Sunday, July 12, 2009


Summer Camp plans for the trip to Battle Creek Cypress Swamp:


Wednesday – introduce topic

This week’s theme is Plants, in preparation for a field trip to Battle Creek Cypress Swamp on Friday. The BCNES naturalist is doing an “Insects” program for the students which will help further explore the relationship of animals and plants to one another. The leaf printing wrapping paper activity would be a good choice for this week’s theme.

These are the parts of the plant we will be studying (in order):

1) Seed

2) Root

3) Stem

4) Leaf

5) Flower

6) Fruit

Activity 1: Seed

Introduce this week’s theme by reading The Tiny Seed (World of Eric Carle)by Eric Carle. Ask students what plants they have seen that spread their seeds through the air. Most will probably say dandelion. Lay out a large piece of plain white wrapping paper and let students color a scene with a river, field, rocky mountain, etc. (all the places that a seed could land). Spread this over the table. Bring out the dandelion and let students blow the seeds over the paper scenery with their breath acting as the wind. How many of the seeds land in a place where they would grow successfully? What seeds would have died?

Activity 2: Root

Further discuss what elements a seed needs to survive (warmth, water, soil, space to grow). Read And the Good Brown Earthby Kathy Henderson. Ask how many students have a garden or grown plants in containers at home. Let students share their experiences with gardening.

Thumbtack a large piece of chart paper to the wall. Ask a student to draw a dot on the paper and label it Seed. Make the dot about 1/3 of the way up the paper. Now, ask students what part of the plant grows next. Most will say Root. Ask another student to come up to the paper and draw a root and label it Root. What direction does a root grow in? Down. Why? So that it can draw water and nutrients from the earth. Ask a third student to take a brown crayon and draw soil all around your plant’s root.

Ask students what soil is. Where does it come from? What is it made of? Allow students to offer their thoughts. Then read A Log's Lifeby Wendy Pfeffer. It is wonderful to think that all plants create more earth when they die, and that is the home for the new baby plants to grow in. Let children discuss other things in nature that are cycles. If no one can think of one, remind them of the Water Cycle studied earlier.

Activity 3: Stem

Ask the children what part of the plant will grow next? The stem. Allow a student to draw a green stem coming up from the seed to the sky. Label it Stem. The stem must be green because all parts of the plant are green when they are young. It is true that many trees have brown bark but their trunks all begin as little light green shoots. Now review with the children what the jobs are of the three parts of the plant they have studied so far. The seed contains the new baby plant and shelters it until it finds a place to grow. The root reaches downward and brings water and nutrients to the baby plant. The stem reaches upward and will soon have leaves on it. BUT before you get to the job of the leaves (which will be tomorrow) ask the students again – what does the stem do? The stem carries the water and nutrients up and throughout the plant.

Science Experiment:

Take two stalks of celery – preferably with leaves – and place each one in a glass. Tell students that each vegetable we eat is actually a part of a plant. Corn and popcorn, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are all seeds. Show examples. Carrots, radishes, and turnips are all roots. Show examples. Celery stalks and rhubarb stalks are the stem of the plant. Show the celery root (celeriac) and tell students that this is what the root of the celery looks like. Lay the root on the table, take the celery stalks out of the glass, and display the plant parts with the celery stalks coming out of the root so students can imagine it as it grows – and so they can see how the water would travel up from the root and into the stalks. Tell the students that in many countries of the world, they eat the celery root as a vegetable but that this is not very common in the United States.

Replace the celery in the glasses. Ask students to predict what would happen if only one of the stalks of celery was given water. Pass out pieces of plain white paper and have them draw their predictions. What would happen to the celery that had water to “drink?” What would happen to the celery that got no water? Place several inches of water in one glass and set the other one next to it. If you can, check back on the glasses at the end of the day or check them tomorrow to see what happens.

(Plant cells, unlike animal cells which are more flexible, have firm walls. Without water to keep the cells full – “turgid” – the walls collapse in on themselves and the plant wilts.)

Thursday – explore topic

Activity 4: Leaf

Review the illustration on the chart paper on the wall. Next, ask several students to extend the stem of the plant higher and add leaves. Label this part of the plant Leaf. Discuss the job of the leaves. They capture the sunshine and turn it into food that the plants use to grow. Depending on the age of the group, some students may know more about photosynthesis than others. Make sure the leaves they draw are green so that they have chlorophyll in them. We are looking at a new plant in Spring, not Autumn!

Remind students of the conversation yesterday about vegetables. Ask them, who can think of a vegetable that we eat that you think may be the leaf of a plant? Some responses may be lettuce, spinach, and cabbage. Show examples. Ask students again about the celery stalk experiment. If the stem of the plant can’t carry water to the leaves and the leaves die, will the entire plant die – yes or no? The answer is yes, because there will be no photosynthesis taking place.

