Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The flowers bloom, vines creep, and fruits ripen on the trees. Children are naturally curious and eager to participate in the natural world around him. Connect the growing environment to literacy activities.
In my Growing in Every Way program (part of Stories at Play), I begin with prompting the children to tell me their observations. “Has anyone seen any flowers by their house or school?” “What color are the flowers?” “Were they growing out of the ground, or on a bush, or a tree?”
Then I ask, “How do plants and flowers and vegetables begin to grow?” The children may or may not supply the answer; either way, this segues into a told, very hands-on version of Ruth Krauss’ The Carrot Seed. The children mimic holding the seed between thumb and finger (fine motor skills), pulling a trowel (new word!l language development skills) from their pocket, and then digging the hole, planting the seed and repetitively watering and weeding (gross motor skills).
This story introduces the sequencing of plant growth. At the end, I ask the children to imagine themselves as seeds curled up on the ground. I prompt again, “What do seeds need to grow?” Then we expand with the water and sunlight, begin to sprout. We use one arm as a little shoot peeking out of the ground, then rise up to our knees forming the flower’s stem, arms peel out like leaves. Then we stand up and go from bud (arms curved above our heads) to blossom. All this wonderful movement is a form of scientific inquiry. We are recording the stages of the plant cycle with our bodies.
I love looking out at my field of young flowers. “What color flower are you?” I may prompt them with flower names, like daffodil, tulip, hydrangea (there’s always someone who’s blue) and sunflower. One of my favorite answers, “I’m a rainbow-colored flower.”
All this takes about 15 minutes which may be enough for a young child’s attention. If the group’s attention is fading, the process of becoming flowers can be continued at art time where the children can draw the colors of their flowers. I’m sure there will be plenty of rainbow flowers here! Or, foam shapes of varying colors can be glued onto a rectangular paper for the children to create their own flower gardens.
Children who are still focused can hear a story about growth. There are so many. My favorites are a version of the Russian folktale, The Giant Turnip (I use Giant Pumpkin because I don’t’ think too many see/eat turnips anymore) and Jack and the Beanstalk. Storytelling engages children.Involve the children by having them repeat chants such as, “… and they pulled, and they pulled, and they pulled. But the pumpkin would not come off the vine,” or, “up, and up, and up, and up, Jack climbed, faster and faster and faster.”
Finally, I like to ask the children what they need to grow. This produces an array of answer from the healthy, “carrots,” to the probable, “pizza,” to one of my all-time favorite answers, “birthdays!”
At this point, tell another story about animals or humans who grow and grow. An all-time audience favorite is the Danish folktale, The Fat Cat (storyteller Margaret Read MacDonald has a lively, colorful version in print.) At the end of this story we can reflect upon what is good for us to eat, and what is probably not so good.
My mother always told me the summer sun made me grow faster. Now, I’m not sure if she meant in height or, as our summers were full of exploration, if she really meant she could see us growing in every way.