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Wondering about trees

Wondering about trees

At Opal School we believe in nurturing a sense of wonder and strive to do that in many different ways. One way we do that is by having science talks where children openly engage in dialogue around a specific question. Science talks allow children to consider a question and share their theories with their community. By doing so they are co-constructing theories, sharing and thinking out loud with one another, collaborating and playing with ideas, and revising and re-considering what might make sense.

Recently, we had a science talk to further explore some of the things children had been saying in the studio as they were working on large paintings of arboretum trees they've been coming to know. For example:

Carole: Do the trees know you are visiting them?

Tyler: No they can’t talk
Maxine: Trees don’t know anything. They have no brains
Tyler: Yeah, that’s true.
Carole: They don’t know anything?
Both: No.     

We decided to conduct a more formal science talk about the question: "If the trees can't think or if they don't know anything, how do they know when to change the colors of their leaves?"

Here is a part of their discussion:

Sophia: The tree hears and feels that the animals are getting ready for winter so it knows when winter is coming.
Bodhi: I think that the soil tells the roots and the roots tell the trunk, the trunk tells the branches and the branches tell the leaves to fall off and change color.
Max: the tree tells the leaves to change because the leaves feel the wind coming and they fall off or fly. 
Maxine: When it's cold the tree knows how to change. It just changed. I think they can talk like when the wind comes it makes a shhhh sound- a really soft sound- and that's them talking. 
Aoife: I think it just forms. It automatically forms. The soil helps it know when. Even thought it doesn't have a brain, the soil helps it. 
Nicholas: Maybe when the ground gets wet it tells the roots to change. 
Victoria: Because the roots tell the trees and then the leaves fall off because the tree lets go. If the roots are sleeping, the leaves can see the children start to wear coats and know to let go. 
Pearl: The tree sees the animals getting ready so the tree knows that it's time to change. The raccoon says, "It's time to get ready, Tree, for winter to come."
Maliya: It has the earth's choice. The earth decided to. 
Quin: The dirt's freezing so the bugs tell the roots that it's getting colder into fall then the roots tell the tree. Then the tree loses the leaves because they know it's Fall.

We noticed that many of the children responded with theories having to do with the roots and underground. This idea of underground comes up again and will continue to be a piece of how we connect back to this big idea of change. We're also noticing the connections so naturally made between the changes of the tree, the animals, and the weather. The trees seem to be a place for us to focus our conversations around change and they are already paying attention to the interconnectedness of all other things to the trees. Right now we are continuing to have conversations about change and the emotions and feelings that come along with change. We asked the children to consider: "What might the animals be feeling as they prepare for the colder winter weather?" They've done some exploring of this idea with materials in the classroom and also outside in the arboretum, acting out the preparations that might need to take place.