We’re arriving to the end of the program and working to build final connections to support the big question of our inquiry project, “How do plants and animals prepare for winter?” The ideas, questions, and thoughts are really flowing and we have seen huge growth in scientific thinking skills. Our Wonder Wall becomes the place where we make the learning visible to the children to support memory recall of past experiences in order to build connections and create new understandings. We’ve been referring to the Wonder Wall as we gather these past few weeks, as it is in these past weeks that all we’ve been learning really begins to come together. We invite you to take some time to visit the Wonder Wall at the program conclusion next week!
To sign in this week, we wrote a letter from our name on the scute of a turtle’s back. We voted for silo or tractor and will likely end up visiting both next week, as many were curious about both! We had an experiment set up to explore the properties of wool and feathers with observation and discussion on what happens when water drips onto these animal coverings. One child stated, “It beads.” We wondered why? We observed that water and oil separate when we shake them in a tube. We’ll continue to explore what is going on and how animals stay warm and dry as the season transitions to winter. We also sang and danced to the Tollgate version of the song, “Oh, Fall is Here.”
We gathered to take out Coltrane, a red-bellied cooter turtle, for some hands-on time, a first for many! We made observations about his anatomy and how he moves. We thought about his habitat and his needs, which include water, rocks, and a heat lamp. We felt his shell and his feet, head, and tail. We noticed his body was cool compared to ours and the other mammals on the farm. We learned he is cold-blooded and figured out that the heat lamp keeps him warm and the rocks help him climb up to dry out. What do wild turtles do to survive the winter? How could we find out? These are additional questions we could explore and this is a wonderful component of inquiry-based learning on a farm. The opportunities for learning and discovery are endless and equally fascinating for both teachers and children!
It was then time to head outside for a hike to the Animal Barn. On the way, we sang our “Hunt the Cows!” song. You can expect to learn it as well next week! At the barn we met Bear, a young North Country Cheviot breed of sheep, born in the spring. A sheep named Bear? That is silly! We felt Bear’s wool and marveled at its thickness. We observed sheep behavior and compared it to the behavior of goats. How is their behavior different? Farm Sprouts should have some thoughts to share with you! We stopped to spend time with our rabbits as well, noting their soft fur and how it compared to Bear’s wool.
Back at the Activity Center, we prepared our snack, baked sweet potatoes grown right here at MSU Tollgate Farm by our Sustainable Agriculture program and served with butter, sea salt, and Tollgate maple syrup. Yum! Most gave them a taste and some gobbled them down in their entirety! While we were eating, we read the book Fall Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow. Farm Sprouts were really interested in the different leaves and enjoyed matching the leaves to the trees. This book inspired some great leaf hunting near the pond!
After filling our bellies, we turned to a project. Farm Sprouts felted and dyed wool into bracelets to take home as a memento from the season next week. Some of us documented our ideas about animal coverings and we “cooked” with corn in the sensory table.
Lastly, we headed out on a big adventure hike, which included crossing a waterfall and exploring the north end of the pond. Farm Sprouts decided it should be a “Gingko Tree Hunt” and sure enough, we found some! We were fascinated by their bright yellow, fan-shaped leaves and each took one home. There are some really fascinating trees to discover at the farm! We spotted Canadian geese and ducks, including both our farm ducks and wild ducks.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus