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21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Monday, 12 May 2014

Small group inquiry - Discussing the world of trees

Kolbe states that, ‘Trees are a rich topic that can inspire and enchant’. I can’t help agree, trees aren’t just beautiful they are also extremely fundamental to our environment and existence. With this in mind and with autumn well underway - the leaves noticeably changing colour - I thought how a discussion on trees would be a wonderful way to begin this new term.

When I’m working with children in small groups, listening to them inquire, telling their stories, working out their ideas I can’t help but feel excited. Inquiry based learning is an aspect of teaching that I love and value.

This documented work begins with just one simple question, “Why do we need trees?”. As always I was ready with some photographs to provoke the children’s thinking about trees, and of course we spent some time sitting on the grass at Kindergarten examining the trees around us.

As the children started to reflect and share their ideas I was ready with materials for them. Loris Malaguzzi the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to education felt it was important for the art studio to be subversive; a combination of both an art studio and a science laboratory. This is evident each time I work with children and provide tools for their exploration - whether it be clay, paints, pen and paper – these media are helpful for children when working out their ideas, hypothesizing, testing theories and answering questions.

In this recent work the children worked with white paper, black vivid and at times dye. Here is an extract from their thinking:

Why do we need trees?
Chamodhi ‘Trees are good for playing, if we hurt trees they stop growing’
Peter ‘You can jump off trees’
Wyatt ‘And build a house in a tree’
Chamodhi ‘We can build things in trees like monkey bars and trees can be taller than a house or just little’
Payton ‘And if someone cuts the wood off you can use it to make stairs’
Tyler O ‘You need trees at Christmas in your houses’
Mason ‘And you could use their leaves as a fan’

Drawings based on observation include a blend of the observed, remembered and the imagined.

‘Young children are extremely expressive, with an enormous capacity for sharing feelings and emotion, and that imagination plays a key role in the child’s search for knowledge and understanding’.
(Learning, Teaching Scotland, 2006)

Why do trees have leaves?
Marcus ‘They help people stay dry for a bit from the rain'
Wyatt ‘Some trees have no leaves on when they are alive and trees bend in wind and they give us shade’.
Liam ‘Yes trees are good to park under to keep the car not too hot, and if you don’t park under trees the car gets too hot’
London-Rose ‘Leaves are at the top and sometimes at the bottom of trees’
Payton ‘Sometimes leaves are pointy or not pointy’
London-Rose ‘And trees have branches and a trunk’
Liliana ‘Trees are very very interesting. Some trees are very big with bushes on the top. Trees are our friends and they have leaves on them, which fall at winter.
Wyatt ‘No it’s autumn, the leaves fall at autumn!’
Liliana ‘At autumn time usually the leaves just turn different colours, leaves can fall in winter too!’
Wyatt ‘Trees are good for climbing and you can put swings in trees’
Tyler M ‘Trees give us apples, plums, apricots, pears, oranges’
Marcus “And Feijoas’
Mia “Trees have flowers on them”

Why do some trees have flowers?
Emma ‘Because it makes them into a beautiful tree’
Kate B ‘The flowers make food for us’
Wyatt ‘And the bees make food for us as they take the pollen from the flowers on the tree’
Tyler M ‘Trees need rain lots of rain”
Why do trees need rain?
Livia ‘It makes them grow’
Kate ‘Or they’ll die’
Marcus ‘They need water so they can grow’
Mason “Yes and they need rain for that and sunshine or they’ll die forever’
Tyler M ‘Trees give animals the shade’

What sort of animals?
Tyler M ‘Birds’
Mia ‘Giraffes eat the leaves from trees’
Oscar ‘And monkeys live in trees’
Tyler M ‘And acorns come from trees which squirrels collect’
Wyatt ‘Trees they make good homes for spiders and ants’
Claudia ‘Birds live in trees, in nests and bees’
Taika ‘You know trees make you breathe!’

How do trees make you breathe?
Claudia ‘The wind blows the leaves around and give you fresh air’
Kate B ‘They just give you fresh air’
Liliana ‘All the bad air is coming up into this hole in the leaf and then it goes down into the soil and the good air is invisible and it comes out into the human mouths’

As we worked together in small groups I was careful to constantly revisit the children’s earlier ideas, allowing time for further reflection and discussion. After several days we began to consider the hidden world of trees, the aspect of trees that we don’t always get to see – life under the soil.

Is there anything underneath a tree?
Liliana ‘Soil, dirt and compost’
Livia ‘And worms’
Tyler M ‘Roots are under, the water drips into the dirt and the water goes into the roots’
Mason ‘Some roots poke out the ground and dirt is around the roots’

What are the trees roots for?
Kate B ‘It makes them grow. The trees grow roots in the ground’

So, do all trees have roots?
Kate B ‘Oh yes, so they can stand in the ground and not move’

'As children listen to each other’s ideas and see each other’s work, they have opportunities to learn that there are different points of view. Through exploring a topic in different ways and from different perspectives, they expand their understandings' (Kolbe)

What do roots look like?
Kate B ‘They are covered in dirt’
Marcus ‘They can look like anything, some are little and some are big’
Kayden ‘They look like snakes’
Liliana ‘They look black and brown in the soil. If the roots weren’t there the tree wouldn’t grow big big big’

How do the roots help make the trees grow?
Kate B ‘They suck the water up and it helps them grow’
Kayden ‘The leaves spit the water out and the roots drink them up again’

Apologies for this very long blog post, but after reading the wonderful conversations from the children, I hope you feel it was worth it.

Nga mihi,

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