Observe. Everything. Young children, Science Friday and walks in nature

A spider on a daisy flower.

Why is a spider hanging out on a flower? Two-year-old children observed this spider but haven’t yet asked a question about it. Give them time. #ObserveEverything

“Observation is that first step to discovery,” noted Ariel Zych, Science Friday Education Manager, in a audio segment about Science Friday’s Science Club citizen science challenge, #ObserveEverything.

Science Club notes that scientists such as Galileo, Darwin and Curie made careful observations which led to their discoveries. As individuals or as groups or a class, we are invited to do just that: observe everything and anything, and communicate our observation in one of many formats including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, YouTube, Email, and Tumblr! And, of course, we’ll communicate our observation to other students and parents.

All we have to do is:

  1. Observe everything until we notice something that interests you.
  2. Observe it methodically, in the same way, at regular intervals, keeping a record of our observations.
  3. Share our observations with the hashtag #ObserveEverything (see details at https://www.rebelmouse.com/scifri/Science-Club/ )

As I walked with a small class of two year olds (25-30 months old) for the first time through a tended garden near the school, I pointed out features of plants that I thought would interest them. We looked at a tree “thiiiisssss” tall with small leaves (willow oak) and a smaller tree (but still big to them) with big leaves (paw-paw). We used one gentle finger to touch the leaves and whole hands and bodies to hold the trunk. They spotted ants on tree bark, crows in tree tops, squirrels dashing to climb trees and bees going from flower to flower. A few children confidently said, “They’re getting pollen.” Most exciting was the observation of a small spider on a daisy flower. None of the children yet wondered why the spider was on the flower. With time and discussion, they will see a pattern of animals using plants to survive (NGSS K-LS1-1).

As we walked and observed, the adults often reminded the group about ways we can be good stewards of this garden tended by others:

  • Walk on the grass or the mulch paths.
  • Use our eyes to see, our nose to smell, and a gentle finger to touch (most things).
  • Pick up leaves from the ground, not off a plant because it is still using them.
  • Stop and “freeze” if you see an animal so you can watch it for a while without scaring it away.

See articles such as “A Day at the Beach, Anyone?” by Anthony Fredericks and Julie Childers (Science and Children July 2004) and other NSTA posts (here and here) for suggestions on preparing for field trips.

We observed everything! I wonder what observation, and maybe questions, we’ll post next time?

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3 Responses to Observe. Everything. Young children, Science Friday and walks in nature

  1. Gail Laubenthal says:

    What a beautiful experience for both children and adults. It reminds me of my favorite quotes by Maria Montessori, “When dealing with children there is greater need for observing than of probing” and “The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” and “The child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.” and “Scientific words are best taught to children between the ages of three and six; not in a mechanical way, of course, but in conjunction with the objects concerned, or in the course of their explorations, so that their vocabulary keeps pace with their experiences.” Powerful words, then and now!

  2. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Thank you Gail. Yes, powerful words–
    “Scientific words are best taught to children between the ages of three and six; not in a mechanical way, of course, but in conjunction with the objects concerned, or in the course of their explorations, so that their vocabulary keeps pace with their experiences.”
    No need to rush to teach vocabulary that they won’t use often.

  3. Nick Hageman says:

    I love the idea of having students get out into nature to explore science first-hand! As a current secondary biology teaching major, I wonder if there are ways to implement this into a secondary science classroom. I feel as if students lose that “spark” for science as they progress through school because it becomes more and more about memorizing concepts and never leaving the classroom instead of exploring the world around them with genuine curiosity. I appreciate your post, and will use it to work towards taking this method of observing everything into the secondary classroom!

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