Daffodil Bulb Planting has been a tradition of my fourth grade classes since 2002. To begin understanding this project, I sat my students down on the floor to explain through story telling what happened on September 11th, 2001 from my memory.
The story behind the lesson: In 2002, one year after 9-11, fourth grade planted their first planting of yellow daffodils around the old 1908 Elementary building in memory of those involved in 9-11 because a teacher decided it was a little something that would express our remembrance. They all reflected on the past year just before planting them, talking about how our nation was strong and resilient, like the bulbs that would face the cold winter. They predicted what they would see in the spring and were in instructed on how they should plant the bulbs. All along the fence line in the school yard, the first bulbs were buried and lovingly danced upon as kids did the “daffodil stomp” to ensure pesky squirrels wouldn’t dig them up. They wrote about their experience as a narrative and predicted what they would see. In the spring, the daffodils did not disappoint them. They popped up and showed their glorious blooms mid April. They wrote again about the experience of planting flowers in memory of 9-11 and of spreading beauty in their community. The tradition has gone on since that time. Some bulbs have not returned.
Ten years later, the community came together on Saturday 9-11-11 and planted one bulb in the woods next to the middle school for every life lost. Hundreds of community members made up of, parents and children, Scouts, Master Gardeners, Garden Club, fire department and school administration participated. Now there is a carpet of gold in the woods every spring, multiplied from that first planting. And so the tradition continues.
Now, we are not only learning about the importance of community and beautifying it, but also learning about the miraculous bulb structure that allows it to bloom in the spring.
Literature Connection: When I finished talking about 9-11 and our reasons for the bulb project, I told them I wanted to share a literature connection. It would be a text to self connection and that I could connect the message of this lesson and the premise for our own community bulb planting project.
I read to students the Daffodil Principle. We discussed its meaning and how it connects to understanding that never giving up on a challenge and moving forward after a tragedy are important qualities to possess and develop within ourselves.
My students were asked to get out their interactive notebooks and make sure that they had a fresh right and left side pages in front of them for their next science adventure. Today it would be about the daffodil bulbs they would soon be planting. To help them separate facts and information, this notebook is separated so that the right side contains just the facts and the left is for sketching and thoughts associated with the lesson.
I told them that in order to plant the bulbs and participate fully, I wanted them to know as much as they could about bulbs. I assigned the reading from Bulb Basics, a great website from the University of Illinois on their iPads. I told students to look for any vocabulary words they didn't know, list them on their right side of the notebook as they silently read using their iPads to glean as much information as they could about bulbs. They were to read to the word "Corms" and stop. This could be done as whole class on the SmartBoard if one-on-one technology devices are not accessible.If I had to do that, I would instruct each student to share unfamiliar words as we would read the text together, gathering new vocabulary. I told them to look at any captions or boxes and drawings to reinforce their informational text reading comprehension.
I asked them to answer the following questions as they read: What IS a bulb? and list that question on the right side of the page and answer it by looking back at their reading. I waited for them as they silently read and worked on their active reading and roved the classroom to check on their progress.
Technology Differentiation: I set one student's iPad to "read aloud" because the text was far above her reading level. I simply logged onto her iPad, tapped settings and then to accessibility. I set the reading to a rate that she could understand well. This made reading the difficult text much more enjoyable and helped her with comprehension and word pronunciation.
Students shared what they thought were the most important points as I listed important points about bulbs on the right side of our notebooks. We gathered a list of unfamiliar vocabulary that included words like "perennial", "dormant" and "nutrient reserves." It was important to clarify the meaning of these words in order to fully understand the text and the function of the bulb.
After we had shared the information we gleaned from the text and decided what was most important to list in the right side of our notebooks, I passed out a bulb to each child. I explained that I wanted them to sketch their bulb exactly as they see it. I wanted them to label each part that they see, using the Bulb Basics article. This was their evidence of how the bulb has specific external structures that help it survive.
I asked them if they could see the flower bud or the leaf sprout? They all replied that they could not. I told them that they should not use that in their description and drawing as illustrated in the Bulb Basics illustration,but to sketch their evidence from examining the real bulb. They finished their sketch of the bulb and labeling it properly. I roved the classroom looking for their evidence on the left side of their notebooks and notes on the right.
I asked students to share "What you never knew before." One student shared how interesting that he never knew they existed. Another student really liked explaining how bulblets form. They used words like "tunicate", dormant and noted that there were 5 kinds of bulbs. These are the things I had hoped they would glean from their reading. I wanted them to use the knowledge they learned from their reading and the evidence to deduce which direction the bulb would go in the ground in order for it to grow. I was pleased with their response because it proved they could use what they had read, observed and drawn to come up with the correct answer. We closed our lesson today with understanding that we would be planting the bulbs tomorrow next to the bike path on the forest line. We would study more about bulbs and learn about 9-11.