Spring activities and books to go with them

In our mid-Atlantic spring we can have temperatures in the 50s or in the 80s, rain or shine. The activities the children have been involved in center around the weather.

Children's vegetable garden.Children cutting seed pods open.We planted peas and radishes, measured their growth, examined the pea flowers, and are waiting for the harvest. The radishes may be too spicy for many children’s taste so they will say “I don’t like it yet” but most will enjoy the slightly sweet crunch of a sugar snap pea pod. Always check for allergies—it is surprising how many plants can be a problem for one or more children.

This spring there was a large broccolis plant that had grown all winter long and produced many seed pods. When it was dry I brought it into the classroom and the children used scissors to cut it apart, opening the pods to see the seeds.

Books to go with planting seeds or gardening, an incomplete list because there are too many worthy books to list them all:

  • Bean and Plant by Christine Back and Barrie Watts (a non-fiction classic with clear close-ups of seed sprouting)
  • I’m a Seed by Jean Marzollo, Cartwheel Books, 1996. (early reader, accurate science)
  • Seeds by George Shannon, Houghton Mifflin, 1994. (fiction, gardening leads to friendship)
  • To Be Like The Sun by Susan Marie Swanson, Harcourt, 2008. (poem-like text about a child following the life cycle of sunflowers)

A traditional call and response song, such as “John the Rabbit: or “Ol’ John Rabbit” which can be heard on Mike and Peggy Seeger’s American Folksongs for Children

Oh, John the rabbit                 yes, ma’am

Had a mighty bad habit          yes, ma’am

Of jumpin’ in my garden        yes, ma’am

And eating my peas                yes, ma’am

He ate my tomatoes               yes, ma’am

and my sweet potatoes           yes, ma’am

And if I live                              yes, ma’am

To see next fall                       yes, ma’am

Maybe I won’t             yes, ma’am

Garden at all!              Yes, ma’am!

Children mark the amount of rainfall on a drawing.Young child splashing in a puddle.The amount of rain that falls can be measured in inches that accumulate in any container with nearly straight sides. We switched to a “real” scientific rain gauge because it has numbers on it already and can easily attach to a post. The children draw in the amount of collected rain on a template and compare it to previous days. They are beginning to connect the presence of low grey clouds with rain. This younger sibling is lucky to have a parent who knows puddle-stomping experience is more important than muddy clothes (and to have another pair of shoes at home).

Books: again, an incomplete list because there are too many worthy books to list them all.

  • Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse, Scholastic, 1999. Poetic language expressing a child’s wish for, and delight in, rain.
  • Down Comes the Rain by Franklyn Branley, HarperCollins, 1983. Classic non-fiction with updated illustrations by James Graham Hale. This book provides teachers more information than preschool children need—allowing us to stay one step ahead of our students’ questions.
  • Rain by Peter Spier, Doubleday, 1982. A wordless picture book about two children who experience the fun and wonders of a rainstorm.

Children hang wet bandanas on a fence to dry.I brought “laundry” to school for the children to wash on a hot day. When the laundry was dry we talked about where the water went. When one child said, “It went away,” I asked, “Where could it have gone?” Evaporation is a concept that the children will understand better once they begin to learn about atoms.

  • The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrations by Steven Kellogg, Putnam Penguin 1980. Unrelated to water, weather, or evaporation but lots of fun. This tall tale can be used to encourage children to make predictions.
  • The Water Cycle by Craig Hammersmith, Capstone Press, 2012. Non-fiction information at an age-appropriate level.

Child finds a field cricket.While we’re outside observing clouds and tending the plants, children often find “bugs” and other small creatures. We go looking for more little animals. Be aware that entomologists group only some insects in the “true bugs” category.

You can write your own version of “Going on a Bug Hunt.”

We’re Going On A Bug Hunt 

(Adapted from Michael Rosen’s version of a traditional chant. Children repeat every line after the teacher.)

We’re going on a bug hunt,
We’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared.
Oh oh!
Grass,
Long, wavy, grass.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go through it!
Swishy swashy, swishy swashy.

Look, it’s a grasshopper!

We’re going on a bug hunt,
We’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared.
Oh oh!
Mud,
Thick, oozy mud.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go through it!
Squelch squelch, squelch squelch

Look, it’s a mayfly nymph!

We’re going on a bug hunt,
We’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared.
Oh oh!
A river,
A deep, cold river.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go through it!
Splish splosh, splish splosh.

Look, it’s a dragonfly!

We’re going on a bug hunt,
We’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared.
Oh oh!
A forest,
A big, dark forest.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go through it!
Stumble trip, stumble trip.

Look, it’s a jumping spider!

We’re going on a bug hunt,
We’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared.
Oh oh!
A cave,
A cool, dark cave.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go through it!
Tiptoe, tiptoe.

Look, it’s a cave cricket!

We’re going on a bug hunt,
We’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared.
Oh oh!
A neighborhood,
A grassy, tree-filled neighborhood.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go through it!
Skippetty, skip, skip.

Look, it’s a wooly BEAR (caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth)

(Say this section very quickly.)
OH NO IT’S A BEAR!!!
Quick!
Through the cave, tiptoe, tiptoe,
Through the forest, stumble trip, stumble trip,
Through the river, splish splosh, splish spolosh,
Through the mud, squelch squelch, squelch squelch,
Through the grass, swishy swashy, swishy swashy.
Through the neighborhood, skippetty, skip, skip.
Run to the house, run up the stairs,
Oh oh forgot to shut the door!
Run back downstairs, shut the door,
Run back up, to the bedroom,
Jump into bed, pull up the covers,
WE ARE NEVER GOING ON A BUG HUNT AGAIN!!

WAIT! It was a wooly bear, a moth caterpillar, not a big bear!

(You can listen to a sample of Lorraine Bayes saying the traditional chant at Songs For Teaching.)

Books, an incomplete list, to pair with searching for small animals such as insects, spiders, and roly-polies.

  • Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close by Nic Bishop, Tangerine Press, 2002. A photographic collection on each page of “critters” which might be found in the same habitat.
  • Bugs Are Insects by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Steve Jenkins, Harper Collins Publishers, 2001. Use this book to learn about the scientific groupings of insects and the greater arthropod group.
  • Do All Bugs Have Wings?: And Other Questions Kids Have About Bugs by Suzanne Slade, Picture Window Books, 2010. Once a small animal is found, use this book to answer some questions.
  • It’s A Good Thing There Are Insects (Rookie Read-About Science Series) by Allan Fowler, Children’s Press, 1990. This book for emerging readers is also a good read-aloud for beginning a discussion on how insects are beneficial for human life.

I hope that spring weather has provided new science exploration opportunities for your students,

Peggy

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