Sunday, 10 January 2016

Discovering the Wonder in Nature

Nature Collected 
Part Two

View nature through the eyes of a child and you will be amazed. Children have the remarkable ability to see the magic in all that surrounds them. Every blade of grass, each unique leaf and the wonder of nature's colour palette is not only inspiring but brings forth a multitude of questions. I must admit I have always had a love of nature. The natural world was a very special part of my childhood. I explored in the forest behind my childhood home and came to love the peacefulness and beauty that surrounded me. I hope to give the children in our classroom an opportunity to explore and develop this same appreciation of the natural world. We supported their continued interest in nature with the following investigations and activities.

We brought the children outdoors to explore nature in the church garden as seen in the previous post and the school yard. We gathered the children for a sharing time circle and asked them to talk about their thinking from our nature walk. The children readily shared their ideas and asked several questions which we recorded for further investigations:
1. Why do trees grow? Jenna
2. How do the leaves grow on a tree? Colby
3. How do trees grow their hands and their roots? Jacob
4. Why do some plants need water and rain? Brandon
5. How do branches grow? Mason
Sharing their initial thinking and theories is important. It is also important to not always tell them the answer to their question right away. We plan our lessons to allow for self discovery of the answer with meaningful investigations. It is our goal to assist the children to become independent learners and seek out their own answers. We planned several activities for the children to assist them in discovering the answers to these questions. However I would first like to share some of their investigations from play block before I share the ones that we did as a class.

Emma showed great interest in collecting nature from the school yard. We began to place her treasured nature items in a wire basket. Each play block she would use the magnifying lens to look at her collection. She worked on drawing images of what she had collected as well. During our interest in leaves she asked about the black markings on some maple leaves. This led to research which in turn led to the discovery that leaves can have diseases. She shared her research and learning with the children as well during our gathering time. On this day she shared with me, "I want to take a closer look." She was holding a piece of bark in her hand as she came inside from recess. I provided her with paper, a magnifying lens and coloured pencils. She observed and recorded what she noticed as we discussed the bark. She was very curious about a white fuzzy section on the bark. 

Emma continued her work with the bark pieces for several days. At the writing centre Emma recorded her thinking illustrating her collection. 

She concluded her work by painting the pine cone she had brought in and a piece of bark. Emma continued to add to her collection throughout our investigations and her work inspired other students to ask questions and present their wonderings about nature.

Emma used the materials provided at the inquiry table to assist her with her research of her collection. Here she is investigating types of leaves. 

Emma presented her investigations to the class. She shared her work and answered questions by the other children. This is an important facet of our early years program. Allowing the children to teach each other about what they have learned.

Emma shared, "I found this leaf in my backyard. It has different colours on it that are mixing." Jacob asked, "How did it get there?" Emma replied, "The wind brought it."

Inspired To Paint On Nature's Canvas

The children continued to be interested in creating artistic pieces using leaves as their canvases.

Their continued interest in nature was also the focus of our sharing bag presentations daily from the child who was the blessing of the day. We asked the children to bring in something from nature to present to the class. The children did a wonderful job presenting their nature item and we collected all their nature items in trays and displayed them in the writing area next to our carpet area. The children would often visit their collection to discuss ideas and revisit each others objects. 

Ben, Mason and Alexander are investigating leaves that Mason brought in the sharing bag. His leaves had mysterious bumps on them that peaked the interested of many of our students. When Mason presented his leaves to the children he shared, "The leaves have bumps on them." Brandon thought, "I think they are eggs." Then Jacob added, "I think they are moles or bumps for food for caterpillars." Next to speak was William he said, "They may be homes for the caterpillars." 

We placed a few of Mason's leaves on the inquiry table for further investigation. 

Ethan brought in an oak tree branch and acorns in the sharing bag to present to the children. The children took a closer look at the branch and discovered leaf buds. They also noticed an acorn hat that was still attached to the branch. It is these authentic learning moments that are child driven that assist us with following an emergent curriculum. The children made many connections between our findings during our acorn investigations and looking closely at Ethan's tree branch. This also answered some of the children's questions about how leaves grow on branches. 

We discussed how leaf buds are formed and how they grow into leaves. 

Ben brought in his nature collection from a nature walk he took at home. He shared hickory seed pods and nuts, a bird's nest and a leaf that showed us the power of the sun's light. Ben explained that he had used a magnifying lens to burn a hole in the leaf at home. The children were amazed. Then Ben and Ethan went to the table together. Ben put the hickory nuts in the nest and said, "These are the bird eggs." Ethan picked up the hickory seed pod and shared, "This is a claw. It is for scooping." Then Ethan dumped the hickory nuts from the birds nest into the hickory pods. They continued their imaginary play with the nature items before returning them to Ben's nature box. Ben's nature collection not only sparked a wonderful classroom discussion with the children but created this lovely play opportunity as well.

