The Power of Observation

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Objective

The SWBAT write observations using their senses.

Big Idea

Making careful observations is not only fun, it is powerful!

Teacher Notes

Activity Description:

The children will each get a flower to observe. They will use their power of observation to gather information about it and to pose questions.  They will learn how to take notes on an organizer.  The notes will be used in the next lesson. 

Note:

This activity is jammed packed with lots of good learning.  It will take two days to complete plus an extended period of time.  Gear up for some great hands-on fun!

 

Materials:

  • 1 flower for each student  (*or an alternative object--see below)
  • 1 vial and vial cap for each student
  • My Observation Flower Chart--one per student
  • magnifying glasses-- I used one per child, but the kids can share if you don't have that many

 

Teacher Advanced Preparation

To prepare for this activity, I went out to my garden the night before and picked 24 flowers for the class, one for each child.  I tried to pick all different types of flowers.  I just put them all in a vase for the night.  When I got to school, I put a little bit of water in a vial and capped the vial with a lid with a hole in the middle.  I already had the vials, all I had to do was use a paper punch to put a hole in the middle of the cap (see photo).  Then I was able to put the flower right in that hole.   I learned the hard way, if the vial tips it over, papers get wet!  Here's a Photo of flowers--Ready to go!

Note: Now I know I am lucky to have a lovely garden to get the flowers from and not everyone would have this option.  But I bet you know someone who has a garden and is willing to share, especially for kids' learning.  If not, you could use alternate objects, such a rocks or seashells.  There are many possibilities, just make sure the items are unique in some way.


Engage!

5 minutes

This is such a fun activity!  The children are going to get a chance to observe and take notes about something they are interested about.  To start things out, I review concepts learned from previous lessons, plus try to get them excited about learning.  

"Who would like to observe and write notes like a real scientist?  I bet all of you!  Today we are going to do just that!  Yesterday we learned about being a careful observer (see link).  We learned about observing with our senses.  We also learned that there are 2 different types of data, qualitative and quantitative.  Well today you are going to have an unusual opportunity.  You are going to get a chance to use some of those skills you learned and practiced yesterday. You are all going to get a treasure from my garden to observe and take notes on an organizer."

For practice, I have the children gather in the front of the room so everyone has an opportunity to see one of the red flowers from my garden and can still see the Smartboard.  

I state, "I would like everyone to take a close look at this flower." I hold it up so everyone can easily see it.  "Let's use our observation skills to learn more about this flower, just like we have done in the past. But this time I am going to write down our ideas on My Observation Flower Chart."

I have the chart pulled up on the Smartboard so I can add the notes the children say.

I ask the children to tell me what they have noticed and write it down on the chart.  So you can see what we did and what our flower looked like, here is a Photo of child with cardinal flower we used for an example and the My Observation Flower Chart SAMPLE filled out with the collective responses from my class.  

 

 

Explore!

10 minutes

I set one flower on each child's desk.  I randomly pass out flowers, since having each child choose one would have taken a very long time.   Immediately, they were in love.  You would have thought I gave them a puppy! They already starting doing what I was hoping.   I then encourage the children to observe their flower in many different ways.  They may smell it, listen to it, touch it, but they may NOT taste it.  Checking their flower out and then comparing it to others.  I just need to hone in on this, have them clarify what they are naturally doing and be cognizant of it.

I state, "I gave each of you a treasure from my garden.  Each one of you have a flower, but you have different colors, patterns, styles, and types.  We have been studying about the power of observation. Who can tell me a way to observe the flower?"  One child raises her hand and says, "It is pretty."  I reply, " Yes, it is pretty.  Can you tell me how you know it is pretty?"  She said, "I looked at it." I still wanted to have her dig a bit deeper so I asked her what sense she used.  She finally gave me the answer I was looking for, "I used my sense of sight."  

"Aww, very good...using your sense of sight was very smart. Let's all use our sense of sight. What could we be looking for using our sense of sight?"  A girl answers,"We could look for patterns." I reply, " Great!  Do any of you see any patterns on your flowers?"  A boy answers, " I see a circle thing in the middle that repeats on the petals."  I ask, "What else could we see besides patterns?" A child answers,"Mine is yellow."  I ask, "Yellow is a type of what?"  The children burst out, "Color!"

I say, "I can tell you are thinking like scientists, great!  So we can see patterns and colors.  Is everyone's flower the same size?" I can see them looking at each other's flowers and comparing. I comment, "I see you are being scientists by comparing the size of your flower to others.  That's because that is what scientists do when they observe.  They compare things to each other to see how they are alike and different."

 

See photo A and  B of children with their flowers.

