Fall is upon us, and this is beautifully apparent when we hike the trails of our beloved neighbor, the Hoyt Arboretum. We have been taking every possible opportunity to explore, notice and wonder about the changes that are happening outside our classroom doors. From the vibrant colors, to the crisp air, to the fresh smell, we have been exploring this exciting season with all of our senses!
As we revel in the beauty and amazement that this season brings, we also embrace the opportunity to dig deeper and wonder further. The excitement is heavily upon trees and leaves and what is happening to them during this time of the year. During our hikes, the children have shown curiosity as they wonder: "Why do leaves change color?" "Why do leaves fall off the trees?' "How do they know when to fall?" "How do they get back on the trees?".
We brought several leaves inside our classroom to get a closer look and "become friends" with the leaves. We did this by looking closely at the leaves, noticing the interesting things that lives inside the leaves, drawing the leaves and capturing their magical colors with watercolors.
After we took the time to get to know the leaves, we brought some of the children's wonderings to the group in the form of a "Science Talk." A Science Talk is a structure we use at Opal School to provoke thinking and to build shared understanding of a scientific question that we think the children might have some theories about. This structure is one of the ways we encourage children to be researchers and co-creators of their own learning. We invite them to pay attention to their wonderings and to connect their thinking to the ideas of their peers. This is one example of how we get a window into the children’s thinking, learn more about what they already know and what they wonder about.
As teacher-researchers, we decided to have our first Science Talk on leaves and what we are noticing outside on our hikes. We gathered the children one day and asked them to share some of their ideas and theories around a question we overheard while outside. Here is our first "Science Talk" on the wondering "How do leaves know when to fall?":
What is happening outside right now?
S.P.: Lily got cut down
A.H.: It is winter, fresh air
C.G.: The leaves are changing
L.B.: It is blowing and it is windy
D.W.: That means it is Autumn
J.L.: The leaves are turning colors
S.P.: Leaves are falling off the trees
C.G.: Some people are getting sick
F.D-L.: Some trees are getting cut down
Nicole: …I really want you to think about something, how do the leaves know when to fall?
C.G.: They first get red and then they get looser and then they fall.
C.C.: God tells them to come off.
D.M.: Maybe the wind blows them off
S.P.: They get looser and looser and looser until there is just only one string and then the guys cut the string.
S.P.: The workmen
F.D-L.: The leaves know to come off because it is windy
Marcy: How do they know it is windy?
F.D-L.: Maybe they have a brain somewhere
J.L: Maybe it is in the middle
S.P.: Maybe it is the lines
L.B.: They know when to fall because they do it on their own, you don’t have to pick them off.
S.P: They see other leaves fall off and then they know to fall
A.H.: I think the leaves come off and the wind blows them down. When the wind is blowing it blows them off.
R.S.: I think they know when to come off when the other leaves go in a circle and fall down
A.H.: The spring wind is gentle, maybe the fall wind is a strong wind so it makes them fall.
F.D-L.: This is funny, but maybe the ghosts tell them.
L.H.: I think I know why the leaves fall off, when it is the right time they fall off and they want to go home.
Nicole: Where is home?
L.H: In nature
Marcy: How do they know when it is the right time?
L.H.: Whenever they need to.
C.C.: Maybe the skunks tell them because the skunks live in the wild too. They know it is fall and they might see trick or treaters.
We then invited the children to capture their theories and ideas in their journals. Through drawing, the children are able to find another way to communicate understanding and thinking. This allows them to discover and share ideas that might not be expressed by words alone.
"The skunk is calling to the tree and the thunder cloud is striking the tree becaus he doesn't want Halloween to come. The skunk yells, "Leaves come off." They fall."
-C.C., age 5
"A train named Belle tells the leaves to fall because they don't know it's fall. Belle knows because the leaves are changing into different colors."
-D.M., age 4
"The leaves won't fall. I don't want them to fall. If I was a leaf, I would never fall. Then they fall because the wind blows them."
-D.W., age 4
We will continue to wonder and explore the children's ideas and theories as we continue to look closely at the "whys" and "hows" of our world outside.