Washington State Science standards are very clear and explicit in defining that students will learn and become competent in recognizing the life cycle from birth to death in plants and animals. (2 LS1A and B).
My community is an agricultural community. We grow a large amount of fruit that is exported world wide. Because of this, many of the students in my classroom depend in one form or another on the crops we grow. Our crops are very dependent upon this insect. Honey bees help our growers to ensure that our apples and other fruit crops continue to thrive and grow. It is important for the students to understand what huge role the honey bee plays in our community. Learning about it's life cycle is one way to bring this connection out.
"Boys and girls, yesterday we learned about the life cycle of the ladybird beetle. I would like you to practice making some inferences and use that information to make some predictions about another insect that is pretty important in the insect world."
"I am going to bring each of your teams four picture cards. When you see them, you will realize right away that they are something very familiar to you. I would appreciate if the team leaders would be in charge of the pictures. Remember you job is to work as a team to decide what order you would like to put this in. You should be able to make an inference from the lesson before to help you make these predictions."
I want the children to begin to see the Cross Cutting Connection of Patterns in this lesson. It is important to have the children observe the patterns in the natural world of life cycles. This is why the repetition in the ladybug, butterfly and honey bee life cycle lessons is so important.
I pass out the cards and hear comments such as...."These are representations. They aren't real pictures" and "We learned about this in the ladybird lesson."
I watch as the children puzzle out the order of the picture cards. Most of the teams are able to put them in order. At this point in the year, there are still groups of teams that struggle with communicating and sharing their ideas nicely and respectfully. This can be a deterrent in reaching the goal of organizing learning when respect is not at the forefront. I specifically had the children work in teams again to continue to push them to work on this skill.
As the hum in the classroom begins to die down, I ring my bell and wait for all eyes to be on me. I begin asking questions.....
Most of my questions are simple recall questions. I simply want to activate their prior knowledge. So the question do not need to be deep questions.
In the next phase of the lesson, I hand each team another set of pictures. These are actual photographs and not illustrations. I want the children to make a distinction between the photographs and the illustrations. The pictures are the same phases of the life cycle as the illustrations in the Engage section. However, this time with a bit more detail in the photo, the children are able to put the organization of the life cycle in the correct order quickly.
There is value in showing the differences between illustrations and real pictures. It helps the children to use the Cross Cutting Concept of Scale and Proportion. Being able to distinguish between a real photograph and a representational image is important because the scale of the object being observed may not be accurate. It takes practice to recognize the differences.
This time my questions are deeper and I am looking for more understanding from the children.
I have team leaders from each team come and place their predictions of the life cycle on the document camera and share with the class their teams thinking.
My goal is to have the children articulate how they organized the pictures and rationalize their thinking.
After having time to explore and make predictions about the life cycle of the honey bee, I gather all the children on the carpet close to the Smart Board. I have a chart paper ready to create a pictorial input chart.
I chose to have a sketch of a Honey Bee on my chart for this lesson. While I am sketching and adding all the essential parts of the honey bee, I am explaining to the students why all the body parts of the honey bee are so important. This allows me to focus on the Cross Cutting Concept of Systems and System Models. I want the students to understand that they honey bee cannot function within the environment without all the parts of it's body. Especially, because some of the body parts, such as the wax glands and the pollen baskets are critical to allowing the bee to perform its job in nature.
During the sketching period of these two body parts, I am leading the conversation asking the children what they believe would happen if the honey bee did not have either of these two body parts. My hope is that they will be able to say, "the bee would survive, however, it would not be able to gather pollen or help in the process to pollinate flowers."
It is helpful to describe the honey bee in terms of its body parts and their functions which will become essentially important in the subsequent unit to follow; the Apple Unit.
During the lesson, each time I am beginning to outline a new part to the honey bee's body, the children are sharing their ideas of what the part may be. Because we have learned about other insects, the children are beginning to make their own inferences and connections. This is great because they are taking that prior learning and beginning to predict what body parts the honey bee has based on their learning of other insects body parts. Because most insects have similar body parts, they are correct on most of their predictions.
After the children had the opportunity to listen and absorb the new information about the honey bee, I asked them to turn and talk to a partner. I wanted them to share with each other what they discovered was similar between the honey bee life cycle and the life cycle of the ladybird beetle that we had explored the day before.
It was easy to hear the conversations and I overheard many children saying things like...."they both have four stages" and "they each begin with an egg."
I was happy to hear that they had made these connections. This information was important to make sure they were beginning to see the patterns in life cycles. Which again, brought in another Cross Cutting Concept of patterns in nature. Being able to draw upon the relationships that all insects have many similar body parts and even experience the same patterns within their life cycles will be a strong connection to helping the children to understand that most of life is cyclical pattern. This will become a recurring theme in Second Grade.
When conversations were finished, I asked the children to head back to their tables and get out their journals. I had one last task for them to complete. I wanted them to sketch out their own personal understanding of the life cycle of the honey bee. I wanted this for one specific reason, articulating the information was important, but I needed to see how they saw the life cycle visually. The question I had in my mind was..."Did they see the cycle as linear or circular?" This would be a formative assessment that would help to guide where I would go with the last lessons on the life cycle of the butterfly.