Leading up to our Unity in Diversity Day and as a part of our yearlong Who we are unit of inquiry; our current inquiry into How we organize ourselves; and our language focus Writing to Instruct/Explain, we read Jon J Muth’s version of Stone Soup. This is a story about three monks who try to understand what makes one happy. During their journey, they visit a village with frightened villagers, who keep their doors and windows locked. When they cleverly entice the villagers with making soup from stones, the villagers discover how much they each have to share and what they can gain in return. The story ends with a big feast and offering the strangers a place to sleep.
Our initial reading session focused on creating curiosity about the story (and print in general); using illustrations to predict and respond to the story; making links to the students’ own experiences; the structure of the story (how information is presented); the information shared (e.g. how to make Stone Soup); and the big question ‘What makes one happy?’
In order to address our inquiry into how information can be gathered and sorted and how it can be documented, we introduced a new graphic organizer. We explained that T-charts can help us to examine two facets of the monks’ inquiry into what happiness is? The students were invited to use Post-it notes to brainstorm about happiness. They made ‘draft’ drawings and in a quick personal teacher-student interview, comments to these drawings were documented, before the students sorted them using the T-chart. The students had a lot of ideas about what makes them happy, e.g. “Thinking about school”; “Playing together” and “She is at the playground. She is so happy”. Although they concluded that there were less ideas posted about what doesn’t make them happy, they thought that these few thoughts matched their personal experiences very well, e.g. “She pushed the boy” and “Somebody doesn’t want to share”.
With the older students of this combined Early Childhood class (4-6 yr.), who stay after lunch, we read a much older version of Stone Soup by Ann McGovern. After revisiting the Chinese version we read in the morning, we compared the content of the story, the message and the symbols used by the illustrators. The students noticed the bright yellow color of the little girl’s dress versus the poor clothes of the young man. They compared the black cat with the black bird. And they thought that the young man had taken advantage of the old lady (old version), but that the monks had brought happiness by teaching how to share.
After reading these stories, the students initiated to use elements of the Chinese version of Stone Soup for their play. They collected stones from our Sensory Path and started a lovely cooperative play elaborating on the books’ ideas. Their play expressed the desire to make real Stone Soup.
Our upcoming Unity in Diversity Day, with a focus on Food Sustainability, offered an excellent opportunity to make this cooking activity a more meaningful experience while including all the Early Childhood students. As a provocation, we took all the food items from the home corner and asked the students to think of criteria to sort them. Two sorting circles were formed one for possible Stone Soup ingredients and one for ‘others’. The students were invited to think about ingredients they might be able to find at home and using this sorted ‘data’, the students created a visual reminder to take home. We discussed and compared the pros and cons of each student bringing something from home, which helped the students to understand sustainability. It was fantastic to observe how the students’ thinking evolved into thinking about “pollution if you go shopping by car” and comparing it with more sustainable ideas like “you have to take your bicycle” (Dutch student) to “using an electric car”.
We invited the parents to collaborate by respecting the children’s thoughts re. shopping and our intention to focus on foodstuffs that do least harm to the planet. The children concluded that they should all “bring just a little bit” so there “we don’t waste food” and that “we need to share if a friend brings no food to wash and cut”.
The morning of the Unity in Diversity Day, the students proudly presented their ingredients. After the flag parade, assembly and photo shoot, we started with addressing the expected learning outcomes for the actual cooking activity:
- personal hygiene
- fine motor skills
- food choices can affect our health
- cooperate with others (share and take turns)
- celebrate the accomplishment of the group
- understand the impact of their actions on the environment
We labeled the ingredients and discussed how to wash and cut them. We revisited the instructions on how to cook Stone Soup and explained which areas to use for their cooking activities. We included the youngest Early Childhood students and together they created a very rich, sustainable Stone Soup which they ate together with their teachers.
Here are some comments the EC3 students shared about our ‘sustainable’ community vegetable soup:
JA: “We made our own ‘to do’ list.”
All: “We made the soup together … EC1, EC2, EC3.” LE: “Eating together!”
CH: “Everybody (brought the ingredients).” LE: “We don’t get pollution!”
JO: “It was fun, we could cut our own food.”
JA: “It makes us happy, because it is so yummy when you make it together.” LE: “Happy, because your heart is GOOD!”
LE: “IF you go to the shopping (mall), the smoke (of the care) is not good for your heart or your body.”
JA: “Or you can go on your bike.”
LE: “If you want to go shopping, you need an electric car … no pollution!”
Nicolette Brata-Coolen MA Childhood Studies & Early Years
SENCO & PYP Early Childhood Teacher
Bandung Independent School