Birds (outside)

When it comes to gaining true understanding about the natural world, text and photos can only take a child so far. We believe that spending time outside and allowing the students to experience nature firsthand takes the learning experience to a whole new level, engaging the students senses in new and exciting ways.

Over the past couple of weeks we have been observing a mother bird and her baby bird in our outdoor area. When the children go outside each day they run towards the bird’s nest, eager to check on the little feathered family. With each visit, the children have been able to make a variety of observations regarding important scientific concepts such as the animal’s life cycle, habitat and other physical and behavioral characteristics.

The children have been observing how the mother bird feeds the baby bird and have been talking about how “the baby bird is growing.” Noting the bird’s feeding habits and growth rate reinforces valuable scientific skills and concepts such as careful observation, measurement, comparison and cause and effect.

The children also got to watch the baby bird try to fly. This was quite exciting for them because they have been observing the baby bird from the moment it hatched from its egg. While the bird was practicing flying he got stuck inside of the fence but he quickly figured out how to get free. The birds have been a popular topic of conversation between the students, increasing communication skills and unity within the class.

By spending time outside with the birds, the children not only expanded their scientific knowledge, but they also formed a special connection with the natural world around them. Getting a daily glimpse of the baby’s transformation allowed for a unique sense of attachment, appreciation and curiosity to grow within the children, increasing their interest in learning and their thrill as they witnessed the bird take its first flight.

Encouraging children to interact and connect with nature in a meaningful way is important because it allows them to better understand their potential impact on the environment, furthering their development into environmentally responsible individuals. 

Plant Progression

We are very excited to share that our plants have all begun to grow! The children are so eager to check on the growth of our plants every day, so we created a system to track the growth. The children enjoy the daily process of caring for the plants and especially love being able to see the tangible results of their hard work in the form of measurable plant growth.

We begin every morning by watering the plants and measuring the growth of each one. As a means of tracking the growth, the children draw a picture every week that represents the changes that they observe in the sprouts. We have these pictures displayed on the wall for the children to look back on, resembling a timeline! After watering the plants and drawing our observations, the students take the plants outside to get some sun.

This ongoing plant care process has been a valuable experience for our students for quite a few reasons. It has given them an opportunity to learn how to initiate and maintain a healthy daily habit. By caring for the plants each day, they have learned how their actions can impact the world around them. The daily care and measurements have allowed them to better grasp the concept of cause and effect. The positive results (plant growth) have reinforced their positive behaviors (diligently caring for the plants).

The recording of plant growth through drawing is important because it gives the children an opportunity to document their observations in a unique way, expressing creativity, exercising the imagination, and carefully thinking through their observations of the plant characteristics. Working with the drawing utensils builds on their fine motor skills. Using art to document information leaves the students with a record of what they learned that is useful for future comparisons and a lot more fun to look at than numbers on a page.

We are going to continue to care for and document the growth of our plants. Feel free to come check out our timeline in the classroom!

Bug categorizing

Lately, we have noticed that some of the children have started confusing the names of certain bugs and insects that they have come across in our classroom. To resolve this confusion and further our understanding of insect names, we set up an exploration.

Using magnifying cubes to help us get a closer look at the bugs, we placed four ladybugs, four doodle bugs, four snails and two caterpillars out on a large sheet of white paper. The paper was divided into four sections labeled “Snails,” “Caterpillars,” “Ladybugs” and “Doodle Bugs.”

The children were excited to see our critters out of their natural habitats. They immediately started grabbing the cubes and excitedly shouting out which ones they had in their possession. We asked the students if they knew what words were on the paper and they all responded by saying “I don’t know.” We took this opportunity to explain to the children the different word in each square.

Some of the children started to place the critters that they had in their hand into separate sections. They repeatedly asked us which section was what. We talked about the first letter of each section to help them connect it to the name of the critter and some of the children helped their classmates find their correct section.

While they were relocating the bugs, some of the children wanted to bring chalk and oil pastels to draw their bugs on the paper. The children drew bodies, legs and antennas in each of the sections. They enjoyed rubbing their hand and arms on the areas that chalk was used. The bright colors rubbed off on their skin and some of them even started to draw on their arms.

By categorizing the bugs into their correct sections, the children practiced word association. Learning to properly label and name items is an important aspect of communication skill development. Writing the bug names on the table and using the first letters of the names to give the children “hints” also increased the children’s general letter and word recognition skills.

