In our classroom, studying the weather is a practice that enables us to learn more about the patterns that comprise the natural world. Using Almanac.com, the Mercury group found an article on edible weeds that caught their interest. They began offering tentative definitions of the word edible, and trying to define weeds with respect to the knowledge they already have about plants.
To refresh their knowledge on the topic, the teachers planned a lesson calling for the students to recount what plants need to live and how they grow. Then, the students discussed basic plant anatomy and the function of different plant parts.
To optimize the students knowledge of the parts of a plant (which is basic foundational scientific knowledge required of elementary-age students), the topic of weeds was expanded to include herbs, so the class could revisit the topic of plant anatomy in a way that complemented last year’s study of mostly fruit and vegetable producing plants.
As the study of weeds and herbs took off, Rooibos was introduced. A mythical creature created from loose parts by the classroom teachers during a training, The task of constructing a creature was assigned to encourage the teachers to tap into how children think when they are building freely. By integrating the creature into current classroom study, the teachers as well as the students have a way to expand their creative thinking.
As a means of introduction, Rooibos “wrote” a letter to the children asking if he could take refuge in the classroom. He was named Rooibos by his carnivorous parents because he only eats weeds and herbs. He fled his home because he wants to explore other parts of the world.
On our monthly grocery store field trip, we went to Whole Foods to find food for Rooibos, of course looking for herbs and weeds. In the produce section, the children found parsley, arugula, cilantro, basil, marjoram, chives and dandelion. In the dried foods section, the children found rooibos, mate, matcha, hibiscus and black tea.
Upon arriving back at the school, the teacher’s arranged a provocation using the purchased items so when the children re-entered the room they were greeted with a neat display of the fragrant herbs and weeds, both dried and fresh.
Instructed to use four senses (excluding taste), the students embarked on a exploration of the plants. They explored scents by combining different herbs into bouquets, studied anatomy by identifying each plant part, saw the layers of the stem and leaves by cracking them open and examining closely. The word concoction could be heard throughout their study, as they arranged the plant life into different combinations.
As our study of botany progresses, the students are gaining a deeper understanding of not only the structure and life cycle of plants, but how they are classified with respect to human use. By allowing our students the opportunity to explore the differences in shape, structure, and texture between new plants firsthand, taking in information primarily through their senses and only afterward pausing to make lengthy notes, we accommodate the way children naturally gather information from the world and learn.
Integrating the mythical creature Rooibos as a way to enhance the class’s curiosity about plants like herbs and weeds is a way of keeping the study motivated by the children’s inherent capacity for imaginative play and wonder.
If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.