Back to school! As I look to the year ahead, my hope is that the ideas, lessons, and resources I share with you in this blog will not only help you with your curriculum goals, but will also encourage you to include nature awareness activities in your classroom.
Each week I’ll feature a nature-themed picture book with a corresponding lesson plan that that connects to both CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) into your curriculum.
Because it’s the beginning of the school year, you have two weeks to use the lesson for this brand new book—The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream. Readers follow the flight of a dandelion seed from the countryside to the city. The little seed is buffeted by wind, caught in a spider web, and trapped in a pile of trash. You’ll be surprised and delighted to find where the seed finally lands.
LESSON PLAN: Sock Walk
In this life science lesson, children put socks over their shoes and take a walk outside. The socks collect seeds and other bits of natural debris, which the children examine once they’re back in the classroom. Early fall is a perfect time to do a “Sock Walk” because so many plants have gone to seed. The best place to do this activity is in an area that is overgrown with grass and weeds. However, you can also do this in a more urban environment—you might find a dandelion seed!
Suggested Grade Level: K-3
- One sock large enough to fit over a child’s shoe, 1 per student. (Adult size tube socks work well. Have students bring a sock from home and have some extras on hand for those who don’t.)
- Magnifying glasses, 1 per group
- Tweezers, 1 per group
- Optional: soil for “planting” the sock
- Read The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream lead a discussion using some of the following questions: What was the dandelion seed’s dream? (to grow into a flower and make more seeds). Why was this an important dream? (seeds grow new plants which makes more seeds and continues a plant’s life cycle). Review the parts of a plant (root, leaves, stem, flower, seed) and ask students which of these plant parts are illustrated in the book. What obstacles kept the seed from growing? (spider web, broom, plastic container). How did humans keep the seed from its dream? (man-made environment, trash) How did humans help the seed? (blew the seed, cleaned up the environment, created a garden). Refer to specific illustrations. How is the first illustration in the book the same as the last illustration? (dandelion seed is floating in the air). How is it different? (more seeds; from different plant).
- Explain to students that they will do a “sock walk” to discover seeds. Have students put a sock over one of their shoes.
- Walk around outside, especially in an overgrown area. (Allow 15-30 minutes)
- Back inside, demonstrate for students how to carefully remove their sock so as not to drop all of the seeds and debris.
- Have students work in small groups, using tweezers and magnifying glasses, to remove everything from their socks. They can sort everything into piles based on their own classification system. (Allow 15-30 minutes).
- Lead a discussion about seed dispersal.
- Optional: Fill each sock with soil, water it, and observe what grows.
Common Core Connection
~Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.3, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
Science Connection—K-3 Disciplinary Core Ideas
~LS1-A: Structure and Function
~LS1-B: Growth and Development of Organisms
~LS2-A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystem
~LS3-A: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
TEACHERS—This One’s For YOU!
While most lesson plans are for students, this one is just for you. As teachers, we plant seeds in anticipation of what will grow and what will be. Think of all the little seed packets you see in the garden store. On the front of each package is a beautiful colored picture of the flower or plant that will grow from the seeds inside. You never see a picture of the actual seeds. You plant the seeds, give them the right conditions, and they grow.
So it is with our students. As the school year begins we anticipate the growth our students will experience over the next nine months. Before you get too busy with the myriad “tasks of teaching,” take a few moments to write down your “dreams as a teacher.” What growth do you anticipate for your students? What hopes do you have for yourself as a teacher? What successes will you and your students achieve? What resources can you draw upon when the challenges come (and you know they will)? Put this list in your desk drawer to pull out whenever you need to remind yourself of your dreams.