What We Learned From Making a Tree

By Jane Rothschild, Second Grade

Dear Families,

The highlight of our week in second grade was the construction of the ‘Great Kapok Tree” on our hallway bulletin board. In small groups, the children created the components of the tree itself: the enormous trunk, giant buttress roots, thick vines, and lush canopy of leaves.

Once the tree was was installed, we began the next phase of the work: creating the plants and animals unique to the Amazon Rainforest. Children made their selections based on their interests gleaned from explorations of many non-fiction rainforest texts. Over the course of several weeks, each child “presented” a rainforest book he or she had studied to the class. The children shared text or images that most interested them.

Our completed rainforest teems with creatures: an ocelot, blue morpho butterflies, parrots, army ants, a jaguar and more. We also have beautiful, colorful plants, such as the pitcher plant, orchids, and the amazing bromeliad (a plant that is it’s own habitat for tiny frogs and microscopic organisms). The children are beyond proud of their work  (see photos below) and have been tickled to see students from other classes stop to admire their work and to ask questions.

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The next and last phase of the work was, perhaps, the most important. By adding informational text to their display the children became educators; to students, parents, and, even, to visitors to our school!  Each child provided information about the importance of the rainforest to the planet, or provided advice on how, together, we can be mindful of the environment we must work to preserve:

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Our Heroes and Leaders study this week connected to this rainforest work.  We read the picture book, “Maybe Something Beautiful” by  F. Isabel  Campoy and Theresa Howell. The story is based on the lives of Raphael and Candice Lopez, artists whose work, creating community-based art, helped to revitalize a San Diego neighborhood by bringing much needed attention to issues of equity and access. Raphael Lopez is also the illustrator of this beautiful book.

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In our case, the art we made was designed to reinforce and demonstrate our learning of a unique place on earth, as well as to raise awareness of a problem in our world.  Along the way we made “something beautiful”.

In other news we:

….are working on a “Readers Theater” based on our Kapok Tree study. This Literacy work is another way for the children to experience the content of the study and to work together as a group toward a single purpose. It is also a meaningful way for children to practice reading text with fluency and expression.

…  explored clock time. We have practiced reading the analog clock to the half hour and quarter hour and have begun to as think about elapsed time, