Saturday, 25 March 2017

Discovering Evergreens

"Do you see what I see? Just use your magnifying lens."

- J.P.-

"The wind lifted me
up into the trees.
Where I danced
to the rhythm
of the evergreen.
Swaying to the tune
of the northern breeze,
Frozen in timeless melody."

- Christy Ann Martine -

As winter approached and the Autumn leaves were swept away in the wind. The children began to bring in small samples of evergreen sprigs to present and share with the children. Their shift from deciduous leaves to coniferous trees seemed natural as they explored the world around them. We allowed the children the time to make their presentations first thing in the morning. Then many of the children who presented chose to document their evergreen sprigs in the atelier or at the inquiry table. These children then asked to present their work again to the class. As the children worked through their initial wonderings and observations it was important to give them this time to discuss their thinking with others. As well, it gave validity to their efforts and learning. 

 Presentation of an Evergreen branch

"It was on the dirt. It was this little. Did you know this is spiky? When you touch this you can't bend them." Blake began his presentation by sharing his ideas about his evergreen piece. Alexander spoke when Blake finished his description. He said, "It's an evergreen tree." Cassidy asked, "Was there a trail of them?" Blake replied, "No." Rocco wondered, "Were you at your house?" Blake said, "Yes." Then Sophia asked, "What kind of tree did it come from?" Alexander answered her, "Evergreen." I asked the children to think about this, "Are all evergreen trees the same?" There was a resounding, "No." Cassidy shared her thoughts with the children. She said, "Evergreens stay in the winter with snow on it. They don't die they have the stuff on it. They stay green." Mark added, "They don't change colours." Cassidy then said, "It smells like leaves." Tatiana thought the evergreen piece smelled too. She said, "It smells like salad at the bottom." Emma D thought, "It smells like nature. Like a fresh leaf off the tree. I have green tree things with sap on them." 

Evergreen Invitation 

Timing is everything and fate is real. I attended a wonderful workshop on the 100 languages of children in Toronto last Fall given by the inspirational Joanne Babalis. She has long influenced by learning journey and you can visit her blog here: Joanne was one of the first blogs I discovered at the beginning of my research into play based and inquiry based learning. It is through Joanne that I was introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach to education. At the end of the workshop she gifted me one of the evergreen arrangements from one of the atelier spaces she had created. I knew the children would be so curious as they were already bringing in and presenting their own sprigs of evergreen from home. I brought it to school for the children to investigate as it contained several different varieties of evergreens that we had not yet explored. I set it on the table and offered some art materials with magnifying lens. I choose oil pastels and black Sharpie markers. 

The children used all of their senses to explore the evergreen boughs. They continued their earlier experience with smelling the end of the branches. As well, they used their sense of touch and sight to notice and name the differences between the branches. Cassidy shared, "I'm looking to see the difference." She was holding two different shades of green oil pastels in her hands. She was trying to decide which one matched the colour of the branches best for her observational drawing. Emma D spoke next. She said, "This is the seed. This is before it grew it's berries. This is when it grew a little bit. This is when it grew a lot of berries. This is when it grew very tall and got more berries then last time and more leaves." Emma was referring to how the needles grow from out of the branch. She also paid close attention to the Juniper berries and how they were formed off of the branch. 

"It's an evergreen!"

Jenna began by sharing, "It's an evergreen. Can I pass it. Smell the bottom." Jenna then went around with her evergreen sprig and the children looked, touched and smelled the bottom of the sprig. Then Jenna shared her second evergreen sprig. She described it to the children. Jenna said, "It has different spikes than the other." Next she asked the children if they had any questions. Alexander asked, "Where did you find it?" Jenna replied, "I found it on my evergreen tree. My mom pulled it off the tree." Jace added, "My dad is going to cut the tree down when it's Christmas." Rocco wondered, "Why is it a big stem?" He had noticed that the evergreen sprig stem was thicker than the stem on the Autumn leaves we had been observing. We concluded our discussion with Cassidy's thoughts as she reflected on her experience with the evergreen invitation for the previous day. She said, "When the evergreen is new it's light green. When it's old it's dark green. I noticed that the blueberries were frosted. They weren't all blue they had a little bit of white on them." This was such a beautiful learning statement. Cassidy had been working through her initial observations and wonderings about the evergreen sprig she encountered during the initial observational drawing invitation.

Atelier Evergreens

The children recreated the evergreen invitation in the atelier the following morning after exploring the first observational drawing invitation. They placed the evergreen sprigs on the table and added the art materials they needed. The children continued exploring their ideas from the previous day. Cassidy looked at the evergreen section she had been reflecting on. She looked at me and said, "See two different shades of green. Old and new." Today the children's interest was focused on showing this variance in colour from light to green in their drawings. Emma D. demonstrated how to go from light green to dark green using the pastels. She discovered that if you press lightly the colour is lighter. Then if you press darker the colour is darker. The other children gathered at the table all experimented with this discovery.

Tap the Magic Tree

"All the trees are different 
and it's magical." E.W. 

We shared this wonderful book with the children at our Sharing Time circle. After reading the book to them we discussed their thoughts on the book. I asked the children, "Why is this a magic tree?" The children recited chorally, "Cause it's an evergreen." Then Rocco added, "When it's snowing it never turns a different colour." Tatiana said, "When the snow falls out it goes on top of trees." Sophia shared her thoughts next. She said, "When the snow goes on the leaves turn red cause the snow is on them." We continued to allow the children to share their thinking. Jace said, "If your plant starts dying in the winter it can grow back. Cause it's the same one when it's summer." What a profound statement and realization. It's always so exciting when the children make connections to nature's cycles and patterns. Eden spoke next she shared, "It's whatever the trees are. It's like all the trees are different and it's magical." Mark was next to speak. He said, "Then the leaves fall down." The children continued to build on each other's ideas and theories. Cassidy said, "The trees change different colours winter, fall and spring." 

