On the morning of my very first day at school, when asked to describe a globe, Aki explained, “It’s an Earth ball, but it’s very small.” Julian B. said, “Here’s China. It’s a very big town.” Aki added, “Europe is the biggest town.” After a few moments, the boys added Duplo blocks to the play, and their discussion turned to trains. Aki said, “My train goes from Washington D.C. through a tunnel to New York City.” Julian said, “I have the M Express!”Aki said, “This is a local cleaner [train].” Walking in on the conversation, Eli added, “I watched this show about Thomas. Gordon said, ‘You should’ve run Express!’”
Later that day, I happened to overhear Louis showing Peter the same classroom globe, explaining with the same vocabulary, “It’s an Earth ball.” Peter asked, “Where is New York?” Unable to get a definite answer, Peter concluded, “I will ask my mommy.”
At our Morning Meeting on October 7th, Gael shared, “I went on a locomotive steam train! It had one hundred-one hundred wheels!” Many students responded with an emphatic “wow!” Julian B. also shared that he had recently been on a “Shuttle Train” for the first time. He began describing all the features of a Shuttle Train. When asked to define a “coupler”, Julian said, “A coupler is where the trains connect.”
The following morning, even before breakfast, Gael, Carlos, Aki, and Julian B. were examining and discussing two books on trains. Pointing to an illustration of a train traveling through a dark tunnel, Gael said to Carlos, “You know what the lights are for? The lights are so they know where they’re going!” Carlos said, “Sometimes trains go fast and sometimes they go slow--a tiny bit slow.” Gael responded, “The bullet, the double decker, and steam engine locomotive all go FAST.”
On October 7th, Mr. Jake, Ms. Sonia, and I set up a provocation in an attempt to tease out more information about the students’ trains-related work; we wanted to see if (and how) the students could connect map-making with toy trains. To do this, we taped a large blank white paper to one of our tables, placing toy trains, color pencils, and markers together on top.
Julian B. quickly made his way to this table, drawing and labeling an “S Train”--perhaps an echo of his recent first experience on a Shuttle Train. He also added a “whirlpool” and “mud puddle” to the paper, then proceeded to drive the train through these hazards, adding “splash!” sounds throughout the journey.
Sonia and Riley together created a drawing of a “Rainbow Train” at this table. Riley explained, “The wheels are even rainbow, too!” Sonia added, “At the station where they’re stopping, they have to build [the train cars] more.”
One student approached this provocative mix of artwork and train journeys in an unexpected way: rather than using the markers to draw trains, tracks, or obstacles for toy trains, Gael used the marker caps as a prop to add to the toy trains, carefully and repeatedly inventing ways to stack them on the train cars. Gael explained that the caps represented “pipes for the water, for the city”.
Right away, what stands out to me about this play is the depth and volume of many Eagle students’ train-related vocabulary. Words like “express”, “couplers”, “cleaner train”, and “shuttle” would be unusually specific for students with only a passing interest in trains. There is very clearly a world of knowledge these students are excited to be exploring together.
This play also reveals a connection between trains and maps that several Eagle students share. Is there potential in exploring one of these topics further by expanding upon the other?
Ms. Sonia, Mr. Jake, and I are pondering new ways to take apart and peer inside of this train investigation. In the long term, a field trip to the Train Museum would be an awesome way to celebrate and extend this work. In the meantime, it would be interesting to see how the Eagles would react if we temporarily replaced our wooden train tracks with maps of subway lines. What wonders will they wonder about then?
Please always feel free to share your thoughts with us any time you would like, and thank you so much for reading!