The children observed the changes of leaves, changing from green to red, yellow and brown and became curious about their falling off the trees. They collected leaves and together explored why this natural phenomenon occurred. This research continued for many months, stopping and restarting as they observed changes to the environment.
Discovering deciduous trees
The children discussed what they knew about seasons and weather changes. One child identified the trees they were observing as deciduous trees and shared with the other children that their leaves fall off in winter. The children linked green leaves to being ‘alive’ and brown leaves to being ‘dead’, which lead to a discussion about death. We looked at other plants and trees to see whether we could find out if they were deciduous or kept their leaves all year round.
Keeping track of discoveries
Educators encouraged the children to share their prior knowledge, their observations and their hypotheses with each other and supported them in their research, investigations and documentation of their findings. Photo documentation and keeping some of the leaves helped keep track of the changes they observed.
Exploring with all senses
The children enjoyed exploring the trees in their environment and had conversations about texture of the leaves, discussing whether they looked and felt smooth and shiny or rough, wrinkly and crunchy. They used this leaf analysis to compare trees in the attempt to find out whether trees were deciduous or not.
When talking about the leaves turning brown and falling off, the children remarked that it was similar to animals dying. One of the children told the group about his dog that died in the summer because it was old. This made the children wonder whether the leaves fall off because they are old or because the tree is old.
The children realised that temperature and the weather were a big influence on the environment. What happened to the trees when it began getting warmer? What did the children wear when the weather was cold compared to warm? How could we find out what the temperature was?
Every morning, the children revisited their daily reflection diaries to see what had happened the previous day. Then they talked about the weather and noted what they could see and what they could feel when inspecting the tree. They were often able to observe major changes every few days. They observed for instance, the tree losing its leaves and then regrowing them throughout spring.
As the project went on for a long time, children dipped in and out of the research. However, thanks to the children’s record keeping and their hands-on experiences, the children were knowledgeable and supported others with their progress.