Tag Archives: One Small Square

The “One Small Square” Strategy: Mushrooms and Other “Fun Guys”

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[Edited and re-blogged from "A Child's Garden," September 2011. All photographs (c)2010-11, Kim M. Bennett/Simple Science Strategies.]

We originally completed this study last fall, but are re-submitting this for the current SSS Blog Carnival, because it made good use of the “One Small Square” Strategy, the focus strategy for Week 3 of the September Newsletter, and focused on mushrooms, the topic for Week 2!

Mushrooms love the wood chips in my flower bed (Hartford, Connecticut, 2011).

We sure have had some wild weather here in New England at the end of the Summer of 2011. We have had so much rain that the crop of mushrooms sprouting up everywhere has been very interesting and incredible.

Fall, especially the Back to School time, is always a prime time to go mushroom exploring, with the warm days, cool nights and more frequent rain.  Also be on the look-out for mushroom cousins, the slime molds and actinomycetes, that you probably mistake for their more well-known family members. Here is a mushroom study that you can do for September.

 

Before You Go Outside:

Tiny shelf fungi on a dead tree. (Fenton-Ruby Park and Preserve, Willington, Connecticut, 2010.)

 

  • Read up on mushrooms. The Handbook of Nature Study has a very thorough discussion of many of the types of fungi that you might see on an expedition, on pages 714-727. If you read a little further, you can learn about their indoor cousins, the bread molds (pp. 727-728).
  • The Handbook of Nature Study website has an Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge on Mushrooms that has excellent links to videos, notebooking pages and other resources.
  • Gather materials you might need for a mushroom study: clipboards and pencils, hand lenses, a long plant tag or flag to mark your mushroom spot, plastic food service gloves.
  • Read One Small Square: Practice Looking Closely at the World and  Outdoor Hour Challenge #9: One Small Square for descriptions of how to carry out the observation activity. 
  • Prepare observation sheets for each child. 
  • Review routines: “How to Work With a Partner.”
  • Teach safety rules about potentially poisonous plants.

 

Honey mushrooms in a shady flower bed. (Hartford, Connecticut, 2010).

Observing Mushrooms and Their Cousins:

A mushroom study lends itself well to a multiple-day observation, since the fruiting body of most fungi only remains for a few days, and changes considerably with time and the weather.

Step 1: Note the location of some fungi on a nature walk.

Some places to look include wood chipped areas of a school flower garden or playground, rotting logs, tree stumps, and places where a tree once stood. At this time of year, a whole crop can pop up literally overnight, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any on a particular day.

Be on the lookout for the little “buttons” of some mushrooms that look like tan bumps before they sprout up the next day.

Step 2: Use the One Small Square technique to sketch what you observe.
Step 3: Mark the location with a stick or “flag” so you can find it the next day.

Step 4: Return to sketch changes for the next few days, until the mushroom collapses.

Mushrooms change very quickly from day to day, which is exciting for kids. Note the weather each time you observe (that day’s as well as the weather from previous days). These observation forms have a place to record the weather.

Each day you observe, ask the students some questions:

  • How did your mushroom change? Why do you think this happened?
  • What was the weather like the day before? How might that have affected the mushroom?
  • What type of weather do mushrooms prefer? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
  • Where are the mushrooms growing? What is the ground like there? Are there any trees around?
  • Do you see any insects around the mushroom? What are they doing?
  • Does your mushroom have a smell? (Make sure that children don’t handle the mushrooms without wearing gloves, because some poisonous mushrooms resemble harmless ones.)

Classroom Follow-up: 

Study the Anatomy of a Mushroom –

  • Enchanted Learning has a diagram of a gilled mushroom that students can label, to learn the anatomy of one type of mushroom.
  • The Mushroom Lady has a pile of activities that will get your kids really studying mushrooms in-depth.

Learn About Mushroom Relatives –

  • Here is a handy sheet of terms that you might want to study, so that you correctly distinguish between fungi, actinomycetes, slime molds and other fungus-like organisms.

Study Edible Mushrooms (and Eat Them!) –

  • Create a mushroom study station with stereoscopes and various edible mushrooms from your grocer’s produce department: shiitake, oyster, portabella, white button, straw, crimini…

Fairy Rings, Faerie Houses and Other Literacy Connections –

  • Study the folklore surrounding fairy rings and faerie houses.
  • Build a faerie house (or two or 10…) along your school nature trail or in your backyard garden.

Faeries and other woodland creatures — literacy connection!

Resources

One Small Square: Backyard. $2.43 at Barnes & Noble.

A voyage of scientific discovery is as near as your own backyard. There you’ll find a busy hub, full of creepers and crawlers, lifters and leapers, singers, buzzers, climbers, builders, and recyclers. It’s a place where children can smell, listen, look, and get a hands-on feel for life, all in one small square of land and air. Backyard is just one of the exciting, vibrantly illustrated volumes in the critically acclaimed One Small Square series of science and nature books for children. Click on the photo (right) for information on ordering this great addition to your homeschool or classroom science library. (Helpful hint: I had multiple copies for my science center).

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“No Place Like Home” – Additional Notebooking Options for Nature Study

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For our rotting log twist on the “One Small Square” task, I developed two notebooking pages, called “No Place Like Home.” These can be used instead of, or in addition to, any of the other printables in this e-Book, as they all focus on nature study and observation.

This journal page is a simple frame and lines for any type of written observations.

For list-making (we love making lists of things in our house), I created a simple lined page to document the types of organisms observed.

