Spring wildflowers: Introducing guest blogger Marie Faust Evitt

The Early Years blog will broaden its voice by having occasional guest bloggers. Marie Faust Evitt joins us today. She is the head teacher of a preschool class for four- and five-year-olds, and leads an “Adventure Day” class in Mountain View, California. She has written for newspapers and journals* and is the author of Thinking Big, Learning Big, a book of science activities aligned with national standards in literacy, math, and science. She posts wonderful photographs and writes about her classroom activities on Facebook. *A Web of Learning, Science & Children September 2011 
Spring is in full bloom here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve discovered that when I’m out walking with my nature fieldtrip class the children are much more excited about seeing wildflowers when they are looking for a few specific flowers as if it were a treasure hunt. And they are quicker to notice the flowers if we have talked about the flower names ahead of time and come up with, gestures to remember them.
The Pacific hound’s tongue plant.Child shows tongue to gesture that a Pacific hound's tooth plant is seen.For example, Pacific hound’s tongue is an early woodland flower with delicate blue flowers. The name comes from two characteristics – the leaves look like a dog’s tongue hanging out, and the seed pods look like the surface of a tongue. I tell the children that when we see hound’s tongue we’ll stick out our tongues and pant like a dog. We all look silly, and they remember the name of the plant.
The three-leaved and three-petaled trillium plant.We remember trillium by holding up three fingers because trillium has three big leaves and three magenta petals, like a tricycle has three wheels. (Click on the photos to see the larger photographs.)
Buttercup plants with yellow flowers.
These gestures help me remember the names of the California flowers myself since I grew up in Connecticut with buttercups and Queen Anne’s lace. I had learned to recognize buttercups by the old saying that if you held the flower under your chin on a sunny day and your chin showed a yellow reflection it meant you like butter. Folklore, yes, but I remembered the name of that cheerful yellow flower when I saw it again here, years later. It was like greeting an old friend! Buttercups!! I just discovered the science behind the lore.
As beautiful as the wildflowers are, we have the rule that during class we don’t pick any flowers so they can go to seed and make food for the wildlife and new flowers for the next year. Know your students—if you have any concerns that a particularly curious child might taste one of the flowers, talk about the “No Taste” rule too and stay close to that child. Check this site to learn more about your local wildflowers http://wildflowerinformation.org/.
Reading books about wildflowers adds to the learning. My preschoolers like hearing The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tommie de Paulo and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Elemenatry school children will enjoy Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt, the story of Lady Bird Johnson’s love of wildflowers.
Happy spring! Marie Faust Evitt

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