I have this tree/ shrub that is very evasive, so I don’t mind clipping off of it now and then. I also have some lemon mint, so I decided to set up an alphabet and number provocation using those two plants. 🙂
I set up paper, small glue cups, paint brushes, pencils, water and the two greens I discussed above. Now at first you may think the children would immediately just glue or draw what I have set out; well, not so. Usually when I set up a provocation like this it looses it’s open-ended feel for the children, so they change things to the way they would prefer. However, there is always one or two children that become a bit more curious about what and why things are set up the way they are. It doesn’t bother me if the children change the entire provocation. What is important to me is that the children each take interest and go deeper with their curiosity.
By going deeper with their curiosity, I mean that I enjoy watching and listening to children discuss their ideas among each other. I enjoy the fact that they have questions and can share information they know. Children enter the classroom with knowledge and sharing things they know only encourages and opens up the world of education. Learning through play and through the valuable interactions among peers is so very important.
With this particular provocation I took the time to set up both the beginning letters of “mom” and “dad”, yet those letters can also represent the beginning letter in a child’s name. I also set up the numbers one and two. The children can either choose to glue the leaves in the formations they are arranged or they can glue them in a different way. If they want to use the pencils to trace or free draw their own creations based on what they see that is also fine.
Another aspect to this provocation is that the children will notice the tiny vanes (carrying oxygen and nutrients to the plant) in each leaf (lung of a plant). If the children have had prior crayon rubbing experiences, they will know to put a leaf under their paper and use a pencil to color over the top. Most often I have introduced this particular concept to the children, yet once in a while a child will remember the experience and share with others, which in my opinion is the best way. 🙂
Displaying how letter and number symbols can be created and used with nature gives young minds experience exploring and manipulating two symbols that will become vital skills as they grow older. Seeing a letter can spark a discussion about names and how we spell names. It could also spark a discussion about how old each friend is. There are many directions this provocation can take children’s discussions and interests. As the Teacher it is my responsibility to make sure I find ways to support each child’s curiosity and make it a real experience we all can learn from. Reading and writing early can happen when we are able to see and hear the children’s needs and respond to those academic developmental needs in a concrete and play based way.
Another aspect I wanted to discuss is the texture and scent of both leaves. One leaf is smooth and long, while the other is shorter and rougher. And one leaf has a strong lemon-mint smell. So many discussions and further studies in this one provocation. Science, number and letter recognition, texture, relation to real life experiences and so much more all from this simple provocation using materials we all have access to.
An important reminder to all that introduce scented plants to children. Make sure you’ve discussed eatable plants and no-edible plants with the children prior to their working with those materials. 🙂
I also wanted to point out that this provocation will become messy and that is great! Children can learn how to forget themselves while in the process because learning is more important than keeping things super neat. Once they have finished is when we practice taking care of our materials and making sure the interest area is ready for another friend to explore. Through a lot of practice children become used to the routines and the environment becomes not only a “third teacher”, but a space in which the children learn how to respect and value. Patience is the most important thing when I set up all the interest areas. Being messy is a part of being a curious child and a part of true learning. 🙂
Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning