Outside In!

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I do not know the name of this plant.  I grew it from a single leaf.  It is aromatic and the leaves are covered in fine hairs.  It is incredibly soft to touch.

Today I spent lunch time in a school staff room.  There were no staff in it (they were working through their lunch hour; nothing new there then!)  I was using the photocopier and had to smile to myself as everytime a member of staff popped into the room they said exactly the same thing.  “Brrr, it’s cold out there!”  I know that I have said that there is no such thing as unsuitable weather.  However, there really are some days when one is much less likely to go outside for a lesson than others: the wind blows not only paper but any other resource (maybe even the odd small child) around; it is too cold to stand and listen to simple instructions; it is not only raining but it is raining so hard that it hurts your face!  I am not saying that you wouldn’t go out in these kinds of weathers, but I am saying that you are much less likely to choose to take your class outside.

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This one is even hairier!  I bought it cheaply from Aldi’s last spring.

Maybe it is on days like this that we appreciate the ways that we have made room for ‘outdoors’ in the classroom.  On Saturday I wrote about our class experience of feeding the birds so that they could be easily seen from inside.  Another way of bringing the outdoors inside is to have a nature table.  Yet another way is to have a selection of plants in the room.  However, plants are inclined to die if not watered regularly enough and there must be more than one teacher whose plants have died during a particularly busy part of the term (Christmas plays, report writing, OFSTED; it is a hazardous business being a pot plant in a classroom).

This is where succulents come in.  They come in a range of sizes, shapes and colours and can cope with prolonged periods of teacher stress (and school holidays)!  However, they do keep growing and can become too big for the windowsill and less attractive than when they were originally introduced to the classroom.  Fortunately they take so easily from cuttings that you can make new plants and throw the older ones away (I don’t feel too guilty about this as the cuttings are clones of the original plant).

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A tray of succulents at various stages of development.

Succculents  are a wonderful way to practice sorting and classifying living things.  They are also a good starting point for exploring the adaptations of plants to dry and arrid conditions.  This selection have all adapted in a variety of ways to conserve moisture and to deter hungry animals.

They are also a fantastic first experience of taking cuttings as they rarely fail.  With a little advance planning they are a great way for children to make Mother’s Day gifts or build a collection of plants to sell at a school Fayre.

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I have more plants than I know what to do with here!

How do you bring the outside into your classroom?

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