October 8, 2012

Want to Know What's Inside a Chinese Lantern?

For the past month I have been curiously noticing these Chinese Lanterns growing alongside my drive way.  I can guess what most flowers look like inside, but these were so mysterious. 

I plucked one of these beauties, and discovered a straight tap root that brought the whole plant quickly out of the earth.

I took it inside and got ready to dissect it.  Have you ever dissected a flower?  Dissection usually brings memories of frogs and owl pellets, but a flower is a fun, easy, and less messy project (or so I thought...).  It doesn't require many supplies either.

Find a flower of your choice.  A flower straight from the ground works really well because the roots and all the leaves may still be attached.  Lay some paper towels out on a flat work surface.  Obtain a pair of scissors.  Child-size scissors can help increase participation from the kids in your care.

I started with the roots and worked my way from the bottom up.  First I used the scissors to cut off the root section of the stem.  There were a bunch of smaller root shoots coming out of it, and I cut each of those off, too.  Let your child touch the twisty texture of the root shoots, and count the pieces.  My flower had eight small shoots and one large root.

Next I cut off each of the bunches of leaves (there were eight), and each individual leaf (there were thirty four).  Take time to notice the shape of the leaf, the feel, and the difference between the front and back.  

One of my leaves has a hole in it and it's brown there.  Can your child problem solve to figure out what happened there?

Cut the leaves off the stem carefully because you may find some teeny tiny new baby leaves like I did.  Target math skills by arranging the leaves in order from smallest to largest, and largest to smallest.

Now it's time to dissect the blossom.  I've been anticipating this part so much!  I start my scissors at the tip of the flower and slice straight up to where the stem meets the top.  I pull it open, and . . . 

Two little, squirmy, mili-peedy bugs scurry out!!  That is so not what I was expecting!  I instinctively  slam the handle of the scissors on to them; I was so startled.  I took another peek inside the blossom, and there were several more bugs inside!  I had no idea this lantern would be a home for insects.

I thought carefully about whether or not to cut open the whole blossom like I had originally planned.  I decided I could see inside well enough, there was nothing else in there, and I didn't want to loose five more squirmies into my kitchen. 

I move from the blossom onto the stem.  Cut across it to see the inside.  It is strong, green, and moist.  The water inside is what keeps the stem straight.

The flower dissection is finished.  Help develop understanding and comprehension with a brace map, which demonstrates the concept of a whole (on the left) and all of its parts (on the right).  A flower is not a whole flower without all of its parts because each part is necessary to create a whole flower.  You can make this map with pictures, actual flower parts, or you can cut look-alike flower pieces from construction paper and make your own that way.

To extend your conversation, discuss what else the flower needs to grow and where they grow.  Try growing your own flowers in your home or garden, and enjoy watching as each part grows.

October 2, 2012

Pom Pom Day

Image by Craftster.org

Need something fun and creative for the day?  Try playing with fuzzy pom poms!  They are found in the craft department, and come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and sometimes even prints or glitter.


Sort your pom poms by color, size (serration), or pattern.  If you can sort by one attribute, try sorting by two - it's much trickier!  This time make piles of large purple pom poms, green glittery pom poms, and teeny tiny white pom poms, and so forth.

Pour the pom poms into a jar and estimate how many are inside.  To make this harder, guess how many large, medium, and small or how many blue, yellow, and red.  Try recording your guesses in the form of a chart or graph.  When your guesses are recorded, pour out the jar and count them.  Record the actual numbers.  Did you come close or were you way off?  What could you do to make better guesses?

Practice one-to-one correspondence as you count your pom poms.  How high can you go?  Build the foundation for multiplication skills by arranging the pom poms into groups of two, or pairs.  Now split them into groups of threes, then fours. 


Let's experiment with our pom poms.  Put them in a sink of water.  Do they float or sink?  What can you do to help them float or sink?

Can you create a catapult for your pom poms?  Try balancing one on the handle of a spoon and then slamming your hand on the scoop end.  How far can you make it go?  Whose pom pom went the farthest?  What did you do to make if fly farther?

Do you have a water works or toy car ramp.  Have pom pom races on it.

What does it look like if you dissect a pom pom?  Is it hollow or solid inside? Allow the children to guess what it will look like.  Once you cut it open, have them practice their observational skills and use those adjectives again.  If it doesn't look any different, then your child sees that not everything is exciting inside.  Can they think of something that might have a surprise inside?  Consider dissecting a flower, a stick, a fruit, or a vegetable.  Be sure to keep it safe of course, with the adult handling the knife, and plenty of supervision.  Also, try to find objects that a child can cut with safety scissors to increase participation.


Get your adjective on:  Pretty, pink, fuzzy, whizzy, pommy, soft, bouncy, loved-by-cats, squishy, rolly, flick-across-the-room-able.  

Pom poms can be used for so many things that there are a hundred ways to describe them.  Have fun coming up with unusual and creative descriptions.  This activity gets you and the children using your senses and thinking about things in new ways.  This is an excellent starter activity for any kind of critical thinking activity.

Use pom poms to tell a story.  Perhaps the large green ones are lily pads and the small green ones are frogs that hop on them.  The tiny black poms are flies that buzz around trying not to get eaten by the frogs!

Use alliteration, rhyme, and descriptive words to make your story come to life.  Model storytelling and then encourage your child to try.  Children also love for you to begin a story, and allow them to chime in when they have an idea.  Maybe you can start and they can finish your sentences.  Gradually encourage the children to take over more of the story telling.  


Create pom pom prints.  Set out a variety of paints and sizes of pom poms.  Encourage children to dip the poms in the paint and print away.  They can even experiment with mixing colors.  For a cute, homemade wrapping paper, use a variety of colors of paint on repurposed paper bags or newspaper.

Try cutting out a large shape such as a flower or a Christmas tree from an old cereal box.  Using school glue and multicolored poms, cover the shape completely.

Using the photo at the top of this post for inspiration (from Crafster.org), thread poms onto string to create a pom pom string.  Arrange multiple strings in a row to create a pom pom curtain.  This could be a fun entrance into a play room or tree house.

Dramatic Play:

Pretend the pom poms are food in the home center.

Or perhaps put double sided tape on red poms, adhere them to your clothes, and pretend you have Chicken Pox.  Your child can pretend to be the doctor and make you better.

Get moving:

Play a relay game with pom poms.  Have all the players stand on one side of the yard, each with a spoon in one hand and a pom pom in the other.  The first person in line puts her pom pom in the spoon and races across the yard.  When she gets to the other side, the next person goes.  Try not to drop your pom pom.  How fast did you complete the race?  Can you do it faster trying a second time?

Balance a pom pom on your head, hand, shoulder, or nose!  Can you do it?  Where is it easiest to balance a pom pom?

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