Friday, September 30, 2016

Science outside the classroom

The 2016-17 School Year has started and I am fully immersed in programs.  I currently have more than 400 programs scheduled this year, and am still scheduling a few programs here and there.  Most of these programs are held in the classroom, but when the weather is nice during the first few weeks of the school year, and again during the last few weeks of the school year, I am able schedule many outdoor programs.

Last Thursday (22 September), two classrooms of sixth grade students from Fancher Elementary met me at Mill Pond Park to learn about botany.  I have worked with most of these students before - some of them have seen me every year since third grade.  After talking about how plants can be classified based on physical characteristics (such as leaf type and arrangement), and being given some identification sheets, the students were turned loose with the mission to draw and describe two wildflowers and the leaves of two different trees.

Here are a few photographs of the students and their work.

An identification sheet I gave the students

The backside of the ID sheet
Getting outside is always better than sitting in the classroom.

Drawing a maple leaf from life
Very detailed drawings
Coloring and labeling

Another student's worksheet

Sixth grade students color and label their drawings

Pointing out the characteristics of a wildflower

Filling out a worksheet

Fancher students working along a retaining wall at Mill Pond Park

This week, I met with third grade students at Vowles elementary to do a similar activity - Vowles elementary has its own small woodlot adjacent to the school grounds.  This time the students were only asked to draw and describe the leaves from four trees (no wildflowers).  As an additional activity, they also had to determine the diameter of several living tree.

Last week, in the classroom we had classified preserved leaves and measure the diameter of sections of tree trunks (also called tree cookies - mine are more like full sized pies than cookies).  Now the students learned how to measure the circumference of the tree and divide that by pi (3.14) to determine the diameter.  They were also tasked with removing any trash that they found in the woods (but not broken glass).

I didn't take nearly as many pictures of the 3rd graders as I did of the the sixth graders.  The younger students required a lot more help and guidance.  In fact, I only managed to get my camera out for one of three classes - a fourth class was cancelled due to the weather.

A group multitasking - students measure the circumference and pick up trash at the same time

Calculating the diameter

A student's worksheet

Students hard at work

Students search for leaves to identify and draw

Vowles Elementary teacher Johanna Raymond works with a group of her students

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