Academic journal article Science and Children

Never Too Young to Be a Citizen Scientist! Kindergarteners Learn about Plants and Seasons through a Yearlong Project

Academic journal article Science and Children

Never Too Young to Be a Citizen Scientist! Kindergarteners Learn about Plants and Seasons through a Yearlong Project

Article excerpt

Will spring be early next year? This is a question we ponder each fall as we prepare for a yearlong citizen science project with kindergarteners. Citizen science projects naturally promote the development of science and engineering practices. These projects can be integrated at any grade level and aligned to meet other content areas as students participate in authentic inquiry. We participate in the "Tulip Test Garden" to meet goals for learning about plants, living things, weather, and seasonal changes. This project is inspired by Journey North, an organization that engages teachers and individuals in documenting migration patterns and seasonal changes (see Internet Resources). Journey North requires purchasing minimal materials and provides teachers with classroom resources, online support, real-time maps, data, and background information. Our students become engaged in making predictions, becoming scientists, and planting in the fall months. In the spring, students observe the tulips' growth and life cycle in their garden and develop a deeper understanding about plants through classroom activities and literature. An overview is shown in Figure 1, p. 50.

Engaging at Planting Time

In the fall we talk with the students about how, "This year we are working on a project to help scientists learn when spring happens in our town." Since this is our fifth year planting, we use data as evidence to predict when we think spring will arrive. We display previous years' data (Figure 2) and ask the students, "What do you think ?" "We are planting the tulips near the same day as last year, and when did they come out?" "Did they come out at that time each year?" Last fall, students predicted that the tulip plants would emerge in March. Some of the students explained that the reason was, "Most of the time, they come out in March," no matter when we plant them. Engaging students in a guided discussion about the months and looking at the dates, students can use evidence to infer and discuss reasons for their predictions.

FIGURE 1 Overview of the tulip project.

FALL                  FALL
SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER     NOVEMBER

Prep Work:            Fall Planting:
* Prepare the garden  * Look at tulip bulb and
                      make observations
* Set up Account      * Learn about science
with Journey North    and what scientists do
www.learner.org/      * Make predictions from
jnorth/reg/           previous years' data

* Review Journey
North Resources
                      * Plant bulbs
* Organize materials  * Send in planting date
and equipment         to Journey North
                      www.learner.org/jnorth/sightings/
WINTER                SPRING
JANUARY-FEBRUARY      MARCH-JUNE
* Check garden        * Check garden
* Learning About      * Take pictures
Plants in the         * Draw and write about
Classroom             tulips
                      * Measure tulips at
                      center time
                      * Send in data to
                      Journey North
                      www.learner.org/jnorth/sightings/
                      * Create Class Tally Chart
                      * Draw Conclusions
                      from journal drawings
                      and class tables

As a class, we gather at the rug to observe a tulip bulb by looking at it and feeling it. The students describe the shape, size, color, and texture of the bulb and share their own descriptions: "It's round." "It's brown." "It's smooth." "It looks like an onion." We mention the names for parts such as the outer leaf that acts as a coat to protect the bulb and the bumps at the bottom where roots will grow. We carefully observe differences between the bottom and top. "What is the shape at the top?" Students often reply, "The pointy part" or "triangle shape," and that the shape of the bottom is "round" or "fat."

This prepares the students for planting the bulb correctly. We cut one bulb and show the students the leaves inside and the embryonic stem and bud (baby plant). …

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