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Posts Tagged ‘young learners’

Rain

Last week, we mentioned the Magic School Bus At the Waterworks, which is a fantastic book for talking about how water moves from rain to tap, but it’s really more of an elementary book.

Rain by Robert Kalan is designed for pre-literate students. The color-coded words make the shapes of clouds, sky, and rain helping students see the idea and read it, too.

The book is designed to encourage curiosity and will lead to conversations about where water comes from and what it does in our daily lives.

Tomorrow: more water books to read with your young learners.

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So, by now you may be wondering – who is actually writing these posts? To put a personal face on the blog, we’ll be gradually introducing some of our education staff and have them say a few words about what they do.

Here, I'm showing a group of 2nd graders a bamboo plant, to help them learn about Brooklyn Children's Museum's sustainable floors, made from bamboo.

My name is Lynn Cartwright-Punnett, and I’m a science educator at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. I work with public and school programs, teaching everything from geology to how to make homemade toothpaste. But my main focus is this project: teaching sustainability to young learners.

Before joining the team at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, I worked at summer camps, after school programs, and taught 6th grade for three years. I have experience with grades PK to college, but I really like the incredible curiosity and eagerness of the youngest learners.

I’m also a licensed New York City tour guide, and I love the opportunity to get New Yorkers of all ages to experience parts of New York City they’ve never seen before!

Teaching a public program where we made fossils with Plaster of Paris

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Does the word photosynthesis bring back painful memories of trying to memorize the Krebs cycle? It doesn’t have to! Even the youngest learner can see plants exhaling with this simple underwater experiment

Materials: A clear, glass bowl of water (or a small aquarium), a glass jar, an underwater water plant such as hornwort (purchase at your local pet store or anywhere fish supplies are sold)

Procedure:

  • Place the plant in a deep bowl of water. The water should cover the plant.
  • Place the glass jar over the plant, trapping it. The glass jar should be completely full of water. To do so, lower the glass jar on its side into the bowl, letting all the trapped air bubbles escape, and then tip it to cover the plant.
  • Leave the plant in a sunny place and watch what happens.
  • You will notice that bubbles will rise from the plant and eventually there will be a pocket of oxygen that gathers at the top of the jar where there used to be water.
  • Explain to students that, just like all trees and plants, the hornwort’s leaves takes the sun’s light and carbon dioxide and turns it into food for the plant. At the end of this process, the plant produces oxygen, which is what human beings breathe in. You cannot see the oxygen leaving all plants because oxygen just mixes into the air, but since this plant is underwater, you can see the process called photosynthesis at work!

The full concept of photosynthesis won’t be taught until high school, but even young learners can understand that plants breathe out oxygen with this great activity.

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When planning to incorporate nature in your classroom, where to start? This may seem obvious, but the key is letting children start by exploring.  All learners, but early learners in particular, need to be given the opportunity to observe for themselves and formulate their own questions before being told what to do. Young students are still learning how the world works and need time to watch and think.

Take an entire period, or more, to have students make observations outdoors. Pick a spot in the schoolyard or a nearby park and have students observe what they see. Here are some ways to encourage that observation and exploration:

  • Snails are an animal that kids can handle safely. They are plentiful (especially after the rain), will walk on a student's hand, and are reasonably durable, as long as students are taught not to squish them.

    Before leaving the classroom, make sure that students know not to touch any animals they find. For plants, explain that if a part of the plant is attached to the ground or to a tree, it should be left alone. Leaves or seeds on the ground can be picked up.

  • Give each student a clipboard and piece of paper. Pre-literate students can draw what they see; literate students can both draw and write their observations.
  • If students are having trouble focusing, give them a prompt to focus on. Ask students to observe the ground for five minutes, then the air, then look for signs of animals, then plants, etc.

    What do you see? How does it move? Asking students to observe, describe, write, and draw will help unleash their natural curiosity and help you decide what to teach next!

  • Students should have some time to sit and draw or write, as well as some time to walk around and explore. Give students boundaries, but allow them to move freely within those boundaries. If one student finds something particularly interesting (a spider web, a puddle, a live animal), you may want to re-gather the class so they all have the chance to see it.
  • When you return to the classroom, have students share what they saw and any questions they may have. Some questions may be answered during the course of your regular curriculum, while others may merit extra research by the class. Take note of which topics they were interested in; these could provide ideas for what to focus on next.

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