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The Trees’ Tree Inquiry

December 2, 2020 | Kristen Jordan

Remember way back when in October when we were trying to figure out what had made holes in the Tree that the children noticed in the park?  Well, the journey of discovery and inquiry continued and has led to much learning and joy.  The children have explored and learned so much!

A quick recap: Children noticed holes in a Tree in the park one day.  

They began observing and wondering what could possibly have made those holes?  They shared their theories: a squirrel, a beaver, ants, worms, a woodpecker, ants with wings. 

They observed more, shared observations with each other, and kept on wondering what might have made the holes.

After gathering lots of evidence, sharing observations, and discussing ideas, questions, and hypotheses, I asked the children where they thought we might find answers to their questions to learn about what might have made those holes.  Eventually, they helped to come up with a list of ways we could find the answers to our questions and try figure out what made the holes:

Look in different books

Ask an expert

Look on the computer

And so we got to work doing research!

We found some experts: a bird expert (Mr. Train) and a tree expert (Mr. Sytsma) and asked them our questions.  They sent us videos and we watched and listened to their ideas. 

Eventually, through our research, the children learned that the holes might have been made by “boring insects” that laid eggs under the bark, and also perhaps by woodpeckers that might have wanted to eat those insects or get sap from inside the tree.  It was interesting to learn that maybe both of these things could have happened.  One important thing we learned from the tree expert is that trees can heal, even when they are damaged.  What a relief to know! 

Even after discovering this information about the damaged tree, our work around trees was not finished.  Curiosity continued to flourish as children noticed more and more about trees. 

They observed marks and holes in other trees and constantly wondered what could have happened to cause the holes.  (“Maybe a creature scratched it.”  Maybe it’s a crater.” “Maybe a storm did it.”  “Maybe a rock fell on it.”). One day, a child even discovered another tree in the park that had very similar holes to the very first tree they noticed!  The children’s observation skills are amazing and they have explored with such curiosity and interest. 

We read more books, learned about different types of trees and tried to identify trees at the park.  

Children drew and painted their observations.

Children learned about the parts of trees.  They noticed how trees change and drew pictures to show these changes: trees grow, the leaves change colors and fall off, and sometimes trees get damaged.

We even discovered that many of the different items we use every day are made from trees.  (Trying to figure out which things at home are made from trees–or not–is a fun activity you might want to try at home!)

To help culminate our study, we recorded all of the many things we have learned along the way!

The glorious leaves, and big branches that sometimes fall during storms have also provided so much fun while we have been learning about trees!  

We have gone through an involved inquiry process that all began with the children’s observations and interests.  The children have practiced noticing, observing carefully, asking questions, developing theories, and researching answers.  All while enjoying the beautiful trees in our park!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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