Weekly Roundup: Water is Blue, Right?

This week we dove (haha!) deeply into our water inquiry. We started by having the students describe water. Describing different things (from bananas to scarves) after paying close attention to them with all the senses, and guessing objects based on lists of adjectives are two of the activities we've recently been including in our morning literacy lesson as we work to broaden our students' awareness and knowledge of adjectives.

Right off the bat the conversation was richer than Miss K. and I had even anticipated, and that was a happy trend that continued through to the end of the week, confirming over and over again that changing course and inquiring into water instead of birds was the right choice. We had expected to generate a simple list of adjectives, but instead, competing theories about where water comes from (the earth's core, where from molten lava pushes water out through cracks into rivers and lakes and the ocean versus "I thought water came from the sky") and misconceptions about the colour of water all arose, and suddenly we had already had our first knowledge building circle!

After such a theoretical, abstract discussion, it was time for some direct experience, i.e., play! So we headed over to the ring road, where the melting snow has eroded a mini canyon. We wondered how the canyon had been formed, jumped over it, stomped in it, and collected beautiful rocks from it. We followed it down the hill to where it disappeared under a snow bank, and, having puzzled over that apparent dead end, we followed it back up the hill to the parking lot (i.e. giant lake of melting snow). There we cracked all the ice on the surface of the lake (parking lot), collected giant hunks of ice and preserved them in the "ice museum", and splashed in the mini rivers rushing through the bigger lake.

Eventually we all ended up at the drain, where a vigorous debate was taking place about the direction in which the water was flowing. Some K-pals were certain that the water had followed our path: up the road, around the parking lot, and down to the drain. Others heartily disagreed, while still another was unsure because she had "seen water go up at the beach" so it was possible that the water was going up the hill... 

Before Miss K. or I could even articulate back to them the question that was arising, one K-pal suggested that we "do an experiment" and test which way the water was moving by putting a piece of pine branch (happily at his fingertips at just that moment) into the biggest of the mini rivers in the parking lot and then seeing where it went. Before Miss K. and I could even exchange the look we do when we want to exclaim, "Genius!", another K-pal added, "But we need to put another piece at the bottom to make sure that it doesn't move up." Double genius!

We all took positions along the little stream, and the K-pals shouted excitedly about the path the pine branch was taking toward the drain. Then, at the drain, it got stuck. Another problem, rich with possible solutions (we need something that will sink down the drain!) and more questions: "How can we tell where the drain leads?" "What sinks, what floats, and why?"

By this point it was (only!) 10:30 on Monday morning, and Miss K. and I paused to take stock of things. The students had already generated three major questions to explore: Where does water come from? What colour is it? How does it move? and we were bursting with ideas about how we could draw out their theories and their ideas about how to test them, and their misconceptions. 

We decided to pursue the question of colour first. Sadly, I had to miss that day, but Miss K. MoNa, and the K-pals discussed their theories about the colour of water ("water that comes from the tap is white, but water is blue"), and, realizing that their beliefs about the colour of it all seemed to depend on where the water came from, they decided that they needed to "collect samples" from various spots around the property: the big creek, the little creek, the lake, puddles, the parking lot, the tap, and a mix of all of those sources! They made predictions about what they would find, and then even graphed those predictions.

When I came back to school the next day, I pretended that I had no idea what had happened while I was gone as a way to get the K-pals to talk about what they had done and discovered in their own words. As he recalled the prediction he had made while showing me the graph, one K-pal said: "I think it's [the colour of water] different when you pick it up because when you look at the lake it looks blue, but when you pick it up, it looks different." This is exactly the kind of shift, the kind of reconsidering of something they might take for granted (water is blue) that we hope to elicit as place and inquiry-based teachers!

We followed up that discussion by returning to one of the sample collection spots that had been most intriguing for the K-pals: the lake, where the runoff was cascading over the dock in spots and slowly revealing the beach. We spent much of Friday playing there, trying to block the waterfall, catch the waterfall, building in the sand, discovering in the giant chunks of ice evidence of a "legendary" prehistoric flood that washed "legendary" whales, sharks, and ocean minerals into our lake (!) and playing a sort of "catch" that involved one K-pal dropping a stick in the waterfall and others attempting to trap it with their feet as it rushed past in the torrent that disappeared under the ice. While the students played, Miss K. and I met with each child one-on-one and invited them to share verbally and through drawings their observations about their samples. Later we will post these in the class as a way of provoking further dialogue.

And as if all of that weren't enough, we capped off this wonderful week with pancakes over the fire at Jorgi Junction! It was the perfect way to bring full circle the experience of tree tapping, wood stacking, sap collecting, and boiling that the K-pals have been witnessing and helping with around the property. Thanks so much to PG who shared his recipe and campfire cooking skills with us, as well as a great story as we sat around the fire with our bellies full of pancakes. 

Have a great weekend! Here comes the rain... ;)