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One Small Square: Practice Looking Closely at the World

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One Small Square

 

“There is more to life than increasing its speed. — Mahatma Gandhi”

Practice looking closely at the world

Label your patch so you can find it the next time.Early in the spring, go outside with your child and find a 3′ x 3′ patch of ground. It could be in the woods, in your vegetable garden, in the lawn, or even around a crack in the sidewalk (you’d be surprised the special world that crops up around some of the smallest places). A good way to choose a random patch to observe is to toss a hula hoop out into the yard, then use plant tags or a colorful stick with a flag to mark your “little patch” for another day.

Now it’s time to observe like a scientist!

Take your nature journal, your colored pencils or paints, maybe a magnifying glass if you have one. Bring along a “bug house” or plastic butter tub along, just in case you find anything interesting you and your child would like to observe more closely. Spend about 15 minutes recording the world that you discover in your little patch of land.

As you sketch, write or paint, ask yourself some scientific questions:

–What living things do I see?
–Is anything moving? What is it doing? Why?
– Are any creatures interacting with one another? Why?
–What do you see that is surprising?

Go back and check out your patch at least once a month.

–How has your patch changed? What new things do you see?
–What do you think caused the changes in your patch?
–When you come back next month, what do you predict the patch will look like? Why?

Here are some journal pages you can download and use to draw and write about your little patch of land.

If you are working on taking data with your child, use this data collection tool.

Lists are a great way to keep track of observations. Download this recording form to begin yours.

New to notebooking? Check out the many Free Notebooking Pages at NotebookingPages.com and get started today! Samples of nature study notebooking pages and much, much more!

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Biomes: Teaching With the ‘One Small Square’ Series

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I spent seven years of my teaching career as a third grade teacher in an urban school district. The elementary school where I taught was actually located at the edge of town, so we had a school full of kids from the city, attending school in the country. The children delighted in the horses that lived at the farm next door, and enjoyed just rolling in the grass and watching the butterflies in our nature garden.

While working on building nature activities to give the students experiences which they had not previously had, I stumbled upon the One Small Square Series of non-fiction children’s books, by Donald Silver.  Each 48-page book covers a different habitat, and guides kids through a close-up look at what you might find if you observed one small piece of that habitat.

  • Backyard
  • Cactus Desert
  • Cave
  • Night Sky
  • Pond
  • Swamp
  • Woods
  • African Savanna
  • Arctic Tundra
  • Coral Reef
  • Rainforest
  • Seashore

There are over a dozen titles in the One Small Square series, by Donald Silver. For the remainder of this post, I will focus only on Backyard, for the following reasons:

  1. While people reading the post might live in different parts of the country, and (hence) in different biomes, everyone has something that they can call a “backyard” – a patio, a planter, a parking lot, a school garden, a playground, or a park. The learning tasks in Backyard can be performed in any kind of outdoor area, including one of the other biomes.
  2. The Charlotte Mason Method of instruction recommends beginning nature studies with the child’s own surroundings, then moving to exotic locations. In all instruction, we do well to connect new information with what the learner already knows. See “Nature Study: Charlotte Mason’s Cure for Tired, Text-Taught Tots” for more on the Charlotte Method philosophy of outdoor education.
  3. Becoming familiar with the “One Small Square” method of nature study in one’s backyard makes the other studies easier.

 

One Small Square: Backyard, from $2.96 at Barnes & Noble. Click image for ordering information.

50 Helpful Links for Use With One Small Square: Backyard

Reviews

These two links provide helpful reviews of the series, one by readers through Google Books, and another from a homeschooler:

Cornerstones of Science provides excellent reviews of many fiction and non-fiction books that can be used in your science instruction. Search by title, topic, author, grade and reading level.

 

Lesson and Unit Plans

 

This section includes a huge variety of types of web links, from .pdf versions of lesson plans to print out and put in your public school lesson plan books, to laid-back, Charlotte Mason-style homeschool nature studies using Backyard, to  unit studies compiled by the National Park Service. You will find plans for preschool through high school students in this list. I think the list is exciting! And all materials are free.

[NOTE: While I did select only links that were relevant (i.e., contained actual lesson plans, included appropriate learning tasks, used Backyard as a “spine” and addressed important educational goals), a site’s presence on the list does not mean that all linked lessons will align with state or national standards (although many provide this information for you). The teacher always has to consider the needs of her own students, as well as any school or state requirements, when choosing lessons and curriculum. ]

 

Many who used Backyard as a basis for their lessons tied it into studies of soils, life underground and worms. For older students, the “meter square” links introduce the idea of quadrat studies, in-depth, scientific investigations of the plants, animals, soil, light and weather of a specific area used in the field of ecology. See also the Creative Curriculum link (which describes a center-based learning approach to teaching with the book).

Learn more about observing in your backyard in “Science Skills: Making Observations and Asking Questions Like a Scientist” (Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2009)

Resource Lists

 

Some links did not specifically include a lesson plan, but had other interesting and important information that might be helpful to a classroom or homeschool teacher, such as schedules for using the book, the role of nature study in a balanced curriculum, lists of materials to include in a comprehensive outdoor study program, and general information on nature study. Think of these as a “shopping list” for a teacher intent on infusing science into classroom practice.

Learn how to “look closely” in “The Power of Observation: Life in a Tiny Ecosystem” (Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2009)

For More Information…

 

All these sites, and others, can be found on my Pinterest board, One Small Square. New sites will be added as I find them.

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