Week 2: March 14-18 Learning to Observe, Ask Questions, Make Connections, and Use Evidence in Explanations
Spring 2022 Week 2: We served 8 schools in 3 districts (Lake Oswego, Hillsboro, and Silver Falls) across 13 different parks and natural areas in NW Oregon! While winter is still holding on in our region, signs of spring are becoming increasingly evident! As students explore and make observations, the change of season is all around reminding us that nothing is permanent and life is cyclical.
One of our favorite scientific observation activities to introduce on day 1, is called: "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of (and "I Think Maybe"). This observation routine helps students learn to make careful observations and learn to distinguish observation from opinion or declarative statement. When students use the statement "I Notice" it helps them understand that observations are connected to our senses and that anyone can make an observation if they slow down and pay attention: "I notice this is brown. I notice it feels smooth. I notice it smells musty, etc."
Once students have an opportunity to make observations about something in nature or a natural phenomenon, they are encouraged to ask questions and wonder about what they observe. For example: "I wonder what tree this leaf comes from? I wonder if bugs made these holes in the bark? I wonder what eats this plant?" "I Wonder" statements give students an opportunity to ask questions and become curious about the world around them; they build skills of inquiry and student self-efficacy.
After students have made careful observations and have started to ask questions, they are prompted to begin asking themselves what they are reminded of: "This reminds me of the tree in my back yard. This reminds me of hair. This reminds me of the time I collected berries with my family. This reminds me of the sound of the ocean." "This Reminds Me Of" statements gives students an opportunity to build connections with prior learning as well as to connect meaningfully with their own life experiences and cultural knowledge. This is also the beginning step of pattern recognition, which is an important scientific skill.
Finally, students are prompted to make explanations based on evidence, using the language of uncertainty: "I think maybe a bug ate this leaf, because I see bugs crawling on it and it looks like they are eating. I think maybe this tree is a Western Hemlock because its needles are all different lengths and it has small cones (as described in the field guide). I think maybe that bird is building a nest because I see it carrying sticks in its mouth." Using the language of uncertainty helps students begin to base their claims on evidence, while still being open to other explanations, an important scientific skill that we work on throughout the week.
Nature is filled with opportunities to explore, observe, ask questions, and make connections. We are always grateful that we get to spend time in these places and learn by interacting with the natural world in meaningful ways. Outdoor School is a place to learn and grow while getting to know ourselves, our peers, and the outdoors just a little bit better.