Children’s Observations and Teachers’ Reflections from a session at Govt. Lower Primary School, Tarabanahalli
By Sarojini Ramachandra Hegde and Gousia Taj | English translation by Jane Sahi
In this write-up Sarojini and Gousia (teachers from the Fig Tree Learning Centre) describe two sessions where they used a chart on the Singapore Cherry tree created by the Nature Classrooms team as part of the Suttha Muttha project. They share the flow and content of the class, students’ questions and responses and the many interactions and learnings possible by using a resource like this as a starting point.
The children sat in a circle and we began by showing the poster on the Singapore Cherry tree. We invited the children to say what they could see. They mentioned many things.
Here are some responses: one big and one small spider, a woodpecker (this was actually a bulbul), bees and wasps, leaves and bark of the cherry tree, a bat, onion (this was said by one child sitting further away but other children corrected this by saying it was the fruit of the cherry tree).
Then we asked why some of these creatures might visit the tree. The children responded by saying – “to eat the fruit, to drink the nectar from the flowers, to eat the insects on the bark, to make a nest and to take rest.”
The children were then divided into two groups. Accompanied by a facilitator, they each walked to two cherry trees by the road near the school. We asked them to first observe the tree carefully. The children are not used to this kind of activity and at first, they told the more obvious things that they could see such as leaves and branches. A few children looked at a squirrel at a nearby Copperpod tree.
Then we asked them to observe in more detail by asking the following questions: What do you notice about the bark, the colour of the flowers, the number of petals, the front and the underside of the leaves, the insects on the leaves?
The children were also asked to not only look but touch the parts of the tree. The children responded with more close observations and responses commenting on ‘the small, small hairs’ on the leaf and the smoothness of the surface of the leaves and roughness of the underside after touching the leaves. The children also noticed that there were different colours on the same leaf. They also remarked on the ‘straight’ lines (gere) on the bark and the rough texture. Some children held the ripe and unripe fruits in their hands and noticed how they were soft and hard. They also tasted the different fruits and said that the unripe ones were bitter and the ripe ones sweet. The children were asked about the colours of the fruits and noticed a range of colours from dark red to orange and green. Some children squeezed the fruit and observed the juice and the small seeds inside.
The children were asked to look at the top of the tree and the base of the tree as well as what they could see under the tree. One of us suggested that the children look at the white fungus on the bark but the children were reluctant to look closely.
The children saw ants and there were no birds or other big creatures. On one of the trees the children noticed a paper wasp nest being built.
After many minutes spent observing, touching, tasting and responding to some questions- the children were provided with pencils, crayons, boards and paper and were asked to choose something particular that they would like to draw.
As children looked for other ideas after completing one drawing there were suggestions to draw the tree from a distance or from beneath the tree looking upwards but these were not taken up. No one wanted to draw the fungus despite its starry pattern. One child drew a leaf shape, one of us asked her to look more carefully at the shape, the serrated edge and the tip and her second drawing was done much more attentively.
It was close to lunch time and we asked the children to get ready to return to school. A few of the children were keen to continue their drawing and were not so ready to end the session.
When the children returned to school, we sat together and asked them to share not just their visual observations but also what they smelt, heard, touhed or tasted. Each one had something to say and their responses included: ‘five petals on the flower, bees drinking nectar, a hollow in the tree, ripe, dark red fruit, a wasp nest, a line of ants, an insect on the bark that I’d never seen before.’ The children also mentioned things that they had touched and tasted for the first time including feeling the texture of the leaf.
Before the next class, we cut out and arranged the children’s drawings around the poster. We also wanted create a sensory map with children’s responses as an extension of the poster.
For the class, we took pictures of a Red-whiskered Bulbul and a Goldenbacked (now, Black-rumped Flameback) woodpecker and asked the children to notice the differences. The children remarked on the crests, the colours and the position of the two birds and the shape of the beaks. This exercise in highlighting similarities and differences between the two birds helped children know the birds and their behaviour better.
We then read the Singapore Cherry chart slowly, pausing to explain a few things and to take questions. Questions such as – Why are the leaves pointed? Why are the eyes of the bat red in colour?
The drawing activity helped children notice the tree more carefully and also meant that everyone was included and their impressions represented on the display.
We noted how helpful it is to gently probe further after children’s first impressions such as the shift that happened from one child’s first drawing of a leaf to the second drawing when asked to look at the tip and the edges. Some observations could be taken further such as when the children noticed ‘the lines’ on the underside of the leaf could open up a discussion on the veins and what purpose they serve.
Some further questions could be asked about observing the tree at different times to see which creatures visit early in the morning or in the evening. In the future we could further encourage children to look at the tree from a distance to get a sense of its shape. We could have also drawn attention to the variety of ants that were seen.
A similar exercise could be done with other trees such as the Neem and the Peepal found close to the school. This could lead to comparisons between these trees.
Have you used these plant charts in your classroom, library or during a nature walk?
How was your experience as a teacher/facilitator? What was the response from the students? What questions did they ask?
Tell us about your experience and share new ideas for taking these resources to different learners. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org !