Sunday, June 27, 2021

Botany Week VI - Magnolias & Asters, Lilies & Mallows, Nightshades

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 21

  • Early Childhood: make Hide & Seek Muffins by student request (she found this recipe in her SSR book and really wanted to try it! we had so much fun and it was a great final activity for the Rose Family... plus they were delicious!)
  • Science: recall that flowering plants were the last plants to develop and that their design encourages cross pollination, resulting in "new combinations of Lego bricks" better than something like spores

    (one student explained that because so many genes go into a human and there are so many possible combinations, there will never be another person exactly like us, so "it's like a monoprint")

    read The Snail with the Right Heart: A True Story by Maria Popova as a review of genetics and as a wonderful book in its own right

    discover the relationship between < pollen > and < polenta > (thank you, Carl Linnaeus), and explain how the influence of French clears up why < pollination > has an "i" where < pollen > has an "e"

    Foldscopes! assemble two Foldscopes (a HUGE thank you to the student who helped me with this) and look at pollen slide

  • Botany: notice that our magnolia blossoms are crawling with beetles, look up whether beetles are the pollinators of magnolias and they are! (because magnolias evolved before bees did), look up more information about magnolia blossoms and discover the term "tepal"

    About the Magnolia Flower

    play "Double Take: Flowers" memory game and look at photos of plants from the Aster Family close up

    read "The Aster Archipelago" and "End of the Great Tree" from Shanleya's Quest by Thomas Elpel

    take a walk in the garden to find members of the Aster family to sketch (sunchoke, dandelion, Joe Pye weed, tall boneset, prairie sage, purple coneflower, chamomile, marigold, lettuce, wormwood)

    SWI sidenote for < dandelion > and how it's related to < lion >

    add the Aster Family to MLB

  • Play: "Rock, Paper, Scissors" Tag (a game of their own invention), Goobi
  • Handwork: Star Gnomes!

Tuesday, June 22

  • Early Childhood: review the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice (my friend in Anchorage, Alaska had 22 hours of daylight yesterday!), read The Summerfolk by Doris Burn, new mud kitchen ingredients (rye flour, fresh thyme leaves, chili flakes, lemon), Go Away Monster, tree climbing, forts, jumping on the mulch mountain
  • Plant Care: watering, weeding, and mulching; note that many of our vegetables are getting their flowers (yellow squash, eggplant, bell pepper, cucumber); check on the pumpkin patch (all three of our pumpkin varieties are coming up now); plant watermelon seedling in field where it will have plenty of room to grow, will get full sun, and will be far away from the other Cucurbits
  • Etymology: recall that Linnaeus came up with the word < pollen >, explain that he also chose the word < aphid > and no one knows where he got it from!

    it would be a fun activity to type Linnaeus in the search bar at etymonline and see all of the words that he has had an influence on...

  • Botany: review the Aster family, do some SWI for < aster > ("star") and its relationship to < asteroid > and < asterisk >

    look at a daylily and find its stamens and pistil, note that the anthers are covered in pollen (and, like the magnolia, a lily has tepals!)

    there are way too many plant families for us to cover in this block, but children can look up other plant families that interest them in Elpel's Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification: An Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families of North America

    read the introduction to Shanleya's Quest 2: Botany Adventure at the Fallen Tree by Thomas Elpel

    • "How many pistils are squished together?"
    • "A Summer Day"
    • "Buttercups and Pistils" (this was fascinating!!!!

      the children enjoyed coming up with metaphors to explain the "docking station" concept (one compared it to a cafeteria line) which we see in a peapod -- compound pistil with multiple carpels -- versus separate simple pistils each with one carpel

      remember that we saw pistils with hooked tips on the magnolia (another ancient plant whose design has not changed much over time); discover that the magnolia also has separate simple pistils, each having one carpel

      Magnolia Blossoms

    read "Mucilaginous Mallows," take a walk in the garden to find the marshmallow plants and taste the leaves

  • Handwork / Knitting Club: everyone is hard at work finishing up incomplete Handwork projects this week! today we had someone complete a finger-knitted snake, someone complete a shoebox-woven tapestry, someone complete a gnome... and overall lots of progress was made by many students on their Star Gnomes!

    the children are very much looking forward to bringing their gnomes to the Gnome Party on Friday

Wednesday, June 23

    Unscheduled Wednesday!

