The trees in our yard are strong and tall; we call our students 'the little acorns that will grow into mighty oaks' because of the beauty and diversity of life in our yard and because we want to emphasize the eco-nature of our school. Last week the children were drawn to one tree in particular. This tree towers over the others and has brilliant green leaves. When you stand under it you feel enclosed in a safe place and can appreciate the sun streaming its rays through the foliage.
After the children had measured the tree in the many different ways, most moved on to other activities. During the next whole group discussion we brought documentation from the measuring experience (photos, videos, the actually links/tape/measuring tapes) to our whole group circle for all children to observe and discuss. We wanted to engage all children in a discussion about measurement, introduce the word 'circumference' and ask them for any other ideas they might have for how to measure the big tree. This sparked additional interest in the trees in the yard, and our plan became to challenge the children to explore the play yard again and see if they might locate a tree with a bigger circumference than the one we have already measured. As the reflexive educators in the space we are attempting to heighten the explorations by building upon the children's prior knowledge and seeing if they can apply and extend their ideas in a new and more difficult experience.
The next day we introduced a fiction book to the class that involved some of our favourite characters. In 'Stella Fairy of the Forest' Stella, Sam and Fred explore a treed area and discuss all the wonderful things that might live there, including fairies.
On one page Stella points out how big and old the trees in the forest are. At this point we engaged the children in a text-to-group (self) connection and asked them to reflect upon the similarities between our yard and Stella's forest. The children made the connection that we also have big trees and that must mean they are old. We discussed our challenge from morning message and wondered how we might go about finding the biggest (and maybe oldest) tree in the yard. The children suggested using the chain of links to see if there are bigger trees.
During playtime many children were captivated by the ideas of fairies and decided to turn our sensory table into a forest playscape. They problem solved with some of the recycled materials that have been donated to the program and worked diligently to craft their own trees to be included in the 'forest'. This was a multi-step process and involved extensive planning and building to get the trees to stand and look just right.
This is what our magical forest looks like and our next step will be to design and create our own fairies in the art studio tomorrow.
They knew that an overlapping meant the tree was smaller and that they needed to be looking for gaps in the ends of the chain where the ends could not meet.
Some friends remembered that the big tree required many children to stand around it and hold hands. They used their own arms to see if trees were bigger or smaller. It was interesting to see how quickly the children could compare similar trees and bypass them without measuring because they just knew the tree was smaller than the big one. They were become efficient in the task.
Finally we found a tree that the chain could not fit around!
When reading the panels from left to right, they tell the entire story of the inquiry to date. Student work is woven within and also posted in the photos on each page. Each page is also written as an independent page so that a certain event or activity in the inquiry can be explored by itself. When the inquiry concludes we will take all pages and student artifacts down and assemble them in an inquiry binder for safekeeping and future reference. We also will include any other artifacts of learning and insert our inquiry planning pages to help show how the curriculum was fulfilled.
We have also noticed the children taking special interest in continuing to look for living things and creepy crawlies in our yard during outside time. Today they found a millipede and it was interesting to listen to their conversation and how their discussions have evolved with our new focus on the yard.
"Look! Look! What is this?"
This was also evident in their outdoor play. The children noticed what they thought was a nest tucked in the grass on Friday afternoon. The mysterious collection of dried grass caused quite an interest in children and they debated who made it.
On May 24 we met with our grade eight technology buddies in order to conduct more extensive research about the living things in our school yard. We partnered a kindergarten child with a grade 8 and gave each team writing materials (clipboard, paper, pencils) and an ipad. After going on a nature walk together and identifying the living things that were visible in our yard...
As a culminating activity we asked the children to take the pictures they had drawn and find places in our outdoor space where the living thing was either observed to be or might be found. This was an excellent way to assess if the children remembered the information they had researched about their chosen living thing, and also to see if they could apply this information to a new context. With the support of a parent volunteer, the children found the right spot and with a little bit of creativity, were assisted in order to take a photo of their living thing in its habitat.