The week leading up to Derby is my favorite week. (And that includes the last week of school. Well, except for tournament time.) I love the excitement in Kentucky as we prepare to show off our state, welcome the celebs, and embrace the guests from all over.
I make a big deal out of this in my classroom, especially on Oaks Day, since we will not be in school on the day of the actual Derby.
Here are some things I do in my classroom to help make the Kentucky Derby a fun, memorable, and educational experience for all.
In order to have a really successful day, I need help. I send home a sheet asking parents for an hour of their time a week beforehand. The responses I get help determine the size of the centers. I basically have two options:
The Bare Bones: this setup requires five centers-four the children rotate through and one where you pull kids. You will need an adult for three of them. I plan on about 15 minutes per center.
Math: This requires an adult. There are measurement opportunities galore here! A thoroughbred's stride is between 20-25 feet. I have them estimate how far they think this distance is, then measure it.
Since it usually takes around two minutes for the horses to run the race, I have them choose two of the following exercises: jumps, jumping jacks, toe touches, or writing their name. First they make an estimate of how many times they think they can do this in two minutes. Then they have a timer and time themselves for two minutes and record the actual amount.
And last, we discuss how a horse is measured in hands. They are also only measured from their hooves to the top of their backs. They can estimate how many hands tall they are, then help each other measure themselves. A hand is the equivalent of 4", so I have 4" strips already cut and laminated.
Literacy: Kentucky's state song is, "My Old Kentucky Home". Our music teacher does a really great job of teaching it during music but I like to make sure we cover it in the room as well. I have cut the words out and the kids put it together on a pocket chart. If the last group has a completed song, then they are to go through and find nouns, verbs, and rhyming words. And we have to sing it as a class. It would be a travesty if we didn't!
Art: I've got two jockey silks I use, and here's one if you need it. There are two methods of thought on this: you can either challenge them to show symmetry on their silks, or just let them be creative. I do copy mine on 12x18 construction paper to let them have plenty of space to be creative. I also check out books from the library on how to draw horses, just for the fun on it. To help get the kids started, I have printed out some pictures of silk designs. You can google images but here is one of my favs. And here is another. If your class needs a template, this will give them plenty of ideas. (If they don't finish them during that center, it's nice to have a few minutes later in the day to do so.)
Food: Another one that requires an adult. I buy my Derby pies from Kroger because I'm too lazy to make them. And they usually have a sale on them the days prior to Derby. I just serve Derby pies and lemonade. Many have never tried it before. You can keep a tally and then turn it into a graph or pictograph to be read, analyzed, and interpreted.
Hats: Requires an adult with much patience, preferably two. I get about three arm's lengths of colored butcher paper from the work room and masking tape. While all the other centers are going on, you pull kids and plop them into a chair. Stick their head in the middle of the butcher paper and secure it with masking tape. Then gently roll up the ends until you have a Scarlett O'Hara style hat for the girls and a bowler for the boys.
Transitions: Because I live in the mindset of "Go Big or Go Home", I have a few horse cutouts hanging up. And when it's time to switch centers, I've got the call to the post to signal when it's time to switch centers.
My next post will add some more ideas to this basic setup, plus some books and resources that will be useful to you.