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.

The growth progress of our plants – Roots

Our students have been participating in an ongoing study of plants. Our outdoor garden has been a great source of interest for the students, especially the eggplants that are growing. These purple veggies have been the choice of study in Think Tank.

This plant exploration has introduced the children to a variety of plants that several of them have never encountered before, such as leeks. It has also helped them understand how plants grow, as well as the physical attributes of each plant such as shape and size. Children discussed the science behind flowers/plants and have observed the growth process of the leeks, carrot tops and eggplant seeds.

During the observation, the class noticed that the leeks had roots growing, while the eggplant seeds did not. Several of the students formed hypotheses to help explain why the plants might differ in such a way. One student mentioned it takes time for the eggplant to grow. Two other students also noted that the seeds do not have roots because they grow on trees.

The class expressed their observations through an artistic medium, creating a drawing with sharpies showing the growth process of the roots. While they were drawing some conversed. “The roots are at the bottom” and “the roots are sucking out the water to grow.”

The class was introduced to the word Sprout:  \ˈsprau̇t\ to grow, spring up, or come forth as or as if a sprout (Merriam-webster). We asked the class, “What does it mean to sprout?” Some of the responses were:

·       “Sprout means that flowers are growing”

·       “Sprouting means that the leek is growing a new plant”

·       “Sprouting means growing”

This plant exploration has been packed with variety of learning elements, making it a very valuable experience. Earth and Life Sciences were incorporated as the students studied the physical attributes, growth processes and natural environments of plants. Understanding scientific processes and using comparisons and observations about items to draw conclusions are all important scientific skills for children to master in order to have more meaningful learning experiences and interactions with the world around them.

We incorporated literacy into this exploration by working on our writing skills. The children created sentences with the new words introduced such as sprout and soil. Writing, along with drawing, build upon fine motor skills and are both great tools for children to express their personal thoughts and ideas.

The class was able to further their exploration by going outside, and as a group they were able to identify each plant. Working together to identify the plants and sharing their different opinions and explanations with one another allowed the children to foster positive relationships, build upon their interpersonal communication skills and participate in team building.

The exploration built upon foundational aspects of cognitive development. The children obtained a greater understanding of cause-and-effect as they observed the relationship between caring for the garden and the growth of the plants. In discussing reasons why one plant might have different properties and growing processes from another, the children practiced problem solving. They built upon their classification and memory skills by noting different plant’s attributes and using their knowledge about each type to identify the plants in the garden.

We will continue to observe the growth process of our plants in class.

Science: Checking on the progress of our seeds through magnifying glasses

We are very excited to share that our seeds are beginning to sprout! This week we wanted to check on the progress of our seeds, so we brought out magnifying glasses to take a closer look.   

Each child had the opportunity to closely examine a seed. They were extremely excited to see what has begun to sprout out of our seeds. Here are a few of the children’s thoughts about what they saw during their close up encounter: 

- “The steam is coming out of the seed”

- “Those are roots”

- “The roots are for getting the water”

- “After the roots come, the leaves all come”

After everyone got the chance to see the sprouting of the seeds, we all sat down and discussed what we saw. The children primarily focused on the shape and the texture of what they viewed, revealing an interest and understanding of basic geometric and sensory concepts.

One of the children described their experience with the magnifying glass, saying, “When I bring it really close to my eye I can see the stem, and the leaves inside of the seeds.” This group conversation built upon the children’s interpersonal skills and provided positive reinforcement of personal ideas.

At the end of the discussion the children sat and documented their observations by drawing a picture of what they saw. Putting their observations down on paper allowed the children to work on fine motor skills. It also allowed them to engage in mimicking and modeling, which are both important ways in which children learn about the world around them. Drawing what they saw required a great amount of attention to detail and careful observation, while also allowing each child to express his or her personal perspective of the experience. 

This exploration introduced the children to a new and very cool tool: a magnifying glass. More importantly, it introduced them to a brand new side of the plant that they would not have seen otherwise. The children were able to get up close and personal with an important aspect of the plant growing process, while engaging their sense of sight in an exciting way.

Understanding the science behind plant growth evokes an interest in and appreciation of the natural world, showing children that the environment is an exciting place that should be cared for. By caring for the plants daily, the children have obtained a sense of responsibility. Getting to see the positive results of their actions first hand is very rewarding and comes with a great sense of accomplishment.

Creating Rainbows out of Fruit

For our food exploration this week, we asked for fruits that contained colors of the rainbow. Then, the children were encouraged to create a rainbow using the foods they had. The children created rainbow masterpieces using blueberries, strawberries and oranges. 

 

Throughout this exploration we observed the children and noticed that they were particularly focused on the amount of fruit that they had in each color. This interest evolved into a wonderful math experience. The children also discussed the unique colors of each fruit and how they planned on arranging their fruit rainbow.

Below is an example of a conversation between two children:

·       “I have six blueberries.” (The children counted each fruit they had and categorized them, showing mathematical understanding.)

·       “We don’t have any green.” (This shows how the child was aware of which colors are in the rainbow, and that they were able to determine which colors they would need to obtain in order to create a full rainbow.)

·       “Yes we do, the leaves from the strawberries are green.” (This is an example of how the children implemented problem-solving and communication skills, along with creative thinking.)

We like to incorporate natural materials that encourage play and exploration into our learning activities. The fruit used in this experience was of different shape and color, grabbing the children’s attention. They learned that with a little bit of creativity, fruit is not only a delicious snack but also a tool to construct and express their interpretation of the world around them. Handling and counting the fruit allowed the children to practice mathematical concepts while making scientific observations regarding the fruit’s color, texture, smell, weight, and more. These are important concepts for honing decision-making and keen observational skills.

The project also encouraged the children to explore ways in which seemingly unrelated items can actually represent or relate to one another. At first glance, pieces of fruit and a rainbow are totally different. However, with some imagination and the ability to pretend, the children were able to create their own unique interpretations of a rainbow. This experience was important because it allowed the children to better understand association between different ideas and explore relationships between perception, representation and reality. Being able to spot connections between different ideas or items is extremely valuable because it encourages children to ask questions and improves their problem-solving skills.