Friday, 3 March 2017

Canvas of Leaves

"Why do the leaves fall off the trees?"

After several visits to the outdoor classroom with the children it came time to share with them the documentation that had been captured of their explorations. We did this several times throughout the inquiry. Today we focused on the changing colour of the Autumn leaves and the discovery of red berries. We projected the photos and videos within the classroom and the children shared their thinking. During our time together I recorded the children's thinking and reflections about their experiences and learning. This provided a guide to inform our next steps and further planning for the learning environment. 

The children noticed that the leaves had changed colours. Each successive visit to the outdoor classroom brought a more vibrant riot of Autumn's colours. During our discussion Kate shared, "The leaves falled off the trees." Sierra replied, "Because it's turning Fall and November is windy and the leaves fall off the tree and there are little stems." Then Tatiana asked, "Why do the leaves fall off the trees?" The children readily offered their theories to answer this question. Aleks said, "It's so windy." Luke added, "It's very cold and so windy and the snow is coming." Madeline shared, "It's getting too cold for the leaves." Then Mark said, "Because it's Winter." Each child built on the thinking of the child who spoke before them. They had shared their understanding of why leaves fall off the trees.

The discovery of berries on one of the trees in the school yard held the children's interest for quite some time during this inquiry. They were very curious about what kind of berry it might be. The first berries they discovered were bright red. The children collected them for two weeks and used them creatively in the following invitation which was offered to them. 

The children were exploring the art work of Andy Goldsworthy. You can see their creative efforts and the land art they designed in my previous blog post titled, "Leaves and Land Art." In this invitation the children explored how Andy Goldsworthy creates his leaf canvases. I offered them their collected Autumn leaves and toothpicks. 

There was a lot of problem solving and collaboration between the children as they shared their strategies for keeping the leaves pinned together with the toothpicks. One of their solutions was to use the berries they had collected on the end of the toothpick to hold the leaf they were attaching in place. The children's finished pieces were just beautiful. We displayed them in the windows so that they could capture the sunlight like a stained glass window. The play of the sunlight on the layers of leaves created translucent sections of Autumn's colours within the canvas of leaves. The following photo's show the children's completed leaf art. 

After a few days of working with the leaves and toothpicks at the big table I offered the children the materials at the smaller inquiry table near the sensory bin. They had placed their collection of leaves in the sensory bin and their collection of berries continued to grow. Each day the children would ask if they could return to the outdoor classroom to collect more berries that had fallen on the forest floor. 

During play block the children continued to explore their ideas by designing and creating sculptural pieces using the leaves and berries.

We also offered the children books about Autumn leaves to extend their initial thinking. This series from Scholastic Canada uses bright and colourful photographs which the children enjoyed.

Marc created this piece and inspired several of the other children to build similar sculptural structures. They children enjoyed creating movement within their pieces. 

The children continued to wonder what type of berry they had collected. They recorded their initial observations about the berries through drawings and print. During play block they would return to the berries and look at them and share their developing ideas. The children would use the iPad to research tree berries and they also used the tree field guide that I had brought to school.

The children asked to have their guiding question recorded on the photo frame. Then they added the field guide book to the inquiry space. Finally they chose to place coloured pencils and the clipboard with paper at the invitation. 

Then one play block the children asked me to cut the berry in half. They wanted to see the inside. I carefully cut it using an exacto knife. There was a group of children gathered around as many children were now curious about the red berries. 

The children smelled the berry and shared their thinking. Cassidy said after smelling the berry, "I think it smells like plum." Sophia smelled the berry and said, "Tomato." Emma thought it smelled like, "Tomato, cherry, apple maybe it has juice in it?" 

Through research using the tree field guide the children narrowed  down their choices for which type of berry they had collected. The two choices were the Pin Cherry tree or Crab Apple tree. We look forward to the Spring time when we can confirm our research once the leaves and flowers are on the tree. Until then we wait excitedly.