 

Explanation

10 minutes

I have them record their observations on My Observation Flower Chart.  Click here for a Student Sample- My Flower Observation Chart.

I walk around the room to check on their progress. As I walk around the room I make sure to model my thinking aloud.  I make comparisons to other things in nature.  Here are some examples:

  • Did you notice…?
  • I wonder why that is?
  • Look at this…
  • Let’s look at the underside.
  • Does it remind you of anything else you have seen before?
  • What makes it different from other things you have seen?
  • How is it similar? How is it different?
  • I wonder how this part feels?

 

I am listening to the students' responses to see if they can explain what they are doing.  Modeling by using questions creates an atmosphere where children start following my lead and start doing more questioning on their own.  The ultimate goal is for them to work towards the standard of asking questions that can lead to investigations.  This is a great activity for doing just that (see Photo).  See the Using Observational Skills information sheet further reference.

Elaboration

20 minutes

"I bet you have been noticing details with your eyes.  But here is something else scientists use to help them see even more details.  Does anyone know what this is called?" I hold up a magnifying glass.  A child answers, "It's a magnifying glass, I have one at home to look at bugs.  Mine is built into this dome thingy."  I pointed out that he was absolutely right, it is called a magnifying glass.  I question him further, "How does using a magnifying glass help you?"  He replies, "It makes the bugs look bigger.  I can see their wings better."  I reply, "It is wonderful that you have that experience, lucky you!"

"Today we are all lucky because we are all going to get the chance to use a magnifying glass.  But before we use it, I want to tell you how to use it properly.  First you put the magnifying lens up to your eye and then move the OBJECT until it is in focus."  I demonstrate as I give the directions.  "If you move the lens it can get scratched or damaged easily. Let's practice with an invisible magnifying glass."  I have the children practice putting the invisible lens up to their eyes and then moving an invisible object up to their eyes.  I know this might sound a little silly, but it works! 

I tell the class, "I would like all of you to look again at your flower, but this time with a magnifying glass.  See if there are any details you can now see because you are using this tool.  Is there anything new you notice?"  A girl replies, "I can see little spikey things at the end of the flower.  It is really cool!"  Another child beams, "Mine has a weird yellow thing in the middle."  The class suddenly stirs with new excitement.  The others share their new findings.  I remind them, "Being a scientist, you need to make note of any new details on your chart."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluation/Wrap-Up

5 minutes

For this activity, I evaluate the children as I am walking around and talking with them as they are observing their flower.  I am looking for them to make observations that are detailed.  Since the goal is to get them to practice one of the first steps in any scientific endeavor, they should  at have at least 3 observations in the sight box, and have at least one observation in each of the other boxes.  

We wrap up the day by reviewing our work.  To add some excitement, I pull out a sound buzzer.  It's the kind you push and it makes an interesting buzz.  

I ask, "What are some of the ways we can observe something?"  A child responds, "We can use our senses!"  I have the child push the buzzer.  Since I want them to dig deeper, I ask, "How do our senses help us with our observations?"  A sharp cookie replies, "We can see with our eyes, hear with our ears, feel with our hands, smell with our noses and taste with our mouth, if we have permission."  I exclaimed, "Wow!  You are really a great scientist.  Come up and push the buzzer."  He skips on up and pushes it.  "What kinds of things can we look for with our eyes?" A girl replies, "Designs and patterns."  "Great job," I tell her and hold out the buzzer for her to push.  "Can someone else add to that?  Another girl adds, "Colors and shapes." She pushes on the buzzer. 

"How can the sense of hearing help us?"  A boy answers,  "We can hear if it makes a sound or something.  We can also tell how loud or soft it is." "You know what you get to do," I say as I hold out the buzzer.

"How can using the sense of touch add to our observations?" "We can tell if something is hard, soft or prickly, "says a little girl with pride.  She presses the buzzer.

"How can using the sense of smell add to our observations?" A girl answers, "We can tell if something has a smell or not.  Or if it is stinky."  "Good, come and press the buzzer. "

"The sense of taste is not used as often in science, unless you are a particular kind of scientist.  But it still can help us.  Can someone tell us how?"  A boy answers, "You can tell if it tastes sweet like candy."  He pushes the buzzer.

I can tell by their comments that they have grasped the goal of the lesson--to gain insightful knowledge through observation.  I also realized how important the skill of observation is through teaching this lesson.  Please check out my reflection video for my thoughts.

I commend them and say, "I think we are ready for the next lesson.  Tomorrow we will be using your information on your charts to communicate your ideas with others, just like scientists do.  I can't wait to see how great you do!"