Oak trees are so pretty, but sometimes they will react to bees trying to infest the branches to make their nests. The infestation causes the tree to form galls. In the picture to your right are two oak leaves and one example of a gall. For those of you who have oak trees galls are something you may want to get rid of, but for the purposes of education I wanted to explore this as a provocation for young minds.
Here is a close up of a gall from an oak tree. Notice the cream color with darker brown spots. Galls are a great way to teach children about how not all plant life is meant for insects and how insects can hurt a tree. For young children I would start out with stories about the specific tree or plant life I want the children to explore. This may not be an interest to the children yet, but once we visit the topic in very well may become a huge interest. To learn more about the tree I would encourage discussions around the topic. Next I would set up a project approach with the children. This way the children are partners with me, the Teacher, and will be engaged in the whole process of learning about galls without this being a Teacher driven and directed project. The children will plan each step of the project with the Teacher; we are partners in learning.
For a project approach, like other first steps in provocations there are many questions. So the children and I will ask questions about what a gall is and how it is formed and why does it grow? I will write down all of the children’s questions and all of my questions. Next I want the children to not only be exposed to the books that tell us all about oak trees, but I want pictures of healthy and unhealthy oak trees. Oak tree pictures with no galls and ones with galls. Having a real gall and leaves for the children to touch and feel and examine is always my preferences for young concrete minds. From our initial discussion the children and I will go back and forth with more inquiries, explorations and ideas to express understanding in different ways. In other words we will use all of our materials and interest areas to explore this scientific topic.
One way in which the children will construct knowledge about this subject is by drawing their own version of a gall. So I’ve set up one provocation allowing for only one child at a time to examine and draw the gall if she/ he chooses to. For a project approach other areas of interest are set up with more information about oat trees, so the rest of the class is engaged in different investigations of oak trees and the formation of galls. With projects their are aspects that children will engage in together as a whole group, in two’s as a team or as individuals. All aspects will come together as a whole in the end. Depending on how in depth the children wish to go with this scientific inquiry, we may end up doing a culminating event in which we not only show the process from start to finish and all of the in between, but all of our reflections as well. We may be able to display our findings and put together an event for families to come and learn about galls too! 🙂
One thing to always remember is that no matter what content is explored and used throughout the project, the children are the ones leading the way with their interests. As the Teacher I am a support, facilitator and partner in this project. I am not giving direct instruction and telling the students what they need to know about oak trees and galls. I am the one providing rich scientific literature and a variety of resources for the children to explore this subject thoroughly. I don’t want children to skim the surface of subjects, I want them to dig deep and actually learn about the world we all live in by constructing knowledge together. I want to prepare and strengthen the foundation for all future learning. Young minds are capable of deep understanding if only given the chance and faith from the adults around them. 🙂
Investigate the formation of galls on your own and see what information you find! Share the types of plant explorations you’ve investigated with your young minds! I would love to read all about your experiences too! 🙂
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning!
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Using clay and buttons as a simple number provocation is another way to incorporate mathematical experiences into your classroom. Some children will come over and use the oil pastel to try and trace the number and the buttons. Other children will copy the number and buttons free hand. And still others may squish the clay and use the buttons to create something entirely different. Children not so comfortable with textures like clay will push the clay aside and use the oil pastel to draw instead. These are all things I have seen many children do each time I’ve done this provocation or a similar one.
Provocations like these are meant to get the children thinking. When asked, “what number is this?” “Zero!” is always the reply. Zero is also a circle shape, head, eyes, balls etc. Children will take this as a number symbol or use any of the other forms it takes to create a unique picture. Sometimes a child will have a lot to say about his/her creation and other times just the moments spent working with clay and allowing themselves to relax before engaging in other areas that require social interaction will be enough. What each child gains from a provocation is not always up to the Teacher. Children will stick to the surface or dive deep with their inquiries, explorations and creations. As a Teacher I am close by to push the child’s thinking a bit further when I can.
