Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Gourd By Any Other Name Part II

I believe we left the story just when the students discovered the gourds growing in the gan...

One of the plants had several overgrown cucumbers attached to the vine.  They had not been harvested in time to eat them, but I had intentionally left them growing for this lesson.  Once the fruit passes it's peak time for eating, it then focuses energy on seed production.  And the seeds are what we investigated next.
I asked the students what they would see if I cut the cucumber open.  " I think seeds are inside" was one answer.  One boy said " there is water and slime".  I then showed a slice of the cucumber so that they could confirm their guesses.

Next, pairs worked together to disect a slice. 
  The instruction was to separate the seeds.

I asked what the inside felt like.  Descriptions included "it's squishy", "slimy", and "gooey".

One boy said "it feels like rainwater".

Another exclaimed, "I feel like I'm dipping my hand in a cold puddle".

 These two boys worked very diligently on disecting the slice.  Most children simply dug out the center in order to separate the seeds.  But, this team actually quartered the slice and carefully removed the seeds. A mastery of fine motor skills was required to hold the cucumber in place, then move the knife in a slicing motion.

We placed several of the cucumber seeds on a tray and investigated them.  I asked for a description of the seeds.  I explained that we would create a list of characteristics that would describe what the seeds look like.

Most everyone began with describing the color as white.  When I asked what shape they were, the children said "oval".

I asked them to take a close look at the ends of the seeds.  Are they smooth and rounded, or are they pointy on the end?

After close observation, they determined that there was a pointy end.

 It was also agreed that the seeds were flat not "puffed up".  Next I placed a series of seeds on the tray next to the cucumber seeds.  The children used the list of characteristics to compare the new seeds with those that were disected.

Observations included "they are round and not oval", " they don't match", "the other seeds are puffed up and round".

One set of seeds matched all the characteristics except for the color.

The research showed that three out of four characteritics matched.

The students discovered that the seeds were from a different type of gourd plant.  They grew from a loofah gourd plant.
At the conclusion, the children understood that gourd seeds share similar characteristics, just like leaves from a gourd plant.

The Pre-K class concluded with a journaling activity.  They documented the gourd, the oval shaped seed, and the spikey stem and leaf.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Gourd By Any Other Name...

I arranged an assortment of gourds on the ground.  I asked the children to describe what they saw.  One child said "some are pumpkins and gourds".

One girl noticed a pumpkin leaning to one side.  She said, "one of the pumpkins is not standing very well".

Other observations were "a pumpkin is a circle" and "it has a stem".

Next, I asked them to group the pumpkins together.  Some children put everything that was orange in one group.  Others combined the ones that had a visible stem. 

Some looked at the shape and grouped round ones together.

 After several attempts, they discovered that there were only three true pumpkins in the group.

Then they found out that pumpkins are part of a larger family of plants called gourds.
Next, I placed a variety of leaves on the ground.  Each child came to investigate the leaves.  They used their senses to gather information.  I asked them to describe the leaves.

Descriptions included "the stem is so spiky", "this one is soft, this one is scratchy", "this one feels bumpy", "this one is a pokey one".

One child observed, "these two leaves kind of feel the same because they're both bumpy on the stem".
They found out that leaves from a gourd plant have spikes on the stem and are scratchy  when you touch the leaf. 

Then we went on a discovery walk to locate the gourd plants that grow in our garden.  The children had to use their sense of sight and touch to locate the correct leaves.
They found the leaves near the front of the gan.  The two plants were growing cucumbers and cantaloupe melons.  The children learned that cucumbers and melons belong to the gourd family.

They knew this was true because of the characteristics of the leaves.

Stay tuned for the next installment of "A Gourd By Any Other Name"......

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Buzzin in the Gan

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah, we explored pollinators in the gan.  Specifically, we investigated the Honey Bee.  We looked at the plants in the garden and found bees visiting certain flowers.      
We found where the pollen is located on the flowers, and even dusted some off to feel how soft it is on our fingers.  The pollen sticks to the bee's back leg.  It is called a pollen basket.
We went on a discovery walk through the garden to see how many different types of flowers were in bloom.  We reported on our research and decided that the flowers were different colors, different shapes, some were dead, and some were still growing.

We noticed that the bees were visiting some flowers, but not others.  The big red flower with all the pollen was not attracting bees.  The bees seem to be visiting white flowers and yellow flowers.  We learned that bees see ultraviolet spectrum colors.  Red does not show up in this spectrum, so bees usually don't notice red flowers.

We used a blue viewing lens to look at the red flowers the way a bee would see them.
We noticed that the color red just blended into the background.
Some of our students chose to find a quiet place in the gan and journal.  They chose an area near a favorite flower.  Then they documented their choice by sketching the flower.

This activity supports pre-writing skills.  It also challenges the student to represent a three-dimensional object in a one-dimensional medium.

The younger students used bee finger puppets, and pretended to pollinate the flowers in the garden. 

They chose the flowers based on color.  They remembered that bees don't see the color red
To extend our understanding, we invited a local beekeeper to visit.  We learned that a hive has one queen, several drones, and alot of worker bees.  It was fun to touch the honeycomb.  It is soft, and a little sticky.  It has a smell too!

During a taste test, we learned that honey can taste different depending on where the pollen came from.  It can be different colors, too.  We dipped apple slices in each type of honey to ensure a sweet New Year.