On a recent snow/sick day from school, we decided to pull out some of the rocks and follow along with the Outdoor Hour Challenge: Start a Rock Collection. I pulled one box of rocks (there are many more and another display collection on the front porch) that has been neglected for some time. After they explored a bit, they got down to business!
Boy #2 decided he needed to go find his own rock box. He already had a connection to these rocks. See The Power of their Own STUFF.
As we looked at options for displaying our rock collections, we decided to go with egg cartons as I had a stack of them upstairs. Boy #3 (age 3, too) was pretty happy just filling the egg carton spaces with rocks from the dollar store vase. He didn't care how many, what kind, or anything like that for this collection. He wanted to fill it up! However, later he and I went through the other boxes of rocks and found appropriate rocks that went along with the rock grid and ideas in the newsletter. He is just 3, fairly quiet, and attends speech classes. It was really neat to hear him using all types of texture and other descriptive words and APPLYING the vocabulary to the rocks he later chose. This is engaged learning at its best, and he thought he was just "playing".
He is my little Picasso (yes, the walls are his canvas right now, along with his sheets, clothing, body, etc.--CRINGE). As soon as he saw the printable a few days later, he jumped on coloring it, recognizing many letters from his name and tracing them. I wrote in the descriptive words and he placed them in with the chosen rocks.
Seriously so proud of his work . . . he wanted to show his dad, cousins, and anyone else that might be interested.
The older boys were a bit more meticulous with their work, choosing special rocks. The oldest had a larger egg carton, so he chose many categories on his own.
I think they would be ready for more in-depth categorizing next time; however, just using the descriptive words from the rock grid was great for their first time doing this activity. For most materials when I've taught, I like to have some "exploration" time without as much directed learning at first. This was just enough to get interested in the different types of rocks available for their collection.
One nice thing is that these can easily be rearranged or changed out at any time. We could also even start new ones . . . endless cartons!