Posted by: jwhiff | October 15, 2010

Patience and Practice: Making Gains in Observations

Well, I stuck to my plans and continued to focus on figuring out how to observe.  I gave them all some practice with observing a leaf up close and attempting first to sketch it, and second to write notes on parts that they could not represent in the drawing.

It is funny how challenging it is for so many to really look closely and notice the ways the lines all come together in a leaf.  I thought it might be a little too simple for most kids, but I was wrong.  When I noticed that they really had difficulty looking carefully and were instead simply drawing what they assumed should be there, I encouraged them to make a rubbing of the leaf to expose the intricate patterns of lines made by the veins.  This was helpful for many kids, although overwhelming for others!  There is so much to draw!

In the end, their sketches were beautiful and they were able to either identify their leaf as either being either from a poplar tree or a red alder.  The next day, I took them back out into the forest with very clear expectations for their behaviour and work.  They settled very well and were engrossed (thankfully!) in their work.  Some were still overwhelmed by the task.  There was just so much to take in!  It is really hard to focus on just one small item.

I have to admit that I feel a little funny focusing on sketching in science.  I didn’t think I’d have to invest this much time!  However, it is really worth while.  There are not many times when kids get the chance to really slow down and focus like this.  Life moves so quickly with so many flashy pictures and fast-moving plots.  Everyone is always running from one activity to the next.

My next step is to begin to add journalling as a component of their observations.  I read the “Whale Watcher’s Diary” with my grade 4’s today and they immediately identified with the whale watchers.  Observing is very important.  Anyway, it is nice to make the connections.

I am excited to take the kids on their first excursion to the Inlet on Thursday.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

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