Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fifth Grade: First Week of Botany Block

The first week of school is already behind us. Wow. Even amidst the chaos of way too much rain and the subsequent flooding, a dying refrigerator, and a sick car we accomplished so much! 

We fell right into our daily rhythm of morning verse, breakfast, animal care, walk (we skipped this on two days because of the deluge), beginning verse, and IAO verse. We added two new items to our list: daily dictation (that's how I'm getting grammar and spelling in, all year long) and mental warm up —math and/or reading questions and movement. 

We began our Botany block by taking a walk in a local park on Monday just to observe. Husband came with us and we had a pleasant, albeit wet, morning. That afternoon we made our sketch books using the rubber band and stick method. 
Walking in Apollo Park
Over the week we covered roots, stems, leaves, and blossoms. In the Waldorf pedagogy, a fifth grader doesn't receive heavy scientific nomenclature or detailed descriptions of processes. We learned the basics: what does a root do, what types are there, what is the purpose of a stem, the leaves, the blossom. We also made a chart of how to identify a plant by it's leaves— (shape, arrangement, margin, venation). We talked briefly of photosynthesis as that was of interest to him. I tried to present the material imaginatively and artistically, creating chalkboard drawings of each topic and getting outside to observe as much as possible.

In Waldorf, the subject of human reproduction does not come until late middle school but, botanical reproduction lays a light path in that direction. After all, that is why flowers exist: to reproduce. We examined flowers in our backyard, finding many different arrangements of stamens around the pistil and ovary. Using an idea from  Kovac's Botany book, I told a story of the flower seeds being like a Sleeping Beauty awaiting her Prince. Prince Pollen comes riding in on his horse, Bumblebee, to gently waken the princess.

We did a few activities this week, too. We took magnifying glasses out in the yard and looked at various flowers. The rose of sharon and flower maple had beautiful, easy to see flower parts. We put a sweet potato in water to sprout as a root project. For stems, we dyed a glass of water blue, then placed two celery stalks in the water and let sit overnight. By morning, not only were the leaves turning blue, but you could actually see how the blue had risen up through the stalk. Very cool. 
Stamens and pollen of a flowering maple

Blue stems in the celery

Leaves are turning blue

Week two will find us creating nature journals and learning about plant partnerships and plant families.  We will also start a book by John Muir as our nightly reader.

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