An activity I’ve used in the elementary classroom focuses attention in a defined area. Using a jump rope, outline a circle area outside on the ground – grassy area or garden area with lots of small plants. Ask students to look carefully and closely. Using a hand lens will add depth to the observations. Ask students to count what they find. They can categorize by living or non-living, plant or animal, or by color or size. Students try to identify them, describe them, or draw them and list them in their notebooks. There will likely be different kinds of plants and insects, perhaps signs of an animal that have been through the area. Next, students observe what organisms are doing. Plants may be budding, leaves may be moving in the wind, or mushrooms may be poking through the soil. Insects may be working or wandering alone or together or flying by. A clipboard with white paper makes a good background for gently observing a plant or insect using the hand lens.
Students detail what they observe such as “I notice” and ask “I wonder” questions in their notebooks. Scientific drawing with labeling helps students focus on details and may lead to queries about form and function. Or students can photograph organisms for follow up research. Sharing with others what students discover helps to solidify observations and learning. Their wondering about discoveries in their personal Circle Space may lead to some interesting follow up research to answer questions that emerged. A photo album of findings can be shared with family members, or if online, with a broader circle of friends or family.
By Jan Hustler, EV and Education Committee Member