Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The science behind the drawings

Several weeks ago Sarah brought in some gorgeous sunflowers from her garden to share with the children at kindergarten. There is something about the sunflower that seems to totally capture the children’s interest; perhaps it is their open, almost face like heads, their colour or maybe their impressive size. Regardless of this, it is something we have noticed again and again when we use these flowers as a resource at kindergarten.

Sarah’s flowers were no exception and the children, eager to explore and learn more about this flower, did what comes very naturally to them at Mairtown; they began to draw. Observational drawing is something we use all the time, and the children are now very comfortable and familiar with this wonderful method of learning.

When students draw pictures of things they see, it enhances their observation of these things (Haydock)

Our very first drawings and initial conversations uncovered some early discoveries:
Isaac: I see a circle…then petals, I notice they have leaves.
Sienna: Yes, they are really big petals, and I notice they are a bit bigger than I’ve drawn.  I’ve not drawn as big as them. Yes I notice the petals, I think they are a happy flower.
Isaac: Yep, they need a lot of sun and lots of rain, but more sun than rain.
Sienna: It takes a long time for sunflowers to come up in the sun. Look there are dots in the middle.
Isaac: And if they don’t have sun, they die in the middle’

After many days of observing, noticing, drawing and lots of discussion regarding what we know (and don’t know) about sunflowers the original flowers of course eventually died. This had by now become such an interest for the children, they were really having some wonderful discussions and at times quite passionate ones as they agreed and disagreed about what what they could see and notice and what this meant. Because of this I felt that it was really important for their learning to continue on this topic and we fortunately sourced some more sunflowers from a local grower.
Arriving with the freshly cut sunflowers

Although the pictures the children have created are each amazing and wonderful in their own ways, there is a lot more to this work than perhaps initially meets the eye - and that is the Science behind each of these drawings.

[This intricate drawing literally comes to life with the addition of some dye]

Students’ interest in science can be enhanced if they draw pictures as part of learning science. When they are drawing they are necessarily more involved than when they are just listening and/or looking…Art is an enjoyable mode of self-expression and communication, as well as a skill useful in science and other areas. Consider then, drawing to be just as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic (Haydock).

Certainly as one of the teachers involved in this topic I have found this to be very much the case. By working at the children’s pace, with their interests and natural curiosity about these flowers, by allowing the children to inquire and ask their own questions, and of course by encouraging the use of drawing, we have over the weeks discovered together many interesting scientific discoveries. Not all of these are necessarily accurate at first, but science is very much about asking questions, about hypothesising and developing new concepts and ideas.

[Examining the centre of the stalk]

I don’t feel we are at the end of our work together yet on these elegant flowers – there is still so much to explore and discover – only just this week have we begun new conversations on sunflower seeds and how they come from the flower, as well as noticing the sudden and unexpected appearance of caterpillars. As I write this blog however, I’d like to share just a small amount of discovery the children have done together, and I hope you too can see the progress they have made (over the weeks) from the very first conversations they shared, which were directed solely towards the shape and colour of the flower, to some wonderful new learning and scientific revelations.

Mia: I notice the white spikes on the edge of the stalk and it’s really bumpy. The inside (of the stalk) is white because trees have white blood.
Sienna: It’s a bit sharp like thorns on the outside; the inside- it feels like ice in the middle.

Looking more closely at the inside of the stalk the children discuss what they see.
Emma: It’s soft and squishy and a little bit sticky

Me: What is the white stuff inside the stalk?
Emma: I don’t know! Nobody can find out!
Tyler: It’s like a beanstalk so it makes it grow bigger.
Mia: The water comes into the flower so it can grow up. It goes through the whitey middle bit. It’s soft and squishy cause It’s wet so the water can be drinked out of it. The water comes from the wet rain. The water goes up to the flower.
Tyler: But it’s not raining in here and it’s wet and squishy.
Emma: Oh yes, I think that’s a very good idea, cause without water it might die and Tyler look at it, there is water in the vase. When they drop they are very dying. And they get heaps of energy from the sun and water like we do when we eat food.
Isaac: The flower doesn’t have to drink rain it can drink water from the tap but without sun and water it will die.
Emma: That’s because it gets dried up by the sun. The sun makes things dry, it makes everything dry up!

A few days later still we spot the caterpillars and discuss what they are and where they have come from.
Matteo: I think they’re worms.
Sienna: No, they’re caterpillars.
Matteo: No, as caterpillars are only yellow and black.
Sienna: No, cause I have a book at home that shows different colour caterpillars and some are green like this one.
Nyla: Yes, that’s right as I have green ones at my house.
Matteo: Hmm, ok, I didn’t know that, perhaps they are caterpillars.
Reese: I actually thought it was just a part of the leaf, but when Christine moved the leaf the caterpillar moved.
Sienna: That’s called camouflaged. I wonder how they got there?

We lead onto talking about where these caterpillars have come from.

Reese: I think they came up the kindergarten ramp in the middle of the night to eat all the leaves.
Isaac: I think they came inside the stalk and came out the head of the flower.
Taika: No that can’t happen cause there's no hole at the bottom of the stalk.
Reese: Yes it can cause maybe it climbed up the outside?
Emma: Maybe they are water caterpillars as the stalks are in water and they swim around trying to catch a stalk to climb?
Reese: Hey, oh yeah. I just remembered when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly it lays eggs and when it lays eggs they turn into caterpillars so maybe a butterfly came in and lay the eggs?
This idea is meet with enthusiastic agreement!

 [A careful look at the large leaves and inside the head of the flower]

Scientists do not use words only but rely on diagrams…photographs, and other images to make discoveries, explain findings, and excite interest…scientists imagine new relations, test ideas, and elaborate knowledge through their visual representations’ 
                  (Ainsworth, Prain & Tytler, 2011)                            

By doing art, students can create and communicate new ideas. By seeing art, students can be inspired by new directions and new ideas (Haydock)

Ka kite ano, 


  1. What beautiful paintings the children have done..... well done everyone... ♥

  2. Fantastic work with the kids, love how you develop their minds!