Grass Stylists and Play Gardens

We finally had the opportunity to cut our “friends'” grassy locks yesterday. Thank goodness, as you can see it was getting a little wild!

Our Friends' Long Hair

First, we had to discuss how short we could cut it without damaging the grass.  The children noticed that the grass had two colors, light green near the soil and darker green on top.  The decision was made to leave at least a tiny bit of dark green so the grass would remain healthy.  Next, each child had to decide how they wanted to shape the grass.  Did they want it to have a mohawk? a crew-cut? just a trim?  We had many variations.  It was interesting to watch as they laboriously cut the grass with scissors.

Children who generally spend huge amounts of time on writing and drawing projects also took their time carefully snipping grass a blade at a time.  Children that  usually plan less when working with paper were more apt to chop, chop, chop away until there was very little left to cut.  Either way, it was a fun way to explain plant growth, the purpose of green plants in our world, and the parts of plants.

A Before and Two Afters

Moving on in the day, we were just as excited to see that our play garden had begun to sprout grass, as well.

I have many plans for this tub-o-soil and I can’t wait for the grass to fill in so that the children can begin using it as a miniature play space.  One of the projects we began yesterday will provide us with some lovely, tiny toys to use with this new garden.  Following along with this class’s love for fairies and magic, we’ve designed a set of mushrooms for the garden.  These were created using model magic and inspiration from a large group of images.

The children observed that there were many, many shapes and sizes of mushrooms.  They thought the red, flat ones looked like “jumping” mushrooms and the pitted ones reminded them of cheese.  While trying to figure out how to form one out of dough, they realized that almost all of the pictures showed mushrooms with long  rectangles or stems .  I explained that this shape was called a cylinder and could be found all over their world including within their own arms and legs.

Forming cylinders was easy of course since all of our students have mastered worm making.  The next obstacle we faced was keeping the stems upright long enough for the model magic to dry.  After fussing with countless droopy mushrooms and not a few frustrated exclamations [the children kept reminding me that it was “no biggie”], I remembered that I had a handy supply of tooth picks nearby.  A bit of poking and prodding produced a lovely collection of fungi for our play garden.  The children are itching to paint them tomorrow.

This lesson, of course, included a public safety announcement as well.  After a long discussion involving a tale of my childhood and random yard mushrooms, we agreed that absolutely no mushrooms must be eaten unless they come from the store.  So if your child balks at eating the next mushroom you produce on their plate, simply confirm its safe passage through the mushroom farm, to your local grocer, and into your soup.

Sprouts and Haircuts

Since planting our grass and basil seeds last week, we’ve seen much change in our room.  The grass friends have grown enormously long hair.  Today we took a poll to see who might want to give their grass a trim and who would like to let it grow.  Surprisingly, most of the children wanted to let it grow.  I did have one child tell me very somberly, “We are not allowed to cut our friends’ hair!”  She felt a bit better when I explained that I meant the grass, not real hair.  I’m wondering if we’ll have more “cutters” once they see the three who voted to trim going at their grass with scissors.  One person did have a bit of an epiphany during morning meeting when he realized that it would grow back after the trim.

While we’ve been watching the grass shoot up this week, we’ve been logging our observations in our journals. The children are using a combination of “kid writing” and known words to write about the pictures that they draw.  They have noticed roots growing, soft grass, wet dirt, and two colors on the grass.  In this picture, R. is writing about how she sprays the grass with water to help it grow.

I am watering my plant.

Our other plants have not be growing so profusely, but they are steadily changing from a simple pile of dirt.  We created bottle planters for our basil plants so that they would stay watered with minimal help.  Since their growth is so slow, these new plants have not quite caused the stir that the grass did, but some of the children are excited about the possibility of eating these new leaves.  Hopefully, we’ll have at least one large plant per bottle eventually so you can share these at home.

The Bottle Planters
Observing our bottle planters.

We also began a project at the beginning of the week that I hope turns out as I’ve planned.  We began a large classroom garden in a tub with grass seed and a path.  The path was constructed using flat rocks the children collected outside.  They have suggested that it would be a perfect walkway for ants.  Let’s hope we don’t have any of those in our room roaming around!  We’ll just have to wait and see how the grass seed does in this container.  It is generally kept away from the window, so keep your fingers crossed!

Creating a path in our garden.

Spring Has Finally Sprung

Now that we can [hopefully] expect to have frost-free evenings here in Western Pennsylvania, we’ve begun to explore our growing world outside.  Our first question was how to identify something that is alive vs. something that is not.  We decided that things that are alive need to breathe and grow. (Please note that, thankfully, one of the children put me on the list.)

Many items on our list were creatures, but a few were of the plant variety.  We talked about the differences between plants and creatures and tried to figure out how plants eat and drink.  To help us with this problem, we invited a new friend to join us.

We tried to think up a name for him, but the children lost interest after they tried to name him “Brown Head” and I suggested that a name doesn’t always describe someone.  Oops.  I guess I should have left well enough alone on that one.  Instead, we decided that we should all make a new friend to share our class with.

The children have been helping with the care of their freshly planted grass seeds by spritzing them with water on a daily basis.  One child suggested today, “If I give it lots and lots of water, I bet it will grow really, really big!”  I asked him how well he would grow under water.  Of course he said that he couldn’t possibly live under water because he needed air.  There was almost an audible Ding! when he made the connection that the plant needed air, too.

When the children arrived this morning, I heard exclamations of “Look at my friends hair!” and “It’s growing! It’s growing!”  We’ve been looking at the roots from the grass seeds along the sides of the cups for a day or two, so it was quite exciting to finally see some green poking out of the top of the cup.  Señora Sewald has been helping us understand the structure of a plant by making a collage using real plant parts.  Of course the children practiced saying roots, stem, leaves, and flower in Spanish, too.  Now they can see their own living versions of the collage.