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
What with all this rain, there has certainly been some mud around lately hasn’t there? If you are lucky enough to work in a school which is near a muddy track why don’t you take your class and invite them to see if they can deduce who has been there before? A lot of science involves trying to work out the whole picture from a limited amount of evidence. Astronomers, for example, use faint patterns of light to work out what is in outer space; forensic scientists examine the scene of a crime to ascertain ‘who dunnit’ and geologists and paleontologists find evidence of what happened many thousands of years ago from traces left behind.
How many different vehicle, people and animals have passed this way?
What could possibly have made this track?
What has been happening here?
What made this mark?
Could this be a clue?
If you are unable to take your class to a muddy track perhaps you could take some photographs to show them and then challenge them to take photographs of their own when they are at home? Perhaps they could share them on the school website and challenge others to work out what has happened?
I wonder how often we miss learning opportunites because we see them as problems to be avoided? Look at this patch of lawn which has had a pallet on it for the past couple of weeks. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful chance to encourage children to wonder why the grass had changed colour?
To speculate why the buttercup plants seem much bigger in the part of the lawn that has been covered (on the left) with that which has been uncovered. To wonder why there are more worm casts in the covered area. Time spent chatting to a child would provide so many assessment opportunities about their understanding about plants and the needs of living things. However, (and I totally hold my hands up to this) so often we would say “Move that from the grass” because, as adults, we already know what will happen and forget to look at our world in the way that a child does. On those rare occasions when we do see the world through child’s eyes there is so much more to learn; however old we are.
Hello there! My name is Jane and until recently I worked as an Early Years and KS1 teacher in a small Lincolnshire school. I’ve always particularly enjoyed science teaching and learning, and recently took on a new role as a ‘Professional Development Leader’ for CIEC at York University. I lead continuing professional development experiences for teachers in all aspects of primary science but my particular loves are Early Years and the Outside Classroom.
Is there anything in the classroom as captivating as this?
I was expecting about 20 delegates to attend a work shop that I was running at a recent conference, but when over a hundred people turned up (and we had to be hastily moved to a much larger room), I realised that there were lots of people like me who believe in the importance of going outside with children more often. I also realised that they are facing many of the challenges that I have faced and so the idea for this blog was born!
Participants working together to build a den on a recent course.
I must point out that most of the ideas that I plan to share are not mine! Like all good teachers I have spent most of my career
stealing magpieing ideas from others. Nevertheless, these are all techniques and activities that I do know work because I have used them with my own class!