The Ecology Center has taken to doing classes for the under 5 crowd this school year. There have been infrequent preschool visitors over the years, but I have seen a definite increase in the number of toddlers the last few months. In fact last week there was a class of 2 -3 year old toddlers. These little tots were still in diapers!
We had a class of 3 - 4 year olds. A pre-preschool if you will. This was the class's first visit and the topic the teacher wanted us to cover was plants. Supposedly the kids knew the parts of a plant; the leaves, stem, seeds and roots. My group consisted of 3 girls, 1 boy and a teacher's assistant. I kept it simple and tried to take cues from the kids as to what they knew and what they were interested in. I started out with the kids collecting leaves. Leaves of different sizes, shapes and then colors. Find me a yellow leaf, find me a red leaf etc.
"This leaf looks like a duck!" Re exclaimed, twirling a paw paw leaf. "And this one looks like a duck wing!"
We spent a moment marveling over the leaves that looked like a duck before moving on.
"I have a pink belt on. See?" Hy shouted, lifting her shirt enough to show off her bright pink belt.
"Oh I like it. It's pretty!" I said.
She lifted my shirt to look at my pants.Well this was a first.
"No, I don't have a belt." I said.
When the subject of leaves was exhausted, I moved on to seeds and pointed out seeds of various sizes and shapes, allowing the kids to pull certain seeds. We came across beggar's lice (aka Tick Trefoil). The seeds are like velcro and will stick to any part of your body and can be difficult to remove. The kids loved the seeds and started sticking them all over their clothes and talked about what kind of plant they were going to grow into. The subject changed to favorite colors with pink being the favorite color of all the girls. Among the talking, giggling and seed pulling, the only boy in the group started placing the trefoil seeds on me. He didn't say a word but with great concentration on his face, he methodically placed one seed after another on my arms, back and the bag I was carrying.
Hy, the one with the pink belt, was very much the city girl and it was evident she was not enjoying her outdoor field trip. She often asked when it was time to return to school and let us know how bored she was with this whole ordeal. I think I pushed her over the edge when I lifted a bug board and picked up a millipede for the kids to touch.
"Put that down! I hate worms!"
I went on to explain that the millipede was no a worm, it had an exoskeleton (it's like bones on the outside of it's body!) and it was an animal that ate plants. Every one touched the millipede except Hy, who stomped on the board when I finally put the millipede down and returned the board to the ground.
I tried to distract her growing unhappiness and boredom by leading the group to a patch of Cup Plants and that in turn prompted a discussion of who would drink water from a Cup Plant. Birds, Dragonflies and Butterflies were among the candidates who would sip water from this plant.
We all took a deep breath of the fall air and I asked them what they smelled. Leaves, dirt, my shirt were the answers I received. I had a little bird girl in the group and I was so proud. She often stopped when a wren was singing or a sparrow was chipping and asked "What's that noise?" She also spotted a blue jay and marveled over its large size.
We made a trip to the creek, peeled the bark off a sycamore tree, looked under a few more bug boards and went potty before our time was up.
I like the under 5 crowd. They say and do whatever comes to their minds, even if it is completely random. Makes for an interesting field trip.