Monday, June 14, 2021

Botany Week IV - Mustards, Peas, Gourds, Custard Apples & Bromeliads

Our look at Plant Families continues, and we are really reaping the benefits of having an Outdoor Classroom this year! We've spent some time doing Botany in 2017 and 2018, but are able to go into it much more deeply now.

My Blog Posts from Teaching This Topic as a Main Lesson in 2021

Monday, June 7

  • Classroom Routines: continue to hold Reading Meetings as children finish up their SSR books and are ready for a new title (a Reading Meeting is where we meet one-on-one and I recommend a book I think a child will like), continue daily one-on-one math lessons and/or individualized math practice with the hands-on Montessori materials
  • Science: read How Whales Walked into the Sea by Faith McNulty, put together the beautiful all-wood Tree of Life from Waseca Biomes

    one child was so taken by this lesson he called out excitedly, "Plants really are amazing! Usually you think of animals as the most amazing thing, but really plants and animals are the same amount of amazing, just in different ways."

  • Plant Projects: water TMEPMOAT, check on the results of our vascular bundle experiments, care for baby seedlings, weed vegetable beds
  • Honeybees: discover that our swarm trap has caught another swarm! Talib says that our backyard caught the first swarm of the season and the last (in all, he gathered over 20 swarms this year)
  • Botany: introduction to & exploration of The Mustard Family

    featured plants: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, kale, radish, turnip, rutabaga, honesty, woad, alyssum

    read The Secret Combination to Mustard Island (Mustard Family) from Shanleya's Quest by Thomas Elpel

    draw the flower of the Mustard Family on the chalkboard and explain terminology (sepals, petals, stamens, pistil)

    take a walk around the yard to find plants in the Mustard Family

    look at mustard seeds / powder / condiment

    look at and take apart some Mustard Family vegetables from the grocery store (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)

    do pencil sketches of vegetables (b&w) in MLB, add the flower and how to identify a plant in the Mustard Family, list example plants

Tuesday, June 8

  • Classroom Routines: instead of giving every student four identical Dixon Ticonderoga classic yellow pencils to keep in their school supply caddies, each pencil with the child's initials written on it in Sharpie, I decided it might work better if every child had a different color of pencil and that way we could see at a glance whose pencil was whose

    with this idea in mind, I purchased many different colors of Dixon Ticonderoga pencils and let the children decide what color they wanted to be theirs

    because everyone wanted to have the holographic pencils, I gave each child one to keep at home

    here's how it turned out:

      Z - neon green

      KEL - neon blue

      C - metallic teal

      D - neon yellow

      KWF - metallic purple

      AH - metallic gold

      M - metallic rose

      AG - neon pink

      KLL - classic yellow

      E - metallic indigo

    (and, by the way, it's working very well! and we are using the striped pencils with our gratitude journals)

  • Shelters for the Outdoor Classroom: today we put up our two new Easy-Ups! thank you to the family who donated these to the school!
  • Plant Projects / Nature: sunchokes germinated, plant kale and sugar snap pea seedlings, see the first hummingbird of the summer (on the honeysuckle vine by the burning bush), release our ladybugs into the vegetable garden (and the children took this opportunity to look at them closely with their jeweler's loupes), final notes on the results of "What Will Celery Move to Its Leaves?" experiment

      peppermint extract - no

      vanilla extract - no

      maple syrup - yes

      Hershey's syrup - yes

      honey - yes (strong flavor)

      olive oil - no (killed the plant)

      Bragg's amino acids - yes

      lemon juice - no

      peppermint tea - yes (strong flavor)

      red / blue / green food coloring - yes

  • Botany: introduction to & exploration of The Pea Family

    featured plants: green bean, sugar snap pea, snow pea, edamame, ice cream bean tree, redbud, tamarind, clover, mung bean, chickpea, red lentil, great Northern bean, black bean, canary bean, red bean

    this family also includes licorice, jicama, popcorn plant, and carob!

    read The Pea Islands (Pea Family) from Shanleya's Quest by Thomas Elpel

    create dried bean mandalas

    walk around the yard to find the tree that is from this family (redbud)

    review the idea of an irregular flower (this does not mean "weird," it means not symmetrical... look at flowers from the Mustard Family and/or mandalas as an example of symmetry)

    look at clover blossoms using jeweler's loupes and see the pattern of the Pea Family flower!

    do pencil sketches (b&w) in MLB, add an explanation of how to identify a plant in the Pea Family, list example plants

    hands-on lesson on the Nitrogen cycle using the Backyard Biome tapestry we wove several years ago (the post I linked to is full of pictures of this very cool lesson)

  • Board & Card Games on a Rainy Afternoon: Cauldron Quest, Bird Bingo, Ravine, Passing Through the Netherworld, Cheats

Wednesday, June 9

Unscheduled Wednesday!

