Cultivating Keen Observers

By Eve Pranis

"They look at and observe things so much more carefully now," reported 5th grade teacher Sharon Wheeler from Westerville, OH. When Sharon's students started keeping GrowLab journals, she said, their observations and drawings were very general -- for example, the bean plants had six leaves.

Fascinated by their growing plants and challenged by Sharon's inquiries, students began attending more carefully to details, describing more subtle changes, comparing their plants with others, and asking questions about what might cause the differences. "The questions triggered by their more in-depth observations have inspired further investigations, both indoors and out," said Sharon.

"Of course, developing these skills and really understanding concepts is a long-term process," she added. "For instance, the students enjoyed the limited resource crowding activity in "Make Room for Raddy" from GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds. But they clearly couldn't apply what they learned about overcrowding immediately. It wasn't until, several weeks into the hands-on exploration, students observed that some kids had bigger and healthier radishes that they began to understand the need for thinning. These types of long-term activities can really help kids construct their own understanding of the world around them."

Just watching a seedling unfurl or beloved plants blossom and bear fruit can inspire questions, observations, and student explorations. Lessons in GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds help you take that further and focus on specific science concepts, science process skills, and attitudes toward science and the environment. The following, for instance, are examples of activities that help sharpen observation skills.

Activities for Growing Minds Lesson

* "Journey to the Center of a Seed" (sorting, Bingo Seedso, seed memory game)

* "Why Root for Roots?" (observing, comparing, and describing roots)

* "Look Out for Leaves" (Leaf Me Alone observation game)

* "Soil Sort" (soil dissection)

* "Plant Cycles" (life cycle scavenger hunt)

* "Flowers Up Close" (several observation games)

* "Fruit for Thought" (fruit sorting Line Up game)

* "Plant Private Eyes" (describing mystery plants game)

* "Diverseedy" (seed sorting and planting exploration)

* "Lettuce Be Different" (Lettuce Be Different game/growing activity)

* "Turning Over a New Leaf" (Leaf hunt and adaptations activity)

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