Saturday, September 27, 2014

Scientists at Work

This week we took our annual fall walk in County Farm Park with Naturalist Faye Stoner.  

Getting out in the world and learning from local experts is one part of the science curriculum for the 1st and 2nd grade students.  

On this particular expedition, Faye showed us many examples of the "magic" in nature.  

We found a hickory tussock moth caterpillar.  Many children knew that the caterpillar would make a chrysalis or cocoon and become a moth or a butterfly but what happens inside the cocoon? Faye explained how in the cocoon the caterpillar turns into a liquid substance that realigns and then forms into a moth or butterfly.

Next, we looked for and found many acorns.  Holding them near a large oak tree made us ponder, how something that can fit in your hand can grow into a tree that towers over your head.

Bushwhacking off the path brought us to a prairie. There were many plants with leaves that were a wide range of colors.  Faye explained that the chlorophyll covers up all the other colors of the leaves during the  summer. In the fall the green pigment recedes and the other colors are revealed. It seems like magic.

The final task, was to collect specimens.  In pairs, children took nets, swishing them through the grasses to collect bugs and insects.  Once the specimens were collected the nets were emptied onto a sheet and insects found were caught in boxes.  After observing the wide variety of creatures collected, the specimens were released back into their habitat.


More about Science

Children notice, wonder why, experiment, and talk about what they find.  They are naturally interested in finding out about the world around them.  Since the goal of science is to understand the natural world, through the process know as scientific inquiry, children need guidance and structure to put their natural curiosity into a scientific framework.

In early elementary, it is important to foster this natural curiosity while introducing scientific methods and processes: observing, classifying, measuring, predicting, and experimenting.  Since abstract, concrete operational thought does not begin to emerge till adolescence, young children need a "discovery approach" to science learning.  Science needs to be "hands-on" and emphasize the  how to think rather than the what to know.  It should encourage children to become astute observers, problem solvers, and creative thinkers.  

The way discovery science looks in and out of the classroom 
-children are actively engaged
-they are interacting with materials and natural specimens
-they are experimenting and exploring
-they are talking to each other about what they see
-they are challenging and contradicting each other about their theories

At Summers Knoll, science activities are primarily taught by the homeroom teacher.  As with all subjects, integrating science with other disciplines such as Art, Literature, Mathematics, etc, helps keep it vital and alive for children.  It helps children understand how various disciplines can be interconnected and how they can enhance each other.

The science curriculum is greatly enhanced by trips to natural areas such as Howell Nature Center, County Farm Park, and the UM Botanical Gardens, and by experts from the community like Naturalist Faye Stoner.

This year the first and second graders are also fortunate to have one hour a week of designated "Science with Shan".  Shan has developed many science programs for SK summer camps and has training in science programs such as Project Wild.  Over the year, we will be doing many fascinating activities with Shan, like the ones we did already on states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases.

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