Each fall, my second graders study the life cycle of the apple tree. We learn how apples grow, celebrate Johnny Appleseed's birthday on September 26th, diagram an apple blossom, examine the parts of an apple, graph our favorite apples, take a field trip to a local orchard, and bake apple pandowdy. Our science journals
play an important role in this study as a place for us to record our facts and illustrations.
One of the classroom jobs we have is Moon Calendar. Two children work together each morning to record moon phase information. First, they check the U.S. Naval Observatory website for an image of what the moon looks like today. They compare this image to other photos of the moon to determine its current phase. I have eight photos in all: new moon, full moon and two each of crescent, gibbous and first quarter/last quarter depending on whether the moon is waning or waxing. These images were printed from this site, then labeled and laminated. The children position these images (backed with Velcro) on our Moon Calendar board along with a "Waxing" or "Waning" label.
As a part of our migration study, we made a life-size drawing of a whooping crane and posted it in the stairwell outside of our classroom. Kids, teachers, principals and even our school's Director have stopped by to see if they are as tall as a whooping crane or if their arms can reach its wingspan. This idea was taken from Journey North and so far it's intrigued everyone who has passed by. We took photos of each student in front of Wally the Whooper. After gluing the photo into their science journal, the children wrote three facts about a whooping crane's size (height, weight and wingspan).
For the first time in over 100 years, two wild whooping cranes have hatched in the Midwest. Now fledglings, the pair are doing well at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. This historic event brings continued hope in the effort to reintroduce whooping cranes to the eastern U.S. They were near extinction in the 1940s when the last migratory flock included less than 20 birds! With the help of Journey North, my second graders will track the migration of these amazing, endangered birds this fall. One of the most interesting things about this project is that the young birds are trained to follow an ultralight plane to Florida for their first migration. Fun Facts About Whooping Cranes:
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. Males are almost 5 feet high, with a wingspan of about 7.5 feet. Females are slightly smaller--yet these huge birds weigh only 11-16 pounds.
Whooping cranes engage in a dramatic courtship dance of calling, wing flapping, head bowing, jumping, bobbing and weaving.
An average whooping crane egg is 4 inches long and weighs 7 ounces.
The whooping crane is nicknamed "whooper" for its unusual call, which can be heard from up to two miles away. Its scientific name is Grus Americana.
Whooping cranes are born with blue eyes that change color as they grow older. At about three months, their eyes will be a vivid aquamarine color. At about six months of age their eyes will be bright gold.
Whooper parents have to teach their chicks to eat and drink. They teach them to eat by catching food for them -- insects, small fish, and invertebrates, and small mammals like mice or voles.
Whooping crane chicks sleep standing up.
Whooping cranes have 20 neck bones. Humans have only seven.
I have always loved the The Butterfly Alphabet by photographer Kjell Sandved and often hang the poster in my classroom when we study insects. His story is a wonderful one - one perfect to share with children! It all started when Sandved came to the Smithonian Institution National Museum of History to conduct research for an encyclopedia on animal behavior. Exploring the collections, he pulled down a dusty, Cuban cigar box filled with exotic butterflies and moths. "There, on the wing, I saw a beautiful letter 'F.' I'll never forget it. I thought, 'My God, how can nature put something so beautiful on a butterfly's wing?" From there, Sandved taught himself how to take photographs and began traveling the world. He discovered letter shapes in other places too and these were organized into the Nature Alphabet poster.
A is the stretch of an inchworm.
B are the curls of a strangler vine.
C is the twist of a monarch caterpillar.
Science News for Kids has a great articleabout Sandved. You can also find out more about his story here.
A new idea for the classroom alphabet - great for those aspiring young scientists. I can think of a few former students who would have known the meanings of many of these! "Is your baby a nerd? Of course not, there's no such thing as a nerd baby and everyone knows that labeling children is bad and wrong. But if you're a nerd or a geek or heaven forbid a chemical engineer,there's a good chance that your baby will grow up to be at least a little bit nerdy. I mean, the genetics are there.. so why fight it?"
In the fall, we participated in Journey North's Symbloic Migration. We created paper butterflies that were sent to Mexican children living near the monarch sanctuaries to symbolize the real migration of monarch butterfly. These students cared for our butterflies all winter, and now the butterflies have migrated back to our classroom. Our original paper butterflies did not return to us. Instead, we received butterflies made by other students in the U.S. and Canada. This was the first time I did this project with my students. Today, letters arrived in my mailbox addressed to two of my girls. The letters were from 4th grade students in Madison, Wisconsin who received the girls' original butterflies. The girls were so excited to find out where their butterflies ended up. This project has come full circle. Not only did we learn about monarchs and their life cycle, we learned that were ambassadors for the fragile butterfly that migrates across shared borders. I hope my students' stewardship continues beyond this memorable second grade project!