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21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A hidden world – life under trees


A few weeks ago I posted a blog (here) discussing some inquiry work the children had been conducting on trees. When posting a blog it is sometimes easy for you – the reader – to think that that’s the end of the topic, the children have done their learning and we as the teachers are moving onto new areas of inquiry. Of course this does sometimes happen, but often the inquiry continues, becoming more in-depth and more complex. As work progresses more problems are naturally presented, more theories shared and more understanding is created.


















This is what has been happening with our work on trees, and is what I am going to share with you through this post.


In my last post I shared some of the wonderful drawings children created whilst working on the topic of trees. Since then I have introduced clay to the resources on offer to further extend the children’s current knowledge and understandings.


















Having worked extensively on their drawings of trees (which the children are still choosing to re-visit independently), the children have found they are now able to make extremely complex tree sculptures.

All the tree sculptures began the same way, with an armature to help the clay from collapsing, but the children then choose very different materials with which to represent their trees. These varied from wire, sequins, beads, real leaves, fallen branches and string.



Working with clay can be viewed as a language for exploring and communicating ideas. Like drawing, clay work enables children to make their ideas visible – but in three dimensions. Different materials present different possibilities and so enable children to extend ideas.


As the children worked with their clay, we discussed what we had already discovered about trees and continued to share our ideas. One of the biggest challenges with the clay trees was getting the branches to stay on and the tree to stand upright. Interestingly this led to some in-depth discussion about the different shapes of trees, how the wind and storms can blow trees down and how the roots help support the tree in the ground.


Investigations can involve more than gathering knowledge about topics. They offer us ways to nurture children’s imagination and spirit and their potential as morally aware, critically thinking citizens (Kolbe, 2005).


Now, after this brief sharing of ideas on the role of roots, I encouraged the children back to thinking more deeply about root systems. I wanted to deepen their investigations, so whilst working alongside the children I was keen to challenge their ideas, provoke their thinking whilst also co-exploring along with them.

What hidden worlds are under trees? was one of my questions. As you can see from the children’s conversations below, worms were a popular choice of discussion and once again I decided to offer the children drawing materials.

Drawing is central to investigations as it involves materials that make it easy for children to generate ideas quickly (Kolbe)

A sole tree with worms coming out of the grass


Water sucked up by roots

What hidden worlds are under trees?
Taika ‘Snails’
Mia ‘And slugs’
Khaia ‘And even worms, I see them’
Tyler C ‘And sometimes snakes’
Mason 'Cicada bugs too and we have a bug at home that crawls on the grass, it's purple but I don't know what it's called'.
Tyler M ‘Dirt, lots and lots of dirt and beetle bugs’
Mia ‘And there’s water in the dirt’


Why is there water in the dirt?
Mia ‘It’s from the rain’
Worms amongst the roots
Taika ‘When you give water to trees, they drink it, they get food’

How else do trees get food?
Tyler M ‘Some people put food on the trees and its like compost.
Kayden ‘Worms are in compost’
Tyler M ‘Worms go into the compost. If people have yucky food the worms eat it and then it turns into compost and feeds the plants’
Kayden ‘Worms wiggle with their bodies under the trees and make holes’
Khaia ‘And you know, worms eat the leaves to make food’
Tyler M ‘Compost? But food needs to rot down to make compost’


So how do worms help make compost and food for the trees?
Khaia ‘Erm…. so I think garden worms eat leaves, hey I know, it's when the
Tree surrounded by worms
leaves fall on the ground.’
Taika ‘The worms go into the tree roots. So the worms eat the trees then make more food. They eat the leaves and eat all through the leaves. The food is in the ground’
Liliana ‘Yes, that’s right. The food is in the ground and the roots. It comes from the soil because of the compost when you throw it out, it makes food for the trees that go into the roots. It’s all the garbage from the bin – worms give us good things. The leaves transform into their tummies and crack open and then the leaves turn into food and its drinked up from the roots’
Kate ‘I’ll show you how it works by drawing it. The leaf goes into the worms mouth, then the leaf's coming out of the tummy and it then pours into compost in the ground’.

Water sucked up by a tree through its roots
Next to the root system of a tree there is a whole hidden world - rabbits, ants and worms


Drawing demonstrating the 'hidden world' under the trees: roots, worms, ant, snails, slugs and cicada bugs.

I just love these conversations. I have been so privileged to be able to listen to the children’s understandings evolve and expand as they think deeply about a topic. I can’t wait to see where their work on trees will take them (and me) to next!

'Water moves from the rain to the ground, into the roots and then...up up to the leaves'



Nga mihi, Christine

1 comment:

Pieter said...

Christine what you are doing with your children is awesome. I hope as they move on to primary they continue to experience these learning opportunities. Well done Mairtown kids. Pieter

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