Transitions can sometimes be tough and this year’s winter/spring transition has been less than smooth for many with spring being such a tease and winter lingering. So instead of resisting, how about start exploring transition itself?
Transitions and transformations can be incredibly interesting if we allow them to flow around us rather than being attached to things being one way or the other. (Like the weather must behave like spring because the calendar said so!! Foot stomp.) Start looking at the small things like sunrise and sunset times and teeny blooms on hardy wildflowers. Do you hear more birds singing in the morning this week than last? How are the plants in your garden changing? Are weeds emerging in the north or is lettuce bolting in the deep south. What are the telltales for your region–daffodils, orange blossoms, robins, native bee nests, pollen sneezes?
Many transition signs are subtle, and therefore make great observation practices. Keep a chart on the wall where children can document the transitions they are beginning to notice. Then, as the transition signs become more bold, look back over the quieter changes and see how they were precursors to the loud changes. For example, if you notice a colony of miner bee nests one week, 2 weeks later do you notice a particular plant in bloom being pollinated by the bees? Some native bees are specialists, meaning they emerge only to pollinate a specific plant, and when that plant is finished flowering, so is that species of native bee–leaving nests made filled with eggs safe and ready to hatch the next spring.
A bird feeder is a great way to notice big transitions. You can track the songbirds as they migrate back through your area. If nature is bringing you April showers, have you noticed earthworms emerging from their deep winter burrows? The vibrations from the raindrops tell the worms to come up to the surface. If you have noticed earthworms, have you also noticed hungry migrating robins trying to catch the worms in a game of tug-of-war?
If it is warmer one day and very cold the next how does nature respond? How does a chilly spell effect the stages of spring made during a warmer spell? How do you notice your body responding? You are transitioning too!
Obvious and subtle observation combinations encourage children to systems think. Each seasonal transition clue is one in a web of life in transformation. Track these changes in the nature journals. Have the students research the transitional elements that most intrigue them, have them consider the why and the how regarding their observation. Document these ideas in writing and drawing, then allow time for verbal sharing and the exchange of ideas. Follow the discussion by having students further research any questions that emerge from the discussions.
As we transition to the warmer months, remember to embrace the change and all that it entails! Explore everything from bird migration to weed emergence to toads and snails to seasonal pollen allergies to the mud and rain puddles! You could even measure the children’s height, hands, and feet and see how much they grow this spring. We are part of a great system of life and it feels great to understand our role in that system!
What transitions have you noticed since the vernal equinox? Share them below!
Seeds to Sprout:
See how these 4th grade teachers explored the spring transition with their students in this Kids Gardening article that inspired this post!
Learn more about systems thinking and thinking like an ecosystem from the Center for Ecoliteracy
Enhance your bird migration knowledge with Cornell University’s All About Birds
Here is a general lesson plan on the Signs of Spring from Education Place. It is pretty traditional, but integrates very will with the suggestions in this post.