Activity 5: Flower

Ask a student to go to the illustration on the wall and add several flowers to your growing plant. Label them Flower. Ask students to brainstorm a list of flowers they know (roses, dandelions, buttercups, etc.). Ask them if they know what the job of the flower is? The flower attracts honeybees, butterflies, and other pollinators to it and as they are eating the delicious nectar inside the flower a little of the pollen brushes on to their legs. They carry the pollen which is stuck to the fine hairs on their legs. As the pollinators travel from flower to flower, carrying and mixing pollen inside the flowers, the flowers are able to reproduce and bear fruit. Fruit is the final part of the plant and we will discuss it in a minute. But first ask students how humans use flowers – we enjoy them for their beauty and for their fragrance. Some flowers can also repel harmful insects in the garden (such as marigolds) and some flowers are used to make medicines. Because flowers are so beautiful and important to people, they have inspired many stories. Read Snow White and Rose Red(illustrated by Gennady Spirin).

Activity 6: Fruit

Ask a student to add some fruit to the plant illustration on the wall and label it Fruit. Let the children brainstorm a long list of fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, etc. Write it a piece of paper as they list them. Ask which one they think will be the most popular in the group. Then read off the name of each fruit and have them vote on their favorite three. See which one wins!

Humans enjoy many delicious fruits and like flowers they, in turn, have inspired their own old folk tales. Read Three Perfect Peaches: A French Folktaleby Cynthia DeFelice.

What is the job of the fruit from the plant’s point of view? The answer is that the fruit is the home of the seed, to begin the next baby plant.

Cut open a peach to reveal the seed (peach pit) inside. Peaches, and other similar plants, have a tasty fleshy part around their seeds, which actually helps the seed to travel to find a new home to grow. Unlike the dandelion, these seeds rely on animals to take away and eat the sweet fruit and then drop the seeds as they travel. In fact, ANYTHING you find in the produce section of the grocery store with seeds inside it is actually fruit – whether we call it a fruit or a vegetable. For example, a zucchini has seeds in it. So does a tomato. These foods are the fruit of the plant. Show examples.

Some interesting notes:
• The strawberry is the only fruit that has its seeds on the outside instead of on the inside.
• The orange tree is unusual in that it can have flowers and fruit on it at the same time. Most plants have all their flowers first. Then the flowers die and fall off and the plant puts all its energy into growing the fruits.
• If you look at a fruit, you can see which end was attached to the stem of the plant and which end was where the flower blossom used to be.

Stem end of a tomato

Blossom end (other side) of a tomato

Finally, fruits have other purposes for humans beyond just providing food. Many plant materials have been used since ancient times to make natural paints and dyes. Read Blueberries for Salby Robert McCloskey.

First Art Project: Natural Dyes

Set up a crockpot with hot water and a healthy splash of white vinegar in it. The vinegar is a mordant (it helps the color stick to whatever you are dyeing). Have the students add white cotton balls – leave one out so you can compare its color with the color of the dyed ones – and then dump the blueberries out of the container and into the water. Turn the crockpot on and let it sit in an undisturbed corner of the classroom. Occasionally check to see what color the water is turning. You can also take a cotton ball out and look at its color. Lay them on the table in order of how long they have been in the water so that you can see how the dye gets progressively darker. When the day is done, turn off and unplug the crockpot but let the cotton balls sit in the water overnight. Check their color in the morning.

Second Art Project: Natural Paints

After setting up the crockpot, let the students work on the second art project. It can be fun to see what colors flowers can make. Give each child a piece of white 8 ½ x 11 paper and place vases of different colored flowers in the center. Let the children tear pieces of the flower petals off and push and drag them across the page to see what plants make a color. Try different ways of moving the flowers to get different effects. After some practice time, give them a fresh piece of paper and encourage them to “paint” a picture with their natural paints.

Friday – make field trip journals

Read The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forestby Lynne Cherry. This type of book works best without any additional conversation or discussion. Next, let the children make their own leaf stencils. Provide a selection of fresh tree leaves (of various types) for students to choose from. Each child needs to trace his/her leaf onto a piece of construction paper, then cut out the design from the inside, leaving a leaf-shaped hole in the paper. Lay this template over another piece of construction paper (to be the journal cover) and lightly dab tempera paint over the leaf-shaped hole using the sponges. Remove the stencil by lifting straight up. If a handle is needed for the stencil to make lifting easier, bend a small piece of paper into an L shape and glue or tape it to the stencil so that one part of the L is flat on the stencil and the other is sticking straight up into the air like a handle.

Have each child write his/her name on the back of the artwork. Fold and hole punch 8 ½ x 11 white paper, punch artwork to match. Tie ribbons through holes. Have each child write the name of the field trip destination, the date, and his/her age on Page 1 of the journal. Have each child write a prediction of what he/she expects to see and do on the field trip on Page 2. Take the journals and a pencil for each child so that he/she can take notes on the field trip.

Materials List

White dandelion head full of seeds
Large piece of white wrapping paper or craft paper
Large piece of chart paper
Two clear drinking glasses
Two stalks of celery (with leaves, if possible)
Celery root (celeriac)
Selection of edible seeds, such as sunflower seeds or sesame seeds
Selection of edible roots, such as carrots or turnips
8 ½ x 11 white paper
Pencils and/or crayons
Selection of edible leaves, such as spinach or lettuce
A peach
Selection of fruits and vegetables containing seeds, such as cherries, zucchini, and tomatoes
Container of blueberries
White vinegar
Cotton balls (100% cotton)
An assortment of fresh flowers in different colors
Construction paper
A selection of fresh tree leaves
Tempera paint
Small sponges
3 hole punch
8 ½ x 11 inch white paper
Ribbon in various colors

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