In helping one another find the appropriate category for the bugs, the children practiced teamwork, encouraged positive relationships and enhanced their interpersonal communication skills. Drawing the bugs in their correct sections also allowed the children to further instill their mental connection between each bug name and that bug’s unique characteristics, as a means of remembering the appropriate name.

While this began as a communications based exploration, it also built upon other cognitive skills like counting and categorizing.

Caterpillar Environment

The children are continuing to explore the fascinating world of caterpillars! We have been monitoring the caterpillars in the classroom by recreating their environment in a see-through container. In doing so, the children understand what elements are necessary for the caterpillars to live and what type of environment or habitat they need to survive.

When asked what they see they in the container they identified leaves, branches, flowers, water and the caterpillars. The children were asked what they think an “environment” is. Here were some of their thoughts on environments and their contents:

·      “An area and surroundings.”

·      “It’s a circle of life.”

·       “Caterpillars need chrysalises to turn into butterflies!”

Following their explanations, we laid out paper, scissors, glue, yarn, tissue paper and branches. The students used the materials to re-create what they thought the caterpillar’s environment might look like on paper. The children used their prior knowledge, gained by studying and observing the caterpillars, to formulate and document their own ideas of environments. We strongly support the documentation of children’s work, as it is key to showing levels of progress in understanding and development.

This project allowed the children to be a part of an environment that was rich in open-ended materials and invoked engagement, construction and inventiveness. By vocalizing their different definitions of environments, the children were able to practice articulating and refining their own ideas based on the feedback and thoughts of others.

Extended periods of interaction with nature is important because it allows the students to gain a full understanding of scientific concepts. The deep level of observation involved in this exploration not only furthers an understanding of natural processes and lifecycles, but also instills an appreciation of and deep interest in the natural world that is key in developing into an environmentally responsible individual.

Primary colors with flowers and counting

Every week H-E-B donates their expired flowers to our program, and our children are able to continue their explorations based on what we receive. Lately, we have been observing primary colors (red, yellow and blue) in the petals of our flowers, which inspired us to carry out a color study using paint and other materials in class.

 

The children removed the petals from the flowers, counting each petal as it was pulled. This process incorporated a valuable little math lesson into our color study. We placed the petals onto our light table to get a better look. Here, the children were able to use their observational skills to make note of the variety of colors and shades that naturally occur in each flower.

 

In our color study, we are also exploring states of matter and physical changes. We asked the class what would happen if we added hot water to the flower petals.  

 

Some of their answers included:

·      “It will melt the petals!”  (This child was applying her knowledge of a common reaction that takes place when things encounter heat to form her prediction.)

·      “It will change the water.” (This child was explaining that petals mixed with hot water will change the color of the water.)

 

The class noticed that adding petals to hot water creates watercolor. The color change was not the only exciting discovery. The concoction also gave off a new aroma that the children were able to observe. Their descriptions of what happened were:

·      “If we mix all colors it makes a rainbow.”

·      “It smells like licorice!” (This child was describing the smell of the water after adding flower petals.)

·      “It looks like nothing.” (This child was noticing the delay in color showing up in the water after mixing.)

·      “Yellow made green and purple made green.” (This child noticed that the colors of the petals weren’t the same as the color of the water when they were mixed.)

 

We asked the class what are primary colors? The class identified primary colors as yellow, red and blue.  The children conversed about mixing colors and mentioned: 

·       “Blue and yellow make green”

·       “Yellow and red make orange”

·      Blue and red make purple”

 

The class used the watercolor they created (with the flower petals) to paint their hand drawn illustrations of the flower they observed. This artistic aspect served as a nice culmination of our study, providing the children with an opportunity to express their observations and newfound knowledge of flowers and colors.

 

This experience allowed the children to continue their learning about primary colors through sensory exploration (sight, touch, smell, etc.). By mixing the colors, they had the opportunity to practice key aspects of the scientific method such as making predictions and noting cause and effect. Through their hands-on investigation of color, the children were able to see how their actions can create change.

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From a mathematical perspective, the children’s interactions with the flowers and petals instilled number recognition, sequencing, number sense and one-to-one correspondence. The entire experience encouraged team building and enhanced social skills as the children worked together physically and verbally to make the watercolor and discuss their hypotheses and observations.

 

Paint is a material that we use regularly in the classroom. Through this experience, the children discovered a new way to recycle our old flowers into a fun material that they appreciate. Learning that something old or used can be reused to create something new and valuable, heightens the children’s understanding of sustainability and environmental responsibility.