Discovering Spring’s Palette

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Teacher’s Name: Kathy Gray

Class Grade Level(s) & School: Kindergarten, East End Community School

Class Subject:  Science

Number of Students in the class: 18

Lesson/Project Name:  Discovering Spring’s Palette

A.  Pre-Reflection

1. What are your own teaching goals going into this?

My teaching goals are to use the schoolyard as a classroom laboratory (“. . . the physical environment in and around the school can be used as a living laboratory for the study of natural phenomena.  Whether the school is located in a densely populated urban area, a sprawling suburb, a small town or a rural area, the environment can and should be used as a resource for science study.” Broda Chpt. 5 Teaching Content-Area Concepts outdoors pg.104), to help the children notice, through focused observation, the living things that they pass by every day, to provoke the children’s sense of wonder, and to provide diverse ways for the children to reflect and communicate their observations.

2.  What are your goals for students going into this?

I hope they will come to know the joy that comes from personally discovering nature’s treasures.

I hope they will begin to wonder and ask questions that will lead to further research.

I hope they will begin to be able to use descriptive language to label, compare, and communicate their observations.

I hope they will be able to communicate what they observed through diverse activities. . . observational drawings, reflective conversations from viewing photographs taken during our field work, and through using different visual art mediums to create artistic interpretations of what they observed.

b.  Subject

Science: Constancy and Change – A look at how things change and stay the same through looking for evidence of seasonal changes.

B.  The Plan:

1.  Materials

Digital camera (Optional but really helpful for specific reflections with younger children.)

Paint chip color sample strips of pinks, greens, and yellows  (Enough for 1 for each child or a pair of children).  Clip boards, paper and pencils.  I chose to keep the pencils in a can until we were ready to draw.

Follow up classroom activity materials for mono prints and collage included cookie sheet pans, variety of paint brushes, clear egg cartons with single color tempera paint palettes of shades of yellow, green and pink. These can be mixed the day before the project.  8” squares of black construction paper for printing.  Water cups, paint shirts, newspapers for table cover and for drying finished pieces.

For Collage Project: palettes of spring colors created from paper scraps of shades of green, yellow and pink construction paper, and squares of green, yellow and pink tissue paper. (Scissors optional, as children can tear paper, which also supports fine motor development.) Children will need individual white glue bottles or similar brush and glue dish set up and 8”squares of black construction on which to create the collage.

Optional: A bulletin board on which to create a spring quilt with the prints and collages and to document the story of the outside science work that was done by the class.

2.  The Class/Project

My kindergarten class had been having conversations about changes in the weather and how spring was here.  We have had many conversations about how you really know that spring has arrived.  We brainstormed what we might see and have been going outside to find evidence of spring in front of our school and in our courtyard.

When I read the following passage in Broda’s book, Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning,

“Careful observation is a critical skill that, unfortunately, is being eroded in our culture by electronic media manipulating our attention.  The activities described here focus attention on specific aspects of the schoolyard environment and hopefully, help students become more attuned to the richness of their surroundings.” (p. 85)

I was reminded of a recent experience on the playground where forsythia and azaleas had begun to bloom and not one child mentioned anything until we specifically took a look-for- spring tour before we went inside.  And then came, “Ooh! Look!  There’s flowers!”

So I decided to try to use the Color Match activity that was described in Chapter 4 Developing Process Skills in an Engaging Environment. (Broda p.86) to help focus the children’s observations in a familiar environment and help them “become more attuned to the richness of their surroundings.” (Broda p.85)

a.  Prep before going outside: (15minutes)

Prior to going outside we reviewed some of the signs of spring we had noticed on our walks. The question was posed,  “So if you were an artist what colors would you need to put on your palette to paint the colors of spring?”  After their brainstorm, the children were shown the paint chip strips.  I explained that their job would be to be a color detective and find and record growing things in the courtyard that were the same color as their paint chip strip.

We reviewed walking behavior and that the site was the courtyard not the playground.  Made bathroom trips, as I would be by myself outside.  Children put on jackets/sweaters.  Children carried their own clipboard with paper.  I carried a can of pencils, as the drawing would come at the end. I had the digital camera. I brought an outdoor signal bell that my class uses.

b. Outside: (________40___minutes/days)

Description of activity:

We are lucky to have a small gathering circle made of rocks and stumps in the center of our courtyard, which is where we began our Color Detective activity.  I asked the children to sit silently for 1 minute so that we might listen for the sounds of spring.  As if on cue three hawks began to call to each other and circle over our near by playing field.  With the silence broken, I reviewed fence boundaries and explained they would have 10 minutes (it was in reality 25) to find a growing thing that was the same as their paint chip strip.  I reminded them that the bell would signal a return to their clipboard.   I asked for a child to review what they thought we were going to do and asked another where we were going to look and what would help us remember where to stay and another was asked how they would know when to stop.

Then paint chip strips were randomly distributed and children left their clipboards where they were sitting and bounded off as soon as they took their strip.  They made multiple discoveries and excitedly shared observations with each other.  As the weather was brisk, I made the choice to do the drawing inside.  So I asked them to take a photograph with their mind’s eye of the plant they discovered and we wouldmake the scientific drawings inside.

c.  Classroom follow-up: (__20 minutes when we came in and 35-40 minutes the next day for Spring Palette printing/collage work  _________minutes/days)

Describe follow-up activity:
Upon returning to the classroom, drawings were made and a few children were able to record a few written details as well.

The next day the children were able to review a slide show of the photos of their plant colors and photographs while they worked with art materials.

C.  Reflection:

I really liked the idea of having the concrete paint chip strip for each child.  There was such excitement and sharing of discoveries that the only “negative” thing about this experience is that I had to stop the experience as it was almost time for the buses!  Children called to each other to come and see what they had discovered. They made comparisons to each other’s plants and colors and noticed things they had never seen before.  Even a few insects were discovered.

In addition to similarities and differences in colors, the children also began to notice the differences in size, the “baby plants” in one area of the garden and the “mama plant” located in a near by area.  They spoke about the shape of plants and leaves, as they noticed the “sharp, pointy” and “smooth” edges of leaves.  They noticed plants that were the same but in different places in the garden.  They were becoming aware of the diversity around them.  The excitement, the wonder, the sense of joyful discovery that the children exhibited would have made a passer by think that we had just been transported into a whole new world.

And to that world I will definitely travel again!

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