The nature kindergartners were out and about looking for trees at different stages of the life cycle. We found them big. We found them small. And once we searched, we found them all!
To review a non-fiction text, we read a book titled Life Cycle of an Oak Tree underneath our oak tree classroom. However, we really only read a portion of it at a time before venturing outside the shadows of this wonderful tree to find real life examples of what we were discovering in the book.
After learning about an acorn that finds itself in the right place at the right time can turn into a towering oak, we went searching for acorns. We didn't have to go far. We even noticed that some of the hats we wore on this brisk day resembled the shape of a fully intact acorn.
Though we discussed how some acorns can sprout and develop into shoots, we realized that some wouldn't survive. The kids were pretty keen at finding shoots and figuring out some of the things trees needed, where a "good" place to plant a tree would be, and where a "not so good" place might be.
After investigating a potential good spot for young trees or saplings, we went on a sapling search. We found plenty, right where we predicted.
We then looked for "adult" trees and even some trees that might be considered "old age" trees. The class noticed these older trees were losing their leaves quicker, had fewer leaved-branches, and seemed smaller than more green and healthy trees. Before we went on a hunt for the final stage of the life cycle, we came across one of the most interesting trees on our land.
In our first Science unit, we are focusing on the characteristics of being a scientist. One characteristic we have been emphasizing lately is the importance of being an observer and how observing is far more than just looking. As we approached this very special tree, I made sure to request my class to be observers and take a close look at this tree to see what they could figure out about it.
Their responses varied and it was clear there was a disagreement about whether this tree was alive or dead. The answer the children gave correlated to the part of the tree they were investigating. Essentially, this tree lost it's top, most likely during a storm. The top half of the trunk snapped and fell over. It is still intact and full of brittle brown leaves that cover a good chunk of the lower part of the tree. The students that observed here thought this tree was dead.
However, if you went to the other side of the tree and/or looked at a distance so you could see above the brown section, you would see vibrant green sections and a very sharp and noticeably splintered trunk. These students recognized the tree as very much alive.
Either way, this have us a great lesson on looking at the while picture to make a decision. We were also able to review the parts of the tree and dig into what those parts do as we were able to compare this "dead alive tree" to the other neighboring oak trees. The kids also determined the tree must have been hit by a windstorm or lightning bolt.
We then went off trail to find a fallen tree in the stages of decomposition, showing how the tree would become dirt that could eventually help a new tree grow up from seed, starting the cycle all over again.
After snack, it was off to natural play. Besides another round of Hawks and Mice to review sight words, numbers, and syllables, many students went back to our more wooded area and discovered what they coined the "gravel pile."
In the afternoon, we made our weekly walk to the natural play area to practice counting with our Stick Champions activity. Then it was off to the hidden forest to re-supply our play area with sticks.
We ended our day with our new Tree Parts chant.
Leaves help the tree EAT!
Branches help the tree GROW!
The trunk helps the tree STAND!
Roots help the tree DRINK!
They all help the tree LIVE!
We also enjoyed changing our voices to simulate a tree going from seed to sapling to adult to old age to decomposing.
Finally, more natural play led to amazing stick constructions and kids pairing off to make their very own teeter totters, all after observing one pair coming up with the idea.
It is great to see them take our lessons and put them into action in a fun and creative way. That's what nature kindergarten is all about.