The World in Winter
Lilla E. Green
This lesson was created as a part of the SMART website and is hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology
Getting Ready for Winter
The following lessons are aimed toward preschool through grade three.
Young children need several years to understand seasonal change. It is easy for them to see that winter follows autumn, but the changes that take place in the environment during winter require observation over a period of time before they can be comprehended. As a parent, you might enjoy sharing pictures and photographs of autumn and winter trees, from the computer. The new year offers a good opportunity to provide such experiences. Even in areas of the United States that have little or no snow, seasonal change does take place.
If you have not taken the class on a getting-ready-for-winter walk in the fall season, do so now. Ask them what signs of winter can be seen, heard or felt. Let them stand still and listen. Ask them what they hear. Then have them describe the atmosphere whether it's warm, cool or chilly. Ask open-ended questions to get their comments about how the trees, the shrubs and the plants appear. As children gather leaves to bring back to the classroom, they might want to create a "String of Leaves."
The senses of seeing, feeling, and smelling are needed to study the trees and bushes in their environment. Ask them to see how many leaves are still on the trees. How do they look? What is their shape and color? Where are the animals? What are the names of the animals they see and hear? How do the animals survive where they live?
Children should also observe how winter weather affects plants outdoors. Some children may not be aware how freezing temperatures affect plants. Let the children observe houseplants or photographs of houseplants. Let's look closer at this activity:
Purpose: To learn how freezing temperatures affect plants.
Hypothesis: Have pupils complete this sentence, as you write it on the board or make a word web: I think the plant will ___________________________ when it is left outside all night.
Materials: an overgrown or unwanted plant, water, drawing paper, one measuring cup, pencils/crayons, giant outdoor thermometer, printouts of hats, boots, gloves, Jack Frost and the word "winter."
Procedure / Activity:
Pass out the winter coloring sheet, and lead the class in a discussion of this season.
Brainstorm a list of winter words and post them on a giant snowman, in the classroom. Talk about how the weather is colder, and daylight is shorter. Ask if it's still dark when they get up in the morning. Talk about some special winter activity sports. Discuss how some plants seem to disappear during the winter months. Also ask how they dress differently, during the winter months. Encourage them to name other changes. Tell them they're going to be Junior Scientists who will examine how cold temperatures affect houseplants.
Discuss the hypotheses of the pupils, and explain the purpose of the experiment.
Pupils will draw a clock that states the present time.
Pupils will draw the way the plant looks before it is placed outside.
Teacher will lead a discussion about how low the temperature is presently, and how low it might dip to, below freezing.
Pupils and teacher place the plant outside the window and leave it there all night.
When the plant is brought inside again, introduce the term "wilt" to describe the condition of the plant's stem, leaves and flowers. Have pupils draw how it looks now, on the back of the picture they drew the day before. Let a pupil put one cup of water in the plant. What happened? Talk about it. Ask what might happen to the soil of the plant, if after watering it, they were to place the plant outside all night again. Have pupils discuss what might happen to a cut flower, a cactus, a silk flower, a holly branch, an evergreen twig, etc. If some child wants to water the frozen plant and place it in a sunny window, have that child explain what they believe might happen. Go along with this: children need to see for themselves, not be told, what will or will not happen.
Conclusion: Pupils learn that plants freeze, when the temperature is below freezing.
Winter Birds vs. Fall Birds
Observing, inferring, counting, comparing, discussing, writing, drawing,
Theodore Tugboat invites you to talk about birds! (If you have a computer center, let the children work on the computer in pairs and color Theodore Tugboat).
Say to the class: "Imagine a bird flying high in the air. Let's be birds and fly around our room."
Ask them what birds use to get around in the air. Tell them that birds breathe with lungs like people do. Let them
close their eyes and picture the body of a bird..
Little munchkins love birds. A bird in the classroom would make the days fly by!!! It can be heard, seen, smelled and touched (delicately), under close supervision. Think about a pet canary, a finch, parakeet, or dove as one of your class pets. Check with your administration before purchasing one for your class. If it's not feasible, visit a pet store and observe the birds firsthand. Doesn't this photo just make you want one of your own?
