4th Grade Science : Unit #6 - Plants: Structures and Processes : Lesson #11

What's in the Woods?: Part 3

Objective: Students are able to identify plants and the external parts that help these specific plants survive.
Standards: 4-LS1-1 SP1 SP3 SP4 SP5 SP6 SP7 SP8
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Engage - 10 minutes

Before we could out and finish our final observation, I wanted students to start thinking about what they expect to see. We shared predictions based upon their data. Some agreed that they would see a lot more flowers. One student expected that the bud  on their plant would be a flower by now.  This helped them remember that they would be going out in the field to do work. This was important because it is May. "Spring Fever" is rampant. I knew that a walk in the woods today could turn out to be very unfocused if I didn't help prepare them. We discussed what kind of behavior we needed to practice in the woods. I told them that we would be removing our tags today and not leave them out there, even though they were wooded tongue depressors and would eventually rot. We reviewed that it was important not to trample other plants. 

We reviewed our data together to be sure that the dates were correct, made sure we had a measuring tape or ruler, and our iPads before we headed out. I encouraged them to take photos of their plant one last time. I reminded them that I needed to check their observations areas for poison ivy or nettle and to wait for my "OK" to work.

As soon as everyone was ready, we lined up and headed out of the building.


2 Out to the Woods We Go - 30 minutes

As we headed back out to the woods, students were predicting more about what they would see. We stopped along the way to observe a brach fungi that was amazingly large. Students were fascinated by it. I took the moment to explain the difference between fungi and a plant.It is these little side lessons that help students become more observant and interested in what is around them.I jump on the chance. 

Again, as in the past, students ran off to find their marked plant. There was excitment that their prediction was right. There were more flowers everywhere! 

Safety: I quickly began checking spots to be sure that poison ivy or stinging nettles. It is important to know these plants or poisonous plants in your area BEFORE taking your students out. Check your local university extension for information on poisonous plants in your region.

I made a point to show student's a patch of stinging nettles during their observations, warning them to stay away. With the progression of plant growth it is essential that you check each area each time students are taken out. All areas for plant samples were clear of any plants we needed to be wary of.

Students began looking at their research notes again, gathering their new data and making sure to document their findings accurately. It went much quicker this time. Several were surprised by blooms on their flowers. Others had flowers that had expired. Students were identifying specialized parts as I roved around asking them to explain how the specialized parts worked. I wasn't as concerned about accuracy in their understanding as I was that they could tell me that the particular part had a role in the plant's survival. 

When notes were done, I gathered them together to take a few minutes to talk about the changes they saw.

They wanted to know if they could come back out the following week. I heard how much they loved this lesson. Unfortunately, it was time to head in and work on identifying their plants and summarizing their work.

The Third Time Around Changes Things a Little

By the third time, students were comfortable with the procedure of measuring and observation. I noticed that with that comfort, I ran a greater risk of behavioral issues with some of my higher energy students. It wasn't that they weren't engaged, but they were comfortable. I held them accountable for their behavior by asking them to look for bits of trash to collect. This kept students busy while I helped others. I could have had them start to identify their plants on their website, but the outdoors was so beautiful and I wanted them to be more absorbed in the green of the woods than have their noses in their iPads. We could do that inside!

As I waited with two boys who were bored with waiting, I brought up my Merlin app on my iPhone. We turned our heads upwards to listen to a bird. I showed them how to use this app to identify the bird. Technology meets nature! It was a brown thrasher. Another one called from a distance as I explained they were marking their territories.  Any teachable moment in the outdoors needs to be grabbed to help them become more aware of their surroundings and keep them accountable for continual learning.

Questions Upon Questions

Students were very interested in knowing more about poison ivy and so I emailed the site that is included in the lesson for your information. It's a good site. I would avoid the Poison Ivy. org. It looks good, but when you get into it, there are inappropriate and rather graphic photos that don't suit our needs. 

The lessons that extend from this lesson about researching one plant really amazed me. I didn't think they would be so interested. But, when I reflect upon how science has been taught through NGSS, they are starting to think more deeply, be more curious and this email below reflects one student's growth in this area!

Student Email

My Response

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3 Reviewing Our Data & Identification - 20 minutes

Students came back to the classroom to review their data. I had emailed them the "Wildflowers of the United States" website to help them identify their plants. This website contains a database for each state, making it easy to find the plant using photographs. I found this site to be the easiest to navigate and research for students this age. If the plant is not on this site, I had used the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers book to supplement. This book has everything! There is an eastern region and western region edition. 

When they were finished, I asked them to organize their photos in the app Story Kit. I told them they could use text and note their measurements, observations and anything they wanted to include to help them keep a record on their iPad.


Great Work!

I was really pleased with the Story Kits that I received from students! 

This one in particular was outstanding and everything I had hoped for! She included her data, identified the plant and the photos were awesome! What a fun way to show how the plant changed! I highly recommend this as an assessment of their work! The Story Kit is the glue that helps them to see how the change took place over a period of about three weeks. They enjoyed this assignment.