The next discovery was when we were exploring the evergreen trees in the school's front yard. The children noticed that there were brown berries hanging on one of the trees. This prompted a little mini inquiry within our evergreen inquiry. They collected a few of the berries that had dropped to the ground and brought them back to the classroom. Sophia was especially curious about the berries. She drew the berry and wrote her thinking down. Sophia shared that she thought the berry was a kiwi. She hypothesized that this was a kiwi because of the colour of the outside skin on the berry. Although she thought it was very small for a kiwi. Sophia shared that it had not finished growing yet. We will also observe this tree in the spring to see of we can name it's type through research. 


We shared the book, "Tree" with the children during Shared Learning time. The children listened to the story and then we discussed how the yearly seasons are in a pattern. The children also noticed and named how the tree changed each season. Our discussion moved towards discussing how animals use trees and how some animals hibernate in the winter. I asked the children the following question, "Do trees hibernate?" The children thought yes because the leaves die in the winter but come back in the spring. 

I Wonder...

Maysea came to school with an evergreen sprig in a ziplock bag. She was so excited to present her finding to the children. She began by sharing, "I found it on the ground outside. I finded  it when I got off the bus." I asked Maysea, "What made you decide to pick it up?" She replied, "Because I wanted to." Next I asked Maysea to share what she was curious about. She said, "It wasn't on the tree. It was on the ground." Sophia thought, "Because it was windy. It was cold and it was wiggly. The air was blowing it." Next to speak was Kate, "The wind was too strong." Cassidy added, "The wind was too strong and it blew it off." Sophia shared her observations next. She said, "They look like acorns, pine cones." Then she smells the end of the evergreen sprig. Jenna said, "Mrs. V we think it's pineapple." She was referring to the small brown growth in between the needles on the evergreen sprig. Sophia added, "Because it's little." Then Eden said, "And spiky." How curious they were about these brown growths. 

 Evergreens Shared

"My dad pulled this off the tree in my backyard." Aleks said as he held the evergreen sprig in his hand while presenting his finding to the class. Aleks passed his evergreen sprig around so the other children could investigate it as well. Eden shared, "They have a good smell. Those have little green dots." Then the children notice the little brown dots on the branches. They are curious about what they might be. 

 Travis' was so excited to share his evergreen sprigs with the children. He brought them to school in the sharing bag on his day as the blessing. Travis sat in the rocking chair and pulled out two sprigs and held them up to his face. He said, "I can see through them. They are too the same. My mom pulled them off." Mark asked Travis, "Where did you find them?" Travis replies, "At my house in the front yard. It's from the tree up high. It's enormous." Eden then asked, "What kind of tree did it come from?" Travis answered, "A pine tree. I have lots." I asked Travis if a pine tree was a type of evergreen tree?" He replied, "Yes." The children enjoyed observing Travis' evergreen sprigs. 

Identifying Evergreens

The children used the book, "Trees of North America" to label the samples of evergreen sprigs that they had collected. They used the illustrations in the book and compared them to the evergreen samples. We discussed and looked closely at each sample describing what we saw before we came to a group decision. The children then labelled each evergreen card with the evergreen tree name. 

Reflections Of Evergreens

We shared with the children the photos and videos that were collected from their exploration of the evergreen trees in the front yard of the school. Cassidy began our discussion she said, "We looked at the front of the school where there was an evergreen tree with pine cones." Lucy added, "They look like roses." As Madelyn looked at the photo of the pine cones she shared, "Some are dark and some are light." She paused then continued to speak. She said, "We brought an evergreen outside and we thought it matched or came from the tree." She was referring to our efforts to match the children's collected evergreen sprigs from home to the selection of evergreen trees in the front of the school. We hoped that the children would discover which tree that each sprig may have come from. 

We continued to view the photos and the children discussed how the stems of each evergreen tree looked different. Madelyn noticed, "The stem is pinkish red. The stems are different." The children also shared that the newer growth on each of the trees looked different in colour than the older growth close to the trees trunk. 

Jace commented after looking at one of the photos of an evergreen tree with hanging branches. He said, "The tree in the front yard looks like a ghost tree because the leaves are hanging down." Mark added, "It looks like a witch tree."

Next we shared the photo of the evergreen from the front yard with the blue berries on it. The children had become quite fascinated with the blue berries that were on the evergreen sprigs from our initial evergreen invitation. Seeing the blue berries on the evergreen tree was very exciting for them. As they noticed how they were growing on the tree their ideas swirled in the wind on the cold December day. Revisiting the photo brought about this question as part of our discussion. Alexander wondered, "Why is the blueberry brown at the bottom on the evergreen?" Emma shared, "The branches look like they have little seeds attached. So before it was pink and then it turned green." 

Next we shared the photos of the children matching their evergreen sprigs to the trees planted in the front yard. The children shared how we had matched most of the sprigs to the various trees outside. How fortunate to have such a variety of evergreen trees planted in the front of the school yard. We will continue to investigate the children's interests and hope to discover the names of each evergreen tree through further research. 

Emma made another observation after viewing the photos. She shared, "If evergreen leaves fall off the tree they don't live anymore and turn brown." The children had discovered this when exploring under the evergreen trees. 

Cassidy concluded our discussion by sharing, 
"We noticed on the branches there were buds."
This would be the spark for the current inquiry that we are engaged in as I write this post.

"Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

Take time to be still,
 to listen quietly,
 to look closely,
Breath in the beauty, 
that surrounds you.
Until next time,