Feeding Plants!


Last week I planted out some broad bean plants.  They were getting too big for their pots and really needed to be moved to their permanent home.


They had strong roots which had grown beyond the pot in search of ……                                      Well, what were they in search of?  We might say that they were in search of nutrition, or even food, but is that true?  Sure, as well as using their roots to draw up water plants take up vital minerals and micronutrients through their roots.  However, we know that a plant’s main source of nutrition is sunlight; they make their own food.  Nevertheless, for the last few weeks I have been adding a liquid fertiliser every so often as I watered them to keep them healthy until they were planted out.  When I did this I would talk about ‘feeding’ them, or used the term ‘liquid feed’.  In fact, although the plants would have developed yellow leaves and grown more slowly if I had not ‘fed’ them this would have been due to the lack of micronutrients rather than food, just as we would become ill if we did not have enough of the right sort of vitamins even if we had enough food overall.

When I am working with children I am aware that they frequently have a misconception that plants get food through their roots, and realise that the language that I (and others) use does nothing to help them learn that plants are ‘primary producers’ as they do not need to rely on another living thing as a food source in the way that animals and fungi do. I try and choose my words carefully, but no doubt from time to time children will hear me talking about feeding my plants!  As educators I think that we need to be aware that the way  we use language can make it harder for children to learn what they need to know.

In other news, as I promised I would three weeks ago, I have finally got around to drawing a name from a hat (March has been an incredibly hectic month).  Tracy you are the lucky winner of The Stick Book and I will be in touch with you to arrange giving you your prize.


Newly planted broadbeans ready to start photosynthesising



Birthorpe Walk 053.JPGJust lately I have spent a lot of time looking up at the sky, and noticing how differnt it looks from day to day and from moment to moment.

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I remember a colleague at my old school who took her whole Y2 class outside to lay on the playgound and watch the clouds.  More recently a colleague in my new work place told me about a lesson when she did exactly the same with her Y5 class.

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And yet I have worked with other people who say things like

“We haven’t got time to be faffing about like that; there is so much curriculum to cover!”

So sad!  I have tried to say to these people

“You haven’t go time not to be faffing around like this when there is so much curriculum to cover!”

But my arguments fall on deaf ears.  And I do understand where these sentiments come from.  People who work in schools feel under incredible pressure to cover a vast amount of material.

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It is no wonder that people feel pressurised to find materials that cover the learning objectives as exactly as possible. That way no time is wasted teaching anything that doesn’t need to be covered.  It does seem common sense that if one concentrates on what needs to be taught it is likely to be taught more exactly and thoroughly than if one is diverted by other things.

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However, lessons mapped exactly to the learning objectives can often be dry and uninspiring.  The curriculum may be faithfully covered but it may not be reliably learned.  Lessons that go off on tangents and follow the interests of children and teachers or which respond to the world around are much more likely to be memorable.  They are also likely to make connections with learner’s current understanding; learning is likely to be deeper and more meaningful.

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My colleague’s class of Y2s after spending time watching clouds, watching a dvd about the water cycle, watching a kettle boil and taking part in a drama activity about the water cycle went on to write some of the best science writing I have ever seen from such young children.  Not just one or two children in the class; nearly every child produced a piece of work of which they and their teacher could be justifiably proud.  This was not only in terms of their science learning but their English too.  In fact a science subject leader who had come to work with me asked if the literacy subject leader from her school could come and spend some time with us as well.

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My colleague wasn’t only deviating slightly from the curriculum; she was completely off piste!  The water cycle was definitely not on the Y2 curriculum.  And yet the children’s education would have been much poorer if she had not taken that risk; not taken the time to really explore something that fascinated both her and the class.

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My colleague was an extremely experienced teacher and had been teaching for more than thirty years.  No doubt this gave her the confidence to teach in a way that she knew would work whatever current curriculum guidelines might suggest.  However, I believe that all teachers, and their pupils, could learn from her experience.