I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to their carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the second Science lesson in our unit about the effects of the sun. I explain that we will learn more about how to observe plants and identify the best environment for plants to grow. If needed, we will help to create this environment. To engage the students, I often start the lesson by accessing prior knowledge to connect past lessons to current material.
“Yesterday we went to the garden and saw some plants that need more..." "Sun" "Right, and other need..." "Shade" "Look around our room. Where do you think it will be more warm..by the window where it’s sunny..or the near the sink where it’s shady?” “Window!” “Where you want to spend your time?” I wait for answers from the class. “It depends if we need to be warm or cold.” “Great point. People who work in a garden are called..gardeners. Makes sense, huh? Let's all say ‘gardener’ so we remember the term when we study it more.” "Gardener!" "Gardeners need to know which plants live best in which places. Let's look at this idea a little closer today!" This line of instruction is intended to access prior knowledge and introduce new vocabulary so it’s familiar going forward in the unit.
For this lesson, I introduce a brief video clip that illustrates a professional gardener- similar to the ones they see at school and local garden centers- explaining and creating a shade structure, while explaining which plants need it. While the content is similar to what I would have shared, it’s always nice to vary the delivery to promote engagement. As we watch, I stop to note the parts where important vocabulary and explanations are highlighted.
“Remember in our last lessons, we learned about ways nature provides shade for the plants that need it. When nature can’t..or didn’t..who does it?” “The people” “Yes, people can take the place of nature when there’s a need. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Who can tell me a time when people would need to help out and create shade for a plant?” “Umm..when all the shade was cut off?” “That’s a great scenario. That does happen. And if we are stewards of the earth, we pick up where nature left off, right?” “Right!” “Pay attention to the way the gardener decides which plants need more sun and shade. Any thoughts?" "The plants that needed shade were bigger." "Right, that's because they contain more moisture in the leaves that's needs to be conserved because it helps the plant grow. Now, let’s connect what the gardener did in the video clip to what we can do in our garden!”
"Today, we're going to do another Design Challenge. That always starts with a question. What is the..." "Problem." "Right, what is the problem and how do we..." "Solve it." "How did it work? Last, do we need to make changes? We're doing this because yesterday we went to the garden and saw plants that need more.." I use my hands to make an arc over my head. "Sun" "And then we saw other plants that needed more..." I cover my eyes. "Shade!" "Plants are different, just like people. Plants in our gardens need different amounts of sun. Our design challenge is going to be based on how much sun plants need." "Can we make a house for them?" "That's exactly what we want to do. Think about what that could look like when your thinking about your structure."
• Construction Material (paper, sticks, etc.)
• Glue (optional)
As a form of assessment, I go over the steps without the complete details. As the projects develop, this will tell me who comprehended the instruction from the video and who needs additional support. I take a minute to explain the process they will follow:
• First, use what we’ve learned about the structure of plants to figure out which ones need a shade structure.
• Next, use the Design paper to plan. Collect materials (sticks/supports and cover material) for the construction. (I use the same Design paper for all activities like this. It adds valuable consistency and makes life easier for the teacher!)
• Then, construct the shade structure. Adjust position to make sure it covers the plant.
• Last, secure the foundation so it will stay in the right place.
If your school doesn’t have a garden, consider finding another area with plants- or even houseplants- to implement this lesson. To simplify the logistics, that’s what I choose to do with this lesson. I have a large variety of plants that will be adequate for our needs. If you don’t have anything of your own, consider borrowing some. The plant selection and construction takes about fifteen minutes, although I allow groups to go on if the activity is purposeful and moves their designs forward. I mingle around to check in with the students. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand-clap pattern. I ask the students to leave their structures and return back to their carpet squares before we go to recess.
As a quick Wrap Up, I do a simple review of the process. After we all gather on the carpet squares, I ask “Who can tell how to decide which plants need shade?” “The ones with really thin leaves!” “Who can tell me why?” “The thin leaves can’t keep wet.” “Right…the thicker leaves can retain- keep- moisture for longer periods. The next time you see a plant, think if there’s anything you can do to make it’s home a better place because we’re…” “Stewards!” When possible, I always take opportunities to clarify and support new vocabulary, as well and practice other important terms.
“Let me ask you a bigger- a 'why'- question. Why is it important to help living things like plants?” “So everyone has something to eat!” The 'why' questions are important ways to help students access the deeper levels of thinking that provide a more relevant learning experience. This step is short by design because my intent of the lesson is to give the students an opportunity to recognize the process of identifying plants that require shade and creating construction was complete. I again rang the chime and asked the students to stand up and stretch like a growing plant. Perfect way to end the lesson!