I ask students to sit on the meeting place rug to start leaning about a new science topic, trees.
As the students sit down, I tell them that we are going to go on a short walking field trip around our school campus to explore trees.
I begin by giving the students the rules of the field trip.
"When we are walking around the school, we need to stay together as a group. We need to be respectful of the other classes who are still in their rooms working so our voices should not be shouting and yelling. While we are walking around, I will stop you at various places to have you observe some trees. While we are observing the trees, you may chat with your friends about what you see or feel. Remember that we should not disturb nature so we aren't going to pull anything off of the trees. We can look with our eyes and feel with our hands but please do not pull things off."
The students are typically very excited to do these types of activities because they get to leave the classroom and we don't always get to do that. It is important to set the rules before heading out so that the students know what the expectations are ahead of time.
I ask students, "Please get in line to go outside." I explain to them that we will be near streets and that is it essential that everyone stay on the sidewalks.
We begin to walk outside through the front doors of the school. We will make a circle around the school building, which will be an entire block. As we walk around the school, we will run in to several bushes, plants and trees of all types and sizes.
At the first stop, we observe a tree with flowers. I choose this stop for the specific reason that the tree has flowers so that we can talk about that. We will learn about trees with flowers and which season that happens in. The next stop I plan because it is a group of deciduous trees with leaf buds. The students observe this and we are able to talk through that. The last stop, we see pine trees with many pinecones. This hits on our evergreens.
I have already chosen which stops we will make to observe the trees we see. I have chosen certain areas since we have a very diverse landscape and the students will be able to see different types at each stop. It is important to take the route first, before taking students so that you have a plan and it saves time in the long run.
While we are at each stop, I ask students to take a look at what they see. I ask them to feel the trees or plants in the area. We use our senses so that when we go back in the room, the students are able to use that information with the journal work.
This process is repeated for several different areas around the block.
In order to get the students' attention at each stop, I stop walking, wait for the other students to stop and gather around and I count backwards from 5 with my hand in the air. There is the verbal cue and the visual cue of my fingers counting to get the students ready to listen.
Students talk along the way and are very excited to see that because it is spring, there are flowers on the trees. It would be a great lesson to do in the Fall if you live in an area that has fall foliage.
As we make it back around the block to the front of the school, we go back into the classroom and I ask students to sit at their seats.
Their science notebooks are sitting on their desks.
I ask students to open to the next free page in their journals and draw a picture of two types of trees that they saw on their walk around the school.
I give the students about 10 minutes to work on this.
At the front of the room, I have two large pieces of chart paper hanging on the board. On one is a picture of a deciduous tree and the other a picture of an evergreen. I do not, however, introduce these words to the students yet.
I explain the definition of a tree to the students.
"A tree is a usually tall plant that has a thick, wooden stem and many large branches." (definition taken from Merriam-Webster)
I show them the charts and tell them that there are two different types of trees that we will be learning about in this unit.