I have been really struggling on how to best attempt our ambitious project for this theme - our own backyard field guide. Last week, we went to the woods with trees in mind - I was thinking that each child could pick a different tree, take a picture of it, sketch parts of it and write their observations. Then we would do the same for fungi, insects, birds, etc. After about 30 minutes, it became clear that this just wasn't going to work (for reasons too numerous to mention here).
Today, Dr. George and I talked with the children and asked them how we could make this work. How can we make a field guide that is interesting to everyone, lets each child do their own work (documentation, research, etc.), and allows for lots of one-on-one teacher-child interaction? Juna thought that perhaps just a few kids with one teacher may work, with the rest of the kids doing something else. Dr. George thought that maybe it would make for a very interesting field guide if each child just found their own special something to include in the guide - so, our guide wouldn't have a tree section, an insect section, etc. - rather, it would have one or two pages done per child about whatever they wanted.
So, today, while 9 of the children stayed with Dr. George to continue their work with chicken bones, 3 children came with me - armed with clipboards, pencils, and my camera. Clementine found an interesting plant with berries, Eli saw several variations of a black walnut, and Oliver took us into the creek to document a miniature water fall. Each one made some sketches and took a photo or two. It was very manageable, worthwhile and fun. These children will make a more detailed drawing, write up their observations and descriptions, and do some additional research about what they found.
Clementine described the above: bright red berries, all connected ... straight stem, no branches ... propped up.
A lesson for this teacher: sometimes two (or three or four) heads really are better than one! This project is taking a slightly different direction than what I originally planned, but I think the process will be much more meaningful to the children. I will continue to take small groups out until everyone has had a turn, and then we will combine our work into a beautiful and useful guide.