Fall is an excellent time of year, as the leaves are changing colors, and the children are delighting in the crunch of leaves under their feet. As they play in the chilly, brisk, windy days, have them count how many birds they see in their community. Review the winter words they've learned so far, and let them offer more words as they compare fall birds and winter birds.
Wherever you live, there are birds that are native to your environment, and it might be an interesting outdoor trip for the class to go out and count the birds they see (or hear) in a half-hour's time.
Ask questions such as these:
Is the weather warmer or colder?
Is daylight longer or shorter?
Is it dark or light when you get up in the morning?
Where are the leaves that were on the trees?
How did the leaves get on the ground?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Are the dogs and cats acting the same now as they did in the summer?
What are the squirrels doing?
Does it take you longer to get dressed in the morning because its colder?
Do baby birds hatch from eggs or come out of their mother birds stomach?
How do baby birds get their food?
What is in the nest that keeps the babies warm in the winter?
(During a "Discovery" quarter at our school, a fellow-teacher brought a bird's nest into the science lab that had fallen out of her backyard tree. There were a couple of eggs still in it. It was interesting to watch the children use their senses to investigate that nest. Their curiosity led them to determine the type of shrubs in the native environment of the bird whose nest was brought in. Children with special needs will love tactile learning aids, such as this.) A visit to your local Field / Nature Museum might be a good place to touch and see bird's nests.
According to your children's learning modalities, allow them to express their observations through drawing a picture, taping a description on an audio cassette recorder, or writing a sentence. This can be an ongoing activity, throughout each month of the fall and winter seasons. (For the teacher's background information, different field guides for bird-watching are available at bookstores and libraries). This could even become a journal activity, a bulletin board or even an activity center for Open House. Place printouts of various birds in the science corner, for children to color, decorate and make scrapbooks.
You might write to your parents and ask them to assist their children in keeping a tally on a large wall chart or on a refrigerator chart, as a family activity. This chart can list the number of sightings of each species and the date of the sighting. From their chart, the family can help children see that birds migrate. Let the children try to determine which ones will be the first to return in the spring. Children in this age group can infer as to why some birds stay throughout winter, and some do not. Ask them to tell you what birds have that keeps them warm. Lead them to discover that birds are covered with feathers that interlock. These feathers cover a layer of soft down. Tell them that birds fluff up their feathers to trap a layer of warm air close to their bodies. Some native birds in Chicago's Bronzeville community are: pigeon, doves, sparrows, crows and blackbirds. The birds that migrate travel to warmer climates, and they do so to escape bad weather, to find food, or to raise their young.
During January, make a census of the birds and allow the pupils to compare the birds in the classroom bird guides and library books to those they see in their vicinity. Have photographs and pictures available throughout the winter. The youngest children need photographs rather than drawings of birds, though drawings can provide another level of learning for older four-and five-year-olds.
Ask children whether a classroom pet bird needs heat. Lead them to discover that birds are warm-blooded animals, and that their bodies maintain the same temperature all day and night every day, unless they are ill. Tell them that birds mostly use their keen eyesight to find food. They use their beaks and their claws to get bugs ,worms ,small mammals , fish , fruit , grain, or nectar.
Extend and deepen the learning by giving children a chance to see what birds eat besides berries. Little children can easily construct simple bird feeders, and even toddlers can stuff suet into wire or plastic net containers, put popcorn on string, or place commercial bird food in tray or silo feeders.
When there is snow, help the kids to become nature detectives by encouraging them to look closely at the tracks on and around the feeders. They should note the number of tracks, their shape, size, and how deep the tracks are. Ask questions to encourage children to think about the size and weight of the bird. If possible, take pictures of unfamiliar tracks so the children can look in bird books to find out what birds made the tracks. It's never too early to encourage students to look up answers in books, even when they are not yet reading, and matching tracks is an excellent pre-reading skill.
Winter provides opportunities for science experiences. Take advantage of this season so children can enjoy their learning.
The following links may prove interesting.
Chicago's Bronzeville community
Aurora Parrots, Parakeets, Poultry and Doves
Coloring Book Pages of Birds
Enchanted Learning Bird Printouts
Nickelodeon Weather Center
Preschool Coloring Book
History of Daylight Saving Time
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Mail me: Lilla E. Green