Children continue learning no matter where they are. They learn as they play; while listening to a story; as they watch TV; and while eating. One way to encourage parents to extend children’s learning during these unusual times is by connecting to activities we already engage in and by using things we already have at home, in our gardens, or in spaces outside. For example, one item that children learn about in school that is likely present at home is seeds. Let’s find out three ways to use seeds to extend children’s knowledge!
Idea #1: Scavenger Hunt in the Kitchen
Children can create a book with drawings or labels naming all the types of seeds their family eats. In a book titled: “Seeds my family and I eat” children can add images of seeds they enjoy. Did you know that beans are seeds? Perhaps you already noticed that you usually eat a variety of fruit seeds including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. What about peanuts? They are the perfect snack, but did you know that they are seeds that develop in a seedpod in the soil? Draw or take pictures of as many types of seeds as you can find in the kitchen. Under each picture describe what you know about each seed including what you think the plant where it comes from looks like. Then, add a section titled: “Ways my family and I enjoy this seed.” Your entries for this section can explain things like: “We enjoy strawberries (and their seeds…of course!) in different ways. My mom puts strawberries in her smoothies. My dad loves strawberry ice cream and so do I!” The last section will be titled: “Things I wonder about this seed.”
Beans in my kitchen:
Idea #2: Using technology to learn more about your favorite seed
Perhaps the scavenger hunt has left you with a burning question about your favorite seed. For example: How exactly do peanuts grow? Are there peanut farms near me? For young children and elementary-age children in general, meaningful learning occurs when activities progress from concrete to abstract, simple to complex, and from familiar to unfamiliar. In this case, direct experience with seeds in which they had the opportunity to use their senses to learn is now extended in ways that allow further connections. Too often, discussions begin in the opposite direction, that is, children learn about parts of a plant they may or may not have seen. This is the opportunity to maximize learning through the use of familiar, everyday items!
Idea #3 Sharing what we know about seeds with a real audience
In these times of social distancing, one way to remain connected is by purposefully communicating with our loved ones. The usual question, “what did you learn today?” can take on a new dimension with the use of video chat technology. Once additional information has been collected in answer to children’s wonderings, it is time to share what we know. A simple way to do this is by establishing a routine with family members willing to participate. After all, it does take a village to educate a child! To accomplish this mission, schedule calls once or twice a week with grandma, grandpa, aunt, or uncle. The goal is to explain what they learned from activities one and two. The following conversation stems can help with the conversation:
- Hello Grandma! This week I have been learning about________.
- Did you know how many types of seeds we had in our kitchen? Take a guess.
- I found out that______________.
- I was especially interested in _______.
- I did some research about my seed and learned that__________.
The act of retelling and narrating empowers children to take control of their learning. It is important to be patient and avoid speaking for them. Video calls allow children to show images or objects. When children learn everyone wins!
Lesson on planting seeds
It is springtime! What a wonderful opportunity to learn while using our senses as we plan activities at home. Very few materials are needed to take advantage of the outdoors and engage in planting seeds. A garden is ideal, but it is optional. All we need is a cup or bucket, some soil, water, and seeds.
Goal: to narrate a sequence of events orally and in writing
- Bring cell phones and/or tablets to take pictures.
- Gather materials including seeds, cup or bucket, soil, and water.
- In the cup or bucket (make sure both have a draining hole), add enough soil to fill the cup and wet the soil.
- Insert the seed and cover it.
- Wet the soil again. A spray bottle is ideal for this.
- Don’t forget that your seedlings will need light.
Suggestions for parents of young children (0-5):
- Focus on orally reviewing the steps for planting a seed.
- Take a picture of your child performing each step.
- Then, with your child, orally review the step in past tense following a patter that begins with a question using a question and answer patter:
- Question: What did we just do?
- Answer: We grabbed a container and filled it up with gardening soil).
- Later, use the pictures you took to review all the steps to plant a seed including key words such as firs, next, then, finally.
Suggestions for parents of children in elementary grades (6-10):
- Focus on documenting the process in writing (digital journaling or regular store-bought journals are great resources to document your observations).
- Remind your child that scientists generally record as many details as possible. Each journal entry can include details such as: date, time, weather conditions, type of seed, why the seed was chosen, the conditions of the seed, the type of soil, etc.
- After planting the seed(s) observe and continue adding details to your journal.
- Conduct an internet search and find out more information about your seed (e.g. best sprouting conditions, ideal type of soil).
Children who explore nature with their family and other role models in their lives are more likely to develop empathy and protect the environment as adults. This can certainly be the beginning of a journey as scientifically and environmentally literate citizens!
About the author: María G. Arreguín-Anderson, Ed.D. is an author on the myView Literacy K-6 program and Associate Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
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