Our 4th grade school yard scientists just started their International
Baccalaureate unit on “how we express ourselves.” Before Johnnie and I
arrived, they had already been considering all the different ways there
are to share emotions or information from facial expressions to your
flair on the basketball court to writing poetry or creating art. We
considered what scientists might need to do to effectively express
themselves and we realized quickly that finding ways to capture keen
observations is key.
Several different exercises helped us test our observation skills – from using all of our senses to tricks that help you “remember” better (e.g., notes and sketches!). Using beautiful local bird photography and Methow Valley landscapes, we also practiced noticing big and little details, asking questions about what the images make us wonder, and doing some quick sketches. The students were very keen observers – and quickly realized that doing the swift sketches helped them see deeper than just looking.
Then, we went outside….brrrr….It was pretty cold. Pretending to be visitors from a planet far far away, we carefully inspected a new-to-us species (a tree!). We noticed things, we recorded what it reminded us of, and what questions or wonderings it left us with. We sketched it…and then our hands got cold! Arctic conditions aside, it was a great reminder that sometimes we look at something every day but we still don’t really see it until we stop and pause.