I chose an autumn theme for the colors of clay, buttons and oil pastels, but you could always choose the colors you see and hear your children wearing, choosing and telling you they like. This was my way of incorporating a seasonal color theme without all the “cookie cutter” close-ended units and lessons. I find it fascinating to be able to set up a provocation and wait to see how the children interpret the meaning for themselves. And I love being able to scaffold with each child, building onto and opening doorways in their minds for deeper understanding. The button alone could spark a brief discussion on the buttons a child has on his/ her shirt or coat. The child may remember a family member like a Grandfather or Grandmother having buttons to play with when they visit. Children have rich memories and experiences each brings to the classroom and I never know what provocations will spark special memories. Memories are worth writing down and appreciating.
I tried to pick out buttons that were similar in color yet have a different appearance. Each button is of a different size and has specific surface details. The picture above has two yellow buttons, yet each is of a different size and has a different number of holes. The surface textures of both have a different design as well. These are details I noticed and sometimes the children will notice these on their own and be interested in the differences. Other times children will not pay attention to these fine details because they do not consider them to be important details. This is where as a Teacher I can point out and question the children about what they see as being the same and what is different. Pointing them is a direction I would like them to notice sometimes leads to more questions from the children as to why the buttons are not the same. It can also spark memories of experiences with other clothing or toy items that are different and the same. Keep the conversations open and keep them going when you see an opportunity.
Color differences are also noticeable between the clay, oil pastel and buttons. This could lead you to set up more provocations with the color spectrum in mind. Exploring colors and how color is created could lead the children into a great scientific exploration. Discuss with the children things in nature that are green and all the different shades of green. Bring in leaf and grass samples to set up and compare the differences in color. Since it is Autumn you could also use this time to teach the children about how the leaves turn in the fall and why. Nothing too heavy because the children are ages three, four and five, but enough scientific information that keeps them asking more questions and keeps the topic open for further investigations. Let the children lead you in what you add to the curriculum. Rich learning and strong foundations for further learning happen when we, Teachers and Parents respect the interests and knowledge young children inquire and talk about.
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂
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This is an example of how you can display biggest to smallest using buttons. The idea when setting up provocations like this one with fabric and buttons, is to keep in mind this is an open-ended exploration. Watch, listen and observe how one or all four children at the table use the materials or choose not to use them. Revisit this provocation and from the observations and words of the children formulate questions to spark a discussion of possible uses for fabric and buttons. You may be surprised at what non-conventional ways the children will come up with. 🙂
Using different nature based or Autumn colors is another way to stimulate a child’s young mind in terms of creativity. Here is a cream colored fabric with yellow buttons along with leaf patterns and a star shape. These small details may be noticed by the children and this could inspire one or more to draw or paint a picture of leaves or stars. The children may ask for clay to sculpt a flower. You never know where a young mind will take a provocation.
Now you may be thinking this is too abstract, not enough information for a young mind. However, my expectations are for the young mind’s capacity to question, explore ideas and take risks creating things inspired by a provocation like this one. Conversation and deep discussion can come about from the children for different uses of fabric and buttons. Sizes, shapes, colors, textures are all a part of the natural and artificial world in which all children live and breath. Use what you have to provoke deep thought, questioning, exploring and constructing minds of the young children you teach or care for.
Patters are in real nature and they are in artificial nature. Here is an example of using the colors in the fabric to create with buttons a red and yellow pattern. Again this is a provocation which may lead a young child to extend the pattern, or it may inspire them to draw or sculpt. As a Teacher my ideas and adult expectations have to be put on the back burner. I have to be patient and wait to see how young three, four and five year old minds will interpret and create with exposure to a provocation like this one. The types of questions I ask to further exploration may differ for each age group or I may observe how each child of a different age influences another’s ideas and constructions based on this one provocation.
Give this provocation a try! See what your young preschool children come up with. Let me know how it worked out for you. Let me know if it did not work and how you changed the provocation. How did your discussions on this provocation unfold and what insights did you gain in terms of how each child interpreted the provocation? I want to hear from you! Please like and share!
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT The Marigold School of Early Learning 🙂