Sunday, February 4, 2018

Animals in Winter Inquiry

It started when I read these two stories about helping the animals by putting food out for them.

We decided we wanted to help the animals around our school find food.  Our ground has been covered in snow for a while and through these books, they realized that winter was hard for the animals.  We brainstormed things we could use that the animals would like. We dried bread and then set out materials for them to make feeders. Because we have peanut/tree nut allergies we used Crisco as a fat instead of peanut butter to stick the seeds to the bread.

The kids picked this tree in front of our school to hang the food.  It looked like the tree in the book "The Night Tree" plus we love this giant tree!

The kids were very excited to hang our animal feeders and scatter nuts on the ground.

Of coarse we had to stop for a class picture.  The kids had so much fun! I heard one exclaim, "This is the best day ever!!"

I am always amazed at how kids are so drawn to nature when given the chance to interact with it!  As they hung the feeders, they had noticed that the giant tree was like a playground inside! When we went back after the weekend to check our feeders, we noticed that the sunflower seeds on the bread were the favorite!  We collected the discarded pipe cleaners and the kids asked if they could play inside the tree.  It was a perfect day for it! It was like we were in another world!  They loved it.

When we went inside they wrote about what kind of animals they thought ate the food off of our tree!  As I looked at their writing I noticed that some of the kids are starting to put spaces between their words!

Another experience that had them wondering were these footprints in the snow on our playground!  What kind of animal made these prints?

As soon as we went upstairs we drew a picture and wrote a sentence about what kind of animal they think made those prints!  They guessed anything from cats, dogs, raccoons and rabbits to bears and kangaroos! The kangaroo guess actually showed some critical thinking!  He noticed some of the prints were longer and felt it had to be an animal with longer back feet like a kangaroo.

The prints and their interest inspired me to put out these experiences for them to explore animals in winter through investigation and stories. I set out animals with accurate footprints along with white play dough to act as snow and resources to notice the different tracks they made.

I also set up an area that could also be used during Story Workshop to inspire stories about animals in a winter setting that included forest animals and birds, and other loose parts to help them create a small world for the animals and then play out their stories.

Of course, both areas were used together by the kids.  I love how they can look at materials and come up with their own creative ways to use them.

We had learned about how some animals hibernate, some animals migrate and some animals adapt. Check out our little friends migrating as geese from the cold to warmer climate where they found food (cutie oranges) waiting for them. They did this with our Student Teacher Mrs. Madison while I was on vacation and when I got back told me that flying in a "V" formation was much harder than they thought it would be!

I had thought to do a large scale project with them about animals in winter.  I had done a large project in the past with kindergarteners about this that you can see here: Animals in Winter Part 1 and here: Animals in Winter Part 2.  Unfortunately, their interest had waned by this time and they were done with this inquiry.  Not every inquiry ends with a large scale project, but I like to do at least one each year.  I am keeping my eyes and ears open to see what this group will be so interested in that they will want to take it further into a project and presentation! As of now, we have noticed that they are really into slime and have been begging us to let them make play dough!  Let's see where that will take us next!

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