The beginning of our nature collection. The children would continually add to the trays their nature treasures daily. They brought in a rich variety of objects which we investigated.

Keegan brought in several items to present to the children. They were very interested in his plumes from tall grasses. Keegan shared that there were seeds in the plumes. This prompted an investigation into how seeds grow.

After his presentation he went to the table with William. They began to take the seeds out of the grass plumes. 

Next they wanted to plant the seeds to see if they would grow. We asked them what they needed and together we gathered the supplies necessary to plant the seeds.

William and Keegan continued their investigation by looking at the book, "Nature's Miracles Once There Was a Seed". After discussing the pages of the book they recorded their ideas on the white board and clip board using paper.

About two weeks later something very exciting happened. Keegan's seeds sprouted. How very exciting it was to see the seed cycle from beginning to end.

Here is all of the children's nature items. We moved them to the science and discovery area to properly display them once we were finished with our investigations. 

After several weeks of sharing their nature objects we had a wonderful collection of nature finds. We also answered many of the children's initial questions about leaves and trees. 

However we also planned lessons that focused on assisting the children in discovering the answers to some of their questions about trees and leaves. We presented these lessons to the children as a group and read texts to support their wonderings. We began by asking the children to share how they thought a tree grew. Here are some of their initial ideas:
Charlotte - "You put seeds in it under the ground."
Sophia - "The tree you put seeds in it and cover it with dirt and wait a couple of days."
Seinna - "Because you need to put water, sun and seeds."
Emma L. - "This is how a tree grows. You just have to plant a seed when the soil is dry. You put water and sunlight. If it is an apple tree or blueberry bush you pick them. I have a plant that grows strawberries."
Eden - "You put seeds on the ground and bury them. You put water and it gets slow. It goes up and up and up."

We read these two texts to the children and asked them to share what they learned from each of the stories. "A Leaf Can Be..." was the first text we read. Sophia shared, "The leaves turn different colours." Then Emma D. added, "Leaves grow on trees." Eden said, "The leaves fall from the trees." Next to share was Emma L. She said, "When it is fall they fall down from the trees. But when it is spring they grow new leaves." Seinna shared, "Sometimes when it is cold they turn different colours." We then labelled the parts of a tree to conclude our lesson. The following week we explored the text, "If You Hold a Seed." After reading it to the children, Jacob shared, "It grew from a seed. So that is where seeds come from. They just grow out of the branches." I asked the children to think about what tree seeds might look like. Then William asked if he could present something. He left the circle and returned with a walnut. William shared, "I found it outside from a squirrel. If we plant it in the ground it will grow a walnut tree." Jenna added, "When the trees grow they get peanuts on them and the seeds grow." Sophia also shared, "They need five seeds to grow. An acorn tree if you shake the tree the acorns come off." Lastly Eden contributed she said, "Trees start like a baby then medium then all the way to a grown up tree then the leaves come off." 

Planting An Acorn

We shared with the children a time-laspe video of an acorn growing into an oak tree from You tube. Then we decided to plant some of the acorns we collected to see if we could grow an oak tree.

We researched how to plant acorns and discovered that to test if an acorn should be planted you can put it in water first. If the acorn sinks then you can plant it. If the acorn floats then it has air in it and you should not plant it. We tested out our acorns to see if they were suitable for planting.

Then we planted some of the acorns, a walnut and a chestnut.

We placed the pot by the window and continue to give it water. We look forward to what might happen in the spring. 
Hopefully we will see some sprouts.

We also enjoyed this sweet little story about Maple and her sister Willow. It shows how a maple tree grows up and changes through the seasons. The children made the connection to the Canada flag and it's maple leaf after listening to this story. 

We placed the story on the light panel with some autumn leaves and created an invitation for the children to see the leaves in a new way.

We also took a closer look at the leaves during gathering time. The children noticed that on the leaves there were points on the top. They also began to label parts of the leaves. Keira shared, "There is a stem on a leaf so it can hang on the tree." Sienna labelled the leaf she was holding. She said, "It's an oak leaf." We talked about how leaves grow and make their own food too.

Loose Parts in the Art Studio

The children were presented with this loose parts invitation in the art studio. I placed the laminated leaves, shells, stones, feathers and felt leaves here along with the empty picture frames. Also included was the text "Autumn Leaves" and the question, "What can you create?" 

We documented their transient artwork and the children explored many concepts such as spacial awareness when working inside of the frames. The children also developed several visual arts skills as they explored the design process with the loose parts. 

"Let your wishes be 
light on the wind 
plant themselves 

Unknown Author

I will leave you with this finial photo from the children's nature collection. There will be one more post in this series of blog posts which I am so excited to share with you. As we concluded our investigations with a collaborative art piece that celebrates the children's work. I look forward to sharing it with you.