Here are some suggestions from classroom teachers to spark student understanding and investigations of weather and climate.
Make rain! Have students cut the top off a clear plastic soda bottle about one-fourth of the way down the bottle. Pour some boiling water into the bottom part of the bottle, then place the bottle top back on upside-down so the mouth of the bottle points to the water. Ask students to predict what will happen when they put ice in the hollow of the upside-down bottle top. Watch what happens.
Are you aware that Pilgrims considered tomatoes an abomination on a par with dancing, card playing, and theater going? Did you know fried peas were sold to spectators in lieu of popcorn in ancient Roman theaters? How many of you knew that the humble potato helped fuel the Industrial Revolution?
What do kids really understand about plants? What are their misconceptions? How can teachers do a better job of helping kids wrestle with ideas and build an understanding of how plants grow, thrive, and interact with their environments?
"A reading unit on China prompted my second graders to ask whether we could try growing rice," reports Norfolk, MA, teacher Simone Favaloro. "We successfully germinated some rice seed in big pots, then set them in trays of water in the GrowLab, but noticed that growth slowed once the grass was about 5 inches," she adds.
Ask your students whether they've ever seen flowers on grasses. You might inspire a fruitful debate.
Fall is a good time to challenge students to explore outside and look for signs of grass flowers. You may first want to reveal that grasses are not pollinated by birds, bees, or other insects, but by the wind. Have students brainstorm some of the likely differences between flowers that need to attract pollinators and those pollinated by wind.
A creature's habitat is a place where individuals of that species or type can usually be found. It contains all the components the organism needs to survive.
At the most basic level, all wildlife require food, water, shelter from predators and the elements, and safe places to raise their young. Consider asking your students to brainstorm and create a list of things humans need to survive. Then try creating a list for other animals and one for plants. How do the lists compare?
National Gardening Association has been publishing kids gardening curriculum and activity books for more than 25 years. These books are very popular with teachers and parents and one of our most recent books has just won an award. Nourishing Choices (NGA, 2009), by Eve Pranis, offers teachers, educators, parents, and health professionals a road map to successful implementation of food education and awareness programs with kids. It profiles winning schools and youth programs across the country that excite kids about healthy eating.
As a county science assistant and Tuckahoe Elementary's Outdoor Learning Coordinator, Beth Reese well understood teachers' need to have outdoor activities link directly to the state's learning standards.
"When our new school was built, my fourth, fifth, and sixth graders were drawn to the birds and other wildlife that gathered in the wetland areas in the schoolyard," says Montessori teacher Penny Szczechowski from Ann Arbor, MI. So when the idea of creating a garden came up, they knew they wanted theirs to be a place where wildlife could come to find shelter, water, food, and places to raise young.
The school's name, Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community School, reflects the region's rich cultural heritage. Now, the "Spirit of Nature" schoolyard proudly does the same. Graduate education student Illene Pevec and landscape architecture student Tracy Penner brought together students, parents, teachers, and community members to turn an underused, muddy, 1-acre field into a multigenerational, award-winning garden that celebrates and preserves local cultural history.