    read Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss

    make oobleck (adding swirls of food coloring this time)
    ratio: 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part water

    free play

    plant care

    Knitting Club (today a sweet knitted pig was born! knitted gnomes continue! and children who finished their gnomes have begun to design their own knitting patterns and create gnome accessories!)

    water play

    solar panel kit presentation

    School Meeting about Fire Safety in advance of our campfire & marshmallow roasting tomorrow

Thursday, June 24

  • Early Childhood: our student with the wiggly tooth lost her first tooth today! there was much celebrating! sadly, she was playing under the magnolia tree when it came out and so we weren't able to find it in all of the leaves (but we still could talk about what shape it was, and I brought out some puppy teeth for purposes of comparison... thank you to the family who so carefully collected these and donated them)
  • Nature: watch a mole waddle confusedly across the street and into the storm drain on the other side (very strange in broad daylight)
  • Botany: build a fire in our copper fire pit and roast marshmallows (for the Mallow Family, of course!)

    look at other examples of plants in the Mallow Family:


      look at and touch a fluffy ripe cotton boll

      picture of a green unripened cotton boll -- and a boll weevil -- in A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston


      picture of a cacao flower as well as a look inside a ripe pod in All in Just One Cookie by Susan E. Goodman


      every child got two okra pods, one to keep whole and one to cut up, and they had a glorious time dissecting them and feeling the slimy texture (this mucilaginous quality is something the plants in the Mallow Family have in common)

      we discovered that the slime was strong enough to "glue" an okra pod to your forehead like a unicorn horn!

    sketch okra, add Mallow Family to MLB

  • Botany / Special Guest

    thank you to Ms. Aimee, my co-teacher for this block, for coming by one last time! today it was to teach us about the Nightshade Family!

    read "The 'Deadly' Nightshades" from Shanleya's Quest 2 by Thomas Elpel

    talk about this fascinating family and examples of safe plants (tomato, tomatilla, potato, bell pepper, eggplant, paprika, goji berries, petunia, Chinese lantern plant) and unsafe plants (jimsonweed, belladonna, tobacco, mandrake, brugmansia)

    look at petunia, jalapeno, tomato flowers and see how different parts have fused together (petals fused together at the base, anthers fused to the inside of the petals, stamens fused together around the pistil)

    this fusing of parts as plants got more specialized is a big theme in Shanleya's Quest 2

    enjoy a Nightshade Feast (cherry tomatoes, salsa, tomatilla salsa, goji berries)

    talk about how some people avoid the Nightshade Family even to this day, eat non-nightshade snacks (corn chips, cassava chips, cassava & butternut squash stalks)

    discuss how plant pollen is found by archaologists and what we can learn from it, how the Supreme Court got involved in deciding what's a vegetable and what isn't, the Irish Potato Famine and what caused it, and interesting facts about the history and traveling journey of the Nightshades (for example, Marco Polo brought eggplants from Asia to Europe, but tomatoes didn't arrive in Europe until the New World was discovered, as their wild ancestors are from South America)

    this plant family is very old and would have had its ancestor plant in the time of Pangea, and was then spread all over the world as the continents broke apart

  • Handwork: big push to get the Star Gnomes done! people who finished early are helping other friends and/or making accessories

Friday, June 25

    Last Day of School!

    we began the morning with finishing up the Star Gnomes right away! every one was finished in time for the Gnome Party at 11:30 am (children who didn't make gnomes got to borrow ones that I had knitted so they would have a gnome to sit by them at the party)

    thank you to the parents and grandparents who chipped in to make this party great! we had five different kinds of pizza, juice boxes, grapes, watermelon slices, cherry tomatoes, chips, and popsicles

    after the party, the children worked on the finishing touches to their MLBs (number pages, table of contents, front & back covers)

    a few children added the Nightshade Family to their main lesson books (including some wildflower illustrations we found in Favorite Wildflowers by Ilel Arbel)

    then, of course, there was plenty of play time

    running around

    hanging out

    Ocean Bingo


    drawing on the sidewalk with the charcoal leftover from our fire yesterday

    I packed up everyone's items that were going home (gratitude journals, Handwork bags, a few SSR books that children wanted to finish over the summer) and saved everything that isn't going home quite yet, like office supplies that we will re-use (plan books & MLBs always stay here until I've finished writing the end of year reports)

    we read the final chapter and conclusion to Shanleya's Quest 2 ("Borage and Burbs" and "Clay Flowers")

    photographed everyone with their gnomes and off they went! have a Happy Summer Vacation, everyone!

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