Exploring Tomatoes

SEASHELL/SEAWEED PRE-K CLASSROOM

In our school and in the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, the natural world around us should be revered, studied, and celebrated. Gabby, our school's Food as a Language Atelierista, works with every classroom, from infants through upper grades. Investigating food allows for many wonderful discoveries and investigations: mathematical shapes and patterns present in foods, color theory, science of plants/foods, literacy, fine motor skills, social collaboration, and more.

The children in the Seashell/Seaweed room have seen tomatoes many times - but this investigation with Gabby allowed them to see a tomato through different eyes. Gabby helped guide the children as they made several discoveries and found various shapes and patterns within the sliced tomato. The children found the location where the seeds are most concentrated and showed this understanding in the drawings. Observational drawings help children to practice several skills: focus, concentration, math, dimensional analysis, analytical skills, fine motor skills, etc. The children are also simultaneously learning about the natural world around them through investigating and analyzing foods!    

The following developmental/academic skills were incorporated and/or naturally occurred as part of this child-led, play-based project: 

Language/Literacy: During the investigation, the children had to communicate their findings clearly to each other and to their teacher

Mathematics: The children practiced and used mathematical knowledge to make connections and interpretations about the segmented tomato. When creating their drawings, the used directional analysis to create an accurate drawing. They counted seeds, which reinforces one to one correspondence and number sequencing.    

Fine Motor Skills:  In order to create an accurate observational drawing, the children must exercise control and focus over their fine motor skills.  

Cognitive Thinking: The children make connections and discoveries about the segmented tomato and connect this information to previous knowledge to continue to build their understanding of the world around them.

Social/Sense of Self: Taking turns, helping each other make observations, engaging in discussion with peers and their teacher supports a strong sense of self.

Parental Support: Anytime a parent takes the time to do an activity with their child - especially an activity that is an extension of school work - the child receives the message that their work  and learning is important and valuable. Please extend this project at home by discussing these terms at home! Let your child help slice various fruits/veggies. Explore the similarities or differences. Even a few minutes will greatly aid in your child reinforcing important concepts all on their own. Have them explain to you what they notice and off them materials to demonstrate their knowledge – this could be markers and paper, play dough, finger painting or maybe they can guide you as you draw it! Feel free to take pictures of this process and to bring from home so they can share it with their class!

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.

Planting peppers, peas, and squash (Science)

The children have been very excited to help Mrs. Maryam garden outside any chance they get, so we decided to bring some gardening into the classroom! As a part of this indoor gardening endeavor, we planted squash, peas and sweet red bell pepper.

We started off our gardening process by asking the children “What do these seeds need to grow?” The children responded with water, dirt, sun and air. These responses show that the children are taking their prior knowledge about plants, obtained from working in the outdoor garden, and applying it to their new indoor garden.

After our discussion the children began to talk amongst themselves to figure out how much soil they would need. The children used their problem solving, communication and teamwork skills to cooperate with one another and come up with a solution to their soil question. They agreed that they “needed to fill the hole all the way so the seed doesn’t fall out.”

The children then worked together to fill the holes, and put one seed in every spot. Along with this great display of teamwork, the children built their fine motor skills. Handling and planting the little seeds into the soil served as a workout for their hand muscles, increasing coordination and accuracy.

In creating the garden, the children practiced mathematical skills through tasks like measuring the soil. Also, taking care of the indoor garden will require the children to work together to meet the daily needs of the plants. In doing so, they will establish new habits and learn the importance of building routines. Having an indoor garden will also allow the children to more closely examine the plant growth process, make observations and hypotheses about each plant’s progress and practice other important scientific skills.

Having this kind of fun and interesting encounter with plants furthers the children’s understanding and passion for nature, which will establish a sense of environmental responsibility and appreciation. We will check on the progress of the plants every week, and continue to water them daily.

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.