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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