teaches kids information about dinosaurs. Out of this play area, many children have written books to teach others about dinosaurs. They have learned how to read nonfiction texts with graphs, labels, captions, and various nonfiction text features. They are continuously drawn to the dinosaur play because it is something that interests them. They want to learn more and they want to share their learning with others. Are dinosaurs in my curriculum? No, but through the dinosaur play many of my literacy standards are being met.

Another way I try to keep wonder alive in our classroom is with our “Wonder Wall”. I first read about this idea in the fabulous book, A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jen McDonough. We have a special board in our room where we can put post-it notes about things we wonder about. This is a way to keep track of our thinking and to remind us about things we want to talk about, investigate, explore and learn more about. I keep a close eye on the Wonder Wall and use it as a launching place for classroom units of study, books we read, websites to visit and experts we might know that can come and share their knowledge with us. It’s a great way to keep track of the many wonders that kindergarteners have!

Playing with fake snow in a classroom sensory box
Deep learning and exploring happens when children are encouraged to follow passions, explore interests, inquire and wonder. Giving children time to explore and honoring their investigations, thoughts and discoveries allows for real learning that will stay with children forever. I strive to be that “good fairy” and give my children the gift of a lifelong sense of wonder and to keep my sense of wonder alive each day in our classroom.

How are you keeping wonder alive in your classroom?

Katie says: Hi, I’m Katie Keier (@bluskyz). I am a kindergarten teacher in Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. While I’ve been teaching for 21 years in grades K-8, this is only my 2nd year in kindergarten. I can’t imagine ever going to another grade again and I can’t imagine teaching kindergarten without the wonderful support and inspiration from #kinderchat!  I am the co-author of Catching Readers Before They Fall: Supporting Readers Who Struggle, K-4. You can follow my teaching blog at  and my class blog at . When I’m not playing with my kindergarteners, I love spending time running on mountain trails. I take lots of pictures of the amazing things I see on trail and share them on my running blog, . Enjoy!

Tomorrow, @garrioch writes about understanding our introverted students.


  1. Dear Katie,
    I love your post and especially the idea about the Wonder Wall. I teach first grade and I am stealing the idea! Your students are lucky to have you. I am so amazed that you manage 3 blogs! Happy teaching,
    Jennifer Kloczko
    Cameron Park, CA

  2. I love the wonder wall, too. I'm taking it for my 1st graders, too.

    And magnets fascinate my class, too, apparently. I bought some new small erasers for white boards (from Target dollar shelves). These are magnetic. The kids have enjoyed attaching them to their desks, their boards, chair legs, and even testing other surfaces. Hmm. Maybe I need to blog about this.

  3. Katie, I love how in tuned you are with your young learners. I just added a wonder wall to my classroom and I LOVE seeing their wonders. What I love best though as one wonder goes up, a few more wonders are sparked. While this wall is quite new for us, it is very well loved. Slowly, we are trying to find answers to the wonders, and if answers can't be found we are thinking about what they could be. I love seeing their brains spin. Thanks for sharing. Karen