Saturday, May 22, 2021

Botany Week I

Some quick notes & links about our Outdoor Classroom and Botany activities this week!

We have already done quite a bit in the first two and a half months of school!

We've done lots of plant research and plant projects (learning about the parts of the biome; spending time outside in the yard for more hours than ever before and observing our microbiome; watching the world wake up from Winter; growing plants from seed as well as many other parts of the plant; designing plant experiments and checking on their progress; hardening off and thinning seedlings; discovering plant pests and looking up how to handle them in a natural way; researching companion plants; designing and planting a vegetable garden, pollinator garden, and medicinal herb garden).

Now, in the last 6 weeks of school, we are going to extend some topics, wrap some topics up, and focus on making connections between different components which we have learned about individually. Surprisingly, our school year is already ending, so it's time for weaving in the loose ends!

We began this week with the Montessori First Great Lesson and are on our way to the Montessori Second Great Lesson and where plants go in the Tree of Life. The answers to How Life Began lie in the realms of Microbiology & Chemistry, so we have to make some stops there along the way as well...

In the Waldorf scope & sequence, I like to do the Timeline of Life in grade 4, Botany in grade 5, and Microbiology & Chemistry in grade 7. Since this is a mixed age classroom we are doing a bit of each, in an interconnected way.

Monday, May 17

  • Early Childhood: watch the City come and cut down a dead tree which was growing along our sidewalk (watching the chainsaw was very exciting, plus they cut off the stump and let us keep it), find a beetle and make a habitat for it, continue our Circle Time (we will build on this and now begin to create a long sequence of movement verses which together tell a story about a Farmer in Springtime), make and measure 85 inch long pieces of finger knitting for Pony Reins

  • Nature: find a fungus suddenly growing on our biggest tree stump, discover that there are now two cardinal hatchlings in the nest!
  • Read Aloud: continue our lunchtime read aloud story, Audubon by Constance Rourke
  • First Great Lesson: read The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, lay out The Birth and Death of a Star material
  • Ancient Egypt: finish up Ancient Egypt by passing out Ancient Egypt Timelines, mixing watercolor paints (lemon yellow, golden yellow, vermillion, ultramarine) and doing a desert color experience and a wet-on-wet watercolor painting of the Sphinyx
  • Board Games: we are finding that board games work well at the end of the day when it is hot and people are tired of running around and want to get out of the sun; today it was Harry Potter Clue

Tuesday, May 18

  • EC: help water and care for plants, begin to learn elements of "Springtime Garden Circle" on pages 83-85 of Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures: Movement Enrichment with a Therapeutic Approach for Early Childhood by Nancy Blanning and Laurie Clark (starting with "In Springtime" song, "Barley, Wheat, Oats & Rye" verse, "Little Robin Redbreast" finger play), begin to sew felt pieces for the Pony Reins using the running stitch (unlike the beanbags, this project won't work correctly if you accidentally do the whip stitch), play Bear and Fishing imaginative games, use two old handheld corded phones to "call" one another during snack, play Who Pooped?
  • SWI: students continue to walk up to me and spontaneously suggest SWI investigations, which is fantastic!

    why is < great > spelled with an < ea > intead of a replaceable e?

    is the < bot > in Botany a prefix? is it the same as the < bot > in robot?

    does < verbal > have < verb > as its base? if so, what is the relationship between them?

  • Medicinal Herbs: look up comfrey information in Walking the World in Wonder: A Children's Herbal by Ellen Evert Hopman, decide where elecampane and comfrey should be planted (elecampane in the little area to the left of the shed door and comfrey in the area to the right)
  • First Great Lesson: read "The Beginning" and "The Dark Ages of the Universe" from Chapter 1 of Mythology of Microbes (thank you to the family who printed this long document and put it neatly in a binder) and get student feedback... there were many excellent questions about The Great Inflation as well as singularities and black holes

    add The Great Inflation to our new green MLBs

  • Handwork / Philosophy / Nature: sit and knit and have a Philosophy chat, discuss questions about Nature from Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids by Marietta McCarty, discuss the philosopher Lao Tzu and Taoism, read and discuss Wild by Emily Hughes

    I am going to give this wonderful conversation its own blog post!

