Water Up!

With a rainy day ahead of us we made the decision to cancel our Friday tide pool field trip because of the great possibility that a storm could prevent us from seeing very much. Disappointed, Grade 1 came to school on Friday wishing the day could have gone differently. But every disappointment can also be a great teacher.  Perhaps not the disappointment itself, but the reason for it- Rain!

I rejoice in every rainy day.  There is no need to water the garden.  Plants seem to come alive.  Fungus starts its decomposing action (and I hope for some chanterelles as I write this). Water is the one thing Astrobiologists keep looking for on other planets as proof that extra-terrestrial life exists, because they have identified that one part of our natural world as contributing to all its other parts. So how do plants use water?  Where does it go?

As Grade 1 students entered the classroom that day, the teachable moment was upon them.  How does rain better our lives, even when it changes our plans?  Celery, food coloring, and water can help us see just that.  But what about celery’s cousin, fennel?  Or a similar looking leek? What about some beautiful white petaled Gerber daisies?  We placed every testable plant (with their natural colors of green and white) in vases full of colored water.  In the daisy vase we put both red and blue, hoping for purple, and the rest only red.

Today we found out what happened.  Grade 1 peeked inside the classroom as they passed by the door to line up.  As they came in, walking past the plants at the front table, there was an urge to look longer, to start the investigation as soon as possible.  But the investigation had to be better than just looking at the plants on the table.  After some detailed direction and armed with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, Grade 1 students were invited to look closer at each plant at their tables.  They pulled them apart, pulled out the veins, smelled them, and wondered at all their unique parts as much as the evidence of the path water took to get all through the plant.  With detailed and labeled drawings students recorded their observations.

During investigations like this, there are always outcomes I expect students to reach- like seeing the red veins of the celery plant to understand water’s path through a plant.  But despite all the planning there are always things that happen in a group, ways students build on each other’s investigations, that takes what we all learn to levels beyond what I hope for.  Its those parts of teaching that I love the best- that I have a chance to learn something new too!

Look at all these plant insides the students brought to the camera!  Wonder-Full!

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