As the year progresses, kindergarteners are planning their first investigation. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations is Practice 3 in the Next Generation Science Standards. September is an excellent month to learn this practice because in Missouri the season is beginning to change. The students will plan a nature walk.
As the teacher, I have to engage in pre-planning for a fruitful nature walk. I have preselected bird watching theme for our nature walk. To engage the students and incorporate the use of scientific tools I have obtained resources from the Missouri Department of Conservation, which has a local Discover Center. I will use The Center's traveling trunk which includes students and adult binoculars, bird field guides, books, posters, plans and videos. I also seek assistance from parents and other adults in my building to participate in the walk. I make my plans accordingly, depending on the level of parent involvement in the classroom. I be the only adult who must manage student behavior and tend to safety concerns.
I suggest seeking your state's department of conservation for assistance. Start with this U.S. Department of Agriculture link. They provide free materials for educators. It's an excellent resource.
I allow my students to take ownership of the investigation by seeking their input.
I use the computer to record the students input. They get tremendous joy out of seeing what they said displayed on the ENO Board for everyone to see. Beginning the plan with who, what, why, when, where, and how is a good start. We discuss where to walk and how long we will stay on our journey. The logistics of the walk must be planned: restroom use, water, and sun screen. I ask the students, "When should we go on the walk, in the morning or the afternoon?" "What should we look for on the walk?" "Where should we walk?"
It's just a walk but a walk with a purpose that is sure to be great fun and result in many discoveries. It is true that we will be looking for birds and items related to birds but, I have to have a contingency plan if the bird trunk does not arrive on time. If that should happen, I have magnifying boxes that students can put their findings in. Our collected items from the nature walk can be put into categories and we investigate and obersve found objects. Flexibility is key to my success.
Finally, we discuss how we will record our observations. The students agree to carry their science notebooks and collect objects in observation boxes. They will draw their observations while on the walk. I will take photographs. We will all share our findings the day after the walk during our next science lesson, Sharing Your Findings.
The science notebooks for the nature walk will include several lined pages. The students will include the date in the top right hand corner of the notebook. It is written numerically i.e. 8-1-14. (Writing the date like this was addressed during prior calendar lessons.) The students will make quick sketches of their observations. At this point in our science lessons, the key components of a science notebook are the date and the actual recordings. During the initial stages of learning the science process, the science notebook is merely a place to contain drawings of student observations because few kindergarteners are actually writing at the beginning of the year.