    today's activities included

    enjoying lots of free play time

    seeing a doe walk past with a brand-new baby fawn

    using fallen Japanese Maple tree branches (trimmed from a neighbor's tree) as spontaneous brooms to sweep the sidewalk

    trying to watch a fly through a jeweler's loupe

    reading Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas by Cheryl Bardoe

    making Lego Punnett squares (not my own idea... totally brilliant... we did it with Dragon Eyes with red being dominant and blue being recessive... "what color would this baby dragon's eyes be?")

    having a Pea Family Feast (sugar snap peas, snow peas, local green beans, local pea shoots, sweet tamarind in the pods, tamarind candy)

    adding The Pea Family to the MLBs (we waited until after the feast to do this since I knew many children would probably want to draw the tamarind pods)

    running through the sprinkler (for those who wanted to get wet)

    playing Ravine (for those who didn't)

    having a Philosophy discussion about Time (if one of the definitions of "fun" is that you lose track of time, does it follow that every time you lose track of time you are having fun? is sleeping a kind of fun?)

    With pandemic problems easing, having real fun needs to be taken seriously
    The Washington Post - June 6, 2021

Thursday, June 10

  • Botany: final activities for Peas (starting mung bean sprouts, reading A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki)

    Special Guest: Ms. Aimee, my co-teacher for this block, gave a presentation on Cucurbitaceae (The Gourd Family)

    our talk about cross-pollination was a really nice follow-up to the book about Gregor Mendel!

    discuss new terminology (perfect flower, incomplete flower, monoecious [1 household], dioecious [2 households]) and puzzles like seedless watermelon (it was a good thing we did our Lego activity yesterday because it helped children to be able to picture this better)

    look at examples of foods from the Gourd Family (summer squashes [yellow squash, zucchini], winter squashes [spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash], cucumber, watermelon, bitter melon, pepitos) as well as a locally-grown luffa

    Gourd Family Feast! students enjoyed seasoned pepitos, wedges of juicy watermelon, and summer squash spears and cucumber semicircles alongside roasted red pepper hummus and tzatziki dip

    discuss archaeology and seeds!
    my favorite story: the Gete-okosomin squash

    do pencil sketches (b&w) in MLB, add an explanation of male and female flowers, list example plants in the Gourd Family

    start our Pumpkin Patch!
    the student who adopted Pumpkins is very excited about the idea of cross-pollination and hybrids; he planted three different heirloom varieties in the Mulch Mountain and we are eager to see if they germinate, spread out and take over that area of the yard, cross with one another, and give us some really cool pumpkins for Halloween!

  • Afternoon Play: Goobi, soccer, relaxing in the hammock, Pengoloo, Quixo, Dr. Eureka, Fiery Dragons

Friday, June 11

  • Nature: see how the little baby fawn camouflages so perfectly against the fallen leaves under the magnolia tree! harvest the first cherry tomato of the summer! first flower forming on our summer squash (we know it is a male flower because Ms. Aimee says that the male flowers form first)
  • Botany: look at Botany nomenclature (Leaf Morphology Chart by ETC Montessori: Shape, Arrangement, Margin, Venation)

    Special Guest: Ms. Aimee, my co-teacher for this block, gave a presentation on The Custard Apple Family (pawpaws in particular)

    interestingly, the Custard Apple Family is traditionally tropical and adapted for that environment

    the pawpaw is the only plant from that family which lives outside of the tropics (it was previously carried around by ground sloths which died out 10,000 years ago... then humans began to move it about)

    the pawpaw is very strange in so many ways, not only that it ventures so far North!

    the pawpaw is a wonderful plant to discuss when it comes to plant reproduction because it makes life very hard for itself (sends out suckers and crowds clones of itself around itself but it can't reproduce with itself, requires a genetically different pawpaw to be very nearby because it has very lazy pollinators [flies and beetles], seeds must be cold stratified before they will germinate, prefers to grow in shade for its first year but then wants full sun thereafter in order to bear fruit)

    interestingly, the pawpaw is an important host plant (it is the only plant on which the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterflies will feed)

    taste guanabana juice (also in the Custard Family)

    discuss Bromeliads as well, since the Early Childhood students are trying to grow a pineapple

    we also talked about the larger theme of plant categories -- who decides what goes where?, what do they look at when making that determination? is it genetics? is it structure? why are the names of plant families changing over time?

    add Pawpaw to MLB (we do have baby pawpaw trees here which we can sketch)

  • Indoor Board Games on a Hot Afternoon: Snail's Pace Race, Orchard, Square Up!, Guess Who?, Ocean Bingo, Prime Climb, Battleship

    at the start of the school year, the Early Childhood children kept much to themselves, but as they are getting more comfortable with the older children they are playing together, so I am no longer putting my notes for EC in a separate category... these board games are being played by a variety of children of mixed ages (which is great to see!)

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