Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Look! A Classroom Post! An exploration of plants

Hello, all!

Is this a hard time of year for you? I know I usually start feeling a little overwhelmed. Transition meetings, increased energy from the kids, and just a general feeling of denouement from the rest of the year (thanks, English concentration!) It's hard to stay motivated. So we talked about plants!

I have a black thumb; the daisy in one of the pictures is outside, but I don't think it's doing any better there. That doesn't stop me from enjoying nature and helping children enjoy the beauty around them.

I'd like to say we did lots of fancy stuff like food coloring carnations, but we didn't. And that's ok. Sometimes the best thing you can do if you're feeling unmotivated is to do something simple and manageable. 

First, we talked about Plants.  I got some opinions from the class about what plants are. How do we know they're plants? I got some great responses: "they have leaves," "they grow in the ground." 

One of the best days on this topic came from the circle a few days later. All week, I'd been building up that we were going to eat plants, with the predictable funny reactions of "Eww! No!" They were left to wonder for a few days while we worked on Handwriting without Tears and IY Dina. On Friday, finally they got to see what I was talking about. I pulled out our list and reviewed it. Then I pulled out some nectarines and showed them the stems along with pictures of nectarine trees. I showed them some grapes. The kids gave some examples about where fruits and vegetables come from and it turned into a very long circle time. On reflection, I think I let it go a little too long because by the end, the kids were restless and excited and we had to channel that energy during centers. Or maybe it was just a warm spring day.

I love doing taste tests because the kids are more apt to try food that's part of an activity than they are if it's served to them. Plus, you never know what the kids get at home. During lunch, we had several kids trying "tangerines" (they had trouble saying "nectarines") and grapes and loving them.  No pictures because it was lunchtime and we were all busy preparing for naptime. 

As part of the week, I found some discounted flowers at the local big box store. (This is why preparation is important; I ended up running to the store that morning and had to throw out some of my flowers because they were poisonous! Oops.)   Before small groups one day, I asked them questions helping them to observe the flowers. Then they all went to small groups and drew what they saw. We really have some "budding" artists in our class!

This one has "rain falling on the flowers to make them grow."

 I put one of the flowers in Science center with a clipboard and the other in Art. Here's a boy who spent the entire time drawing the flower in Science:

We "rescued" it after the weekend because it wasn't doing very well in its small pot inside. I'm still hoping it will get better.

Another fun observation we did was "picked" vs. "live" flowers. What are your thoughts about flowers outside? I want to encourage the children to explore the flowers on our bushes on the playground, but if they pick them all, there won't be any left.  I picked one of the blooms and asked them what they thought would happen. We got some good answers, like "it will die." "It won't look good." At the end of the week, we looked at them both again and the students saw the difference. 

Last week, we talked a little about what plants need and how they use roots to get them. I also added in some birds because some of the students were interested in them. We talked about birds living in tress and what would happen if all the trees were cut down. I also got to read one of my favorite books, "13 Words" by Lemony Snicket. If you don't use big words in your classroom, start. It's amazing how quickly children can pick up context clues and meanings. They love being detectives. "Look at his face: what do you think 'despondent' means?"

This week, we extended the roots idea because I wanted to show them the food coloring/daisy experiment. We wrote down our predictions and on Friday, we'll talk through them and record our observations through drawing. 

Do you have plants at your center? How do you incorporate them into your lessons?

Hey, look! A shiny new Links page at the top! Let me know if you have any great sites you want to add.

Stay positive!

--Amy Latta, KidatHeart


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