Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Is In the Air....Isn't It?

This year, more then most, I am very much ready for spring. The winter seems to have dragged on and on and I'm ready for some warm recess days!

So this post comes at a perfect time because we just embarked on our annual corn crop unit. Every year the first grade, with the help of our awesome instructional assistant, grows corn from seeds in our school garden. We start the seeds in peat pots inside and nurture them until they are strong enough to be transplanted in the garden. I enjoy this unit every year because each class puts their own spin on it. It is such a high interest activity and a great way to allow the students to have control of their learning.

This year we had a particularly rich discussion that covered science and math topics. First we explained to the students how corn grows from these seeds. The students were amazed that such a large plant would grow from a small seed. They also made a lot of connections to other places they had seen a kernel of corn. One students said, "This looks like the stuff at the bottom of the popcorn bag!" So then we talked about all different things that come from corn.

Each child got a seed and planted it in the peat pot. It's amazing what hands-on, high interest activities do for classroom management! They squealed at the feeling of the cold, damp peat and the squishy sounds it made as they pressed their seed into its new home.

After planting the seeds, we made a graph showing how long we thought it would take for the seeds to sprout. Although this seemed like a simple task, it turned into a very rich conversation about fractions. Who knew! The students had to decide if they thought the seeds would sprout in 4 days, 6 days, 9 days or 11 days (we even squeezed in that calendar SOL). I will have to snap a picture of our graph and upload it so you can see our results. Most students thought it would take about 9 days for the seeds to sprout, however, there was one brave soul who thought it would only take 4 days. While creating the graph the topic came up if we would be waiting for just one seed to sprout or all the seeds. Here is our intense fraction conversation...what if half of the seeds sprouted? Would that be enough to determine that the seeds had sprouted for the purpose of our graph? How do we show half of 18 peat pots? They knew a half meant 1 out of 2, but weren't sure how to translate that to a group of 18 (understandably). So I showed them how to make 2 equal groups out of 18 and that meant 9 in each group. So as a class we decided we would say the seeds had sprouted when 9 or more plants had sprouts. How about that for a first grade math conversation!

Remember that one lonely soul that thought it would only take 4 days for our seeds to sprout? He was right! And unfortunately absent on the day we checked our plants but I was proud of him because we all know how tough it is for first graders to take a class vote and be the only one to vote for one of the choices. More then half of our plants sprouted in 4 days and they are now getting nice and tall on a bright sunny window sill. More to come when we transplant them outside!