Daily Schedule

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Art and Science of Nature

Once a week, on Thursday mornings, we head down to the science lab for a lesson with Shan. We also do formal and informal science in the classroom and, of course, outside. In the first and second grade, children are learning some important skills that will benefit them as they get older. Children seem to naturally love science, as long as we adults don't "ruin" it for them by giving them dry facts to memorize. At this age, they want and NEED to explore in a meaningful (relating often to their own lives) and hands-on way.

In the classroom, science happens when we take care of our worm bin, asking questions about what worms like to eat, how they reproduce, and what conditions are most suitable. We will examine, describe, and record observations. It also happens when we plant herb seeds for a future wonderland tea party, or make our terrariums, or bake bread. Children are indeed natural scientists and love to ask questions and make careful observations.

In the science lab, we have been working on making predictions, exploring objects, asking questions, describing, and recording. In fact, I found this list online, and it does a great job of summing up what scientific inquiry is and what skills we are developing. We:

  • Explore objects, materials, and events.
  • Raise questions.
  • Make careful observations.
  • Engage in simple investigations.
  • Describe (including shape, size, number), compare, sort, classify, and order.
  • Record observations using words, pictures, charts, and graphs.
  • Use a variety of simple tools to extend observations.
  • Identify patterns and relationships.
  • Develop tentative explanations and ideas.
  • Work collaboratively with others.
  • Share and discuss ideas and listen to new perspectives.


This morning, Shan led a discussion to find out how much we already knew about leaves. It turns out we already had a good bit of prior knowledge, due to our recent nature walk with Faye and a book I just happened to read this morning. Children were able to articulate that chlorophyll made leaves green, and in the Fall the chlorophyll fades to allow us to see the other colors that have always been there. As one child said, it almost seems like magic!

Students were tasked to find at least 10 leaves with different attributes - color, shape, size, texture. We ended up with a fine assortment of leaves, some of which we could identify - maple, oak, lambs ear.


Once back in the lab, students sorted leaves using just one attribute. In this case, the attribute was color.




We talked about the parts of the leaves. Students observed that they could see a stem and veins. To make our observations even clearer, we did leaf rubbings. Many of these turned out to be beautiful works of art.




We loved this so much, I promised that we could do this again at a future free time. We are also pressing leaves and will dip them in melted wax in order to create a lovely decorative element for our classroom.

1 comment:

Christopher Matthews said...

I really dig this, especially the art-science combo.

To be more specific and pedantic: I value how this activity shows that both science and art are modes of close observation, that both are kinds of critical thinking. Sometimes you need the scientific method to clarify something intuited through art, and sometimes you need art to make real and legible -- and beautiful -- something gleaned through scientific analysis.

In short: you rock, Susan. Thanks for letting us get these great glimpses into the work you do!