  • Games: Mad Libs, Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game

Wednesday, May 19

    unscheduled Wednesday was in full force!

    lots of water play including making a model of an Ancient Egyptian shaduf, running through the sprinkler, and having a Water War by throwing buckets of water on people (sometimes very unexpectedly)

    thank you to the parents who came early and helped us set the Canteen Tent back up before school, who stayed during the morning and helped me make some decisions about Botany projects that would reasonably fit into our last few weeks of the school year, and who walked around the yard with me throughout the day and helped identify unwanted volunteer trees that should be removed from our beds so that the beautiful things my grandfather planted could thrive

    we had a short Philosophy lesson at Snack Time; I read Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and asked the class, "how is Wabi Sabi like Taoism?"

    their thoughts:

      stop trying to swim against the current in the river

      if you just let yourself flow with the water it's relaxing and you don't have to do anything

      there's no difference between anything
      life and death
      light and dark
      sickness and wellness
      destruction and creativity

      it's flow, the flow of life

      everything has a flow of nature
      each difference has one thing the same

      being alive and being lifeless and dead

    I believe that something worn and simple can also be beautiful

    and I asked them, "why is a pair of pants that has been patched more beautiful than a pair of pants that is brand new?" and we talked about the hands that cared for the thing, that took the time to repair it

    just as we have repaired the Canteen Tent over and over!

    the duct tape on the joints doesn't look ugly to me... when I look at it I see loving hands that have put it back together over and over, parents that have come back to help over and over because they care about us

    we didn't just throw it away the first time it fell down

    to me, the Canteen Tent is part of Wabi Sabi

    and they also loved the idea of building the entrance to the Tea Room so low that even the emperor has to bow down to enter

      no one is more important than another

      when you're thinking about yourself, you're outside of the river

      Wabi Sabi is asking you to jump into the river
      it's inviting you to remember to go with the flow

Thursday, May 20

  • Classroom Routines: since we have so many planting projects to keep up with -- and since making careful observations and learning more about what we've each planted is the heart of our Botany study -- we have decided to begin each day with checking on our plants first and then sitting down with a chapter book for SSR

    so we took everyone's Plant Adoption Forms and put them on one master clipboard in the Library Bin; now, no one will go and grab a library book without first being reminded to check on their plants

    Plant Projects
    Main Lesson and begin MLB
    Snack (and Circle Time for the littles)
    finish MLB, do individual Math work

    the rest of the day is Choice Time and free Play

    we get done what we need to get done first thing before it gets too hot and, of course, when people get too warm they can switch over to board games or Handwork instead of more active kinds of play

  • EC: play with kinetic sand, help organize and water plants, plant the celery we grew from a celery bottom, add non-viable seeds to mud kitchen, lots of outdoor free play, play Pengoloo and Socken Zocken
  • Planting Projects: order new rutabaga seeds after the viability test begun last week showed no signs of life (wet paper towel in a Ziploc bag), organize all the seedlings and look to see what is big enough to go in the garden, plant nasturtium and bush bean in the straw bales, determine what other packets of seeds need to be tested for viability vs. what seeds might have been eaten by the mouse in the Art Room and just need to be replanted, harvest radish microgreens (spicy!), pull all the volunteer wheat out of our straw bales, look at the tall grass flowers and compare them to the wheat plants

    we still have a few things lined up along the sidewalk that need to go in the garden (hazelnut, persimmon, elecampane, comfrey, milkweed, rhubarb, hosta, sunchoke, horseradish) but mostly everything is done

    today I finally planted the thyme and red and green lettuces

  • Math: in Math right now, children are working on using the Montessori materials to solve real-life problems, such as their Techniques of Problem Solving card decks or the Pythagorean Theorem worksheet (which goes really well with the Checker Board)

  • Science: read Karl, Get Out of the Garden! Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything by Anita Sanchez, discuss scientific names vs. common names, consider why Latin might work so well for scientific names (you can tell right away that it must be the scientific name and not the common name, it is a dead language so new words aren't coming into it and old words aren't changing their meaning, many well educated people -- including scientists -- already know Latin)

    even if you didn't learn Latin in school, it is connected to so many of our English words that it is easy to find related words and remember a Latin word (I gave the example of perambulare, which I learned in high school Latin and will never ever forget because of perambulator)

    the children pointed out that the spells in Harry Potter are based on Latin and so many children of today are learning a little Latin without even realizing it!

Friday, May 21

  • EC: continue to add elements to the Springtime Garden Circle (our new song: "It's Fun to Dig Potatoes" from This Is the Way We Wash-a-Day, page 28, track 25), work together to design and build a Plant Maze, read Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home by Judy Hawes, set up and observe our new Ladybug Land with Live Ladybug Larvae
  • Botany Experiments: choose between "Challenge: Design a Plant Maze" on page 33 and "Challenge: Make a Plant Grow Down Instead of Up" on page 49 of The Curious Kid's Science Book by Asia Citro, draw a rough draft of your design and write a materials list, collect the necessary materials and build your design, start seeds in peat pots and add them to your experiment

    the Plant Maze experiments will be using nasturtium seeds and the Growing Upside Down experiments will be using sunflower seeds

  • Science: read Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned to Hunt in Space by Darcy Pattison

    unexpectedly, there was also a LOT of playing with periscopes this afternoon as one student worked through his ideas about bouncing sunlight off of multiple mirrors as part of his Growing Upside Down experiment design (and friends were very intrigued!)

  • Planting Projects: spread mushroom compost on our straw bales to help nourish our fruits, veggies, and flowers (thank you to the family who donated six buckets of this lovely compost!)

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