My first inquiry-based unit this year started off with a simple school snack – apples. I walked into the classroom just after Snack Break, and to my surprise, found a bin full of Golden Delicious apples. Apparently, my three, four and five year-old students already had some pre-conceived ideas about apples – green ones specifically.
“I don’t like green apples,” the explaining began.
“Green apples are sour,” chimed in a few others.
Well, with that said, I walked over to the snack table, curiously staring at the batch of rejected apples. I grabbed one, inspected it for good measure and then took a big bite (good thing I always enjoyed Drama class in school – it sure comes in handy teaching Kindergarten).
“Hmmm, yummy,” I teased. “It doesn’t taste sour to me.” I shrug my shoulders and continued promenading around the tables, crunching along, making my usual small talk. I then finally sat down to enjoy the rest of my juicy apple.
Across the room, I noticed one student get up and grab an apple from the bin.
“This is sweet,” she announced (thank goodness for those unknowing volunteers). Soon, another green apple landed in the hands of an unsuspecting child, and before long, nearly all of the apples had been gone.
It was the wonderful discussion that stemmed at this time that led me to venture into my first inquiry-based teaching (this is my school’s first year in FDK). We began with a KWL chart; outlining what students already Knew about apples, jotting what they Wanted to learn and leaving a blank column for what they would eventually Learn.
Soon, our apple study took a life of its own, transcending to all areas, one idea at a time (many were student-inspired).
We read many books about apples and how they grow. We crafted with apples and wrote about our favourite kind. We made patterns, sorted, counted and graphed apples. We learned about the parts of an apple, dissected apples and observed what happens to them with time (both cut and whole).
All of this learning and exploration was the perfect springboard to a study about the Five Senses. We talked about the ways our senses help us learn and interact with the world around us (i.e., apples in this case).
Whole apples, cut apples, green apples, red apples, sweet apples, sour apples, apple cores, stems, leaves, seeds; they were all dispersed around the science table for students to investigate over a period of time.
The next poem I wrote was directly inspired by my students’ curiosity around the subject of apples. I introduced My Senses as a way to learn about how our senses help us explore and study the world around us, specifically apples. Some observations that came from this included: the scent of an apple is more potent once it is cut, the flesh of the apple turns brown as it is exposed to air, some apples have harder skin, apple seeds can be turned into musical instruments, apples come in different types and taste differently (not always based on colour), various food items can be made out of apples – juice, pie, sauce, etc.
Feel free to download a copy of the poem, My Senses, for your personal use in the classroom. A culminating cut-and-paste activity about the Five Senses is also included. Simply click on the apple basket below. Please note that although I used this poem as part of our science study on apples, it can essentially be used with any scientific exploration involving the senses, or as a stand-alone activity. I hope you have as much fun reading/singing along to it as I have with my class.
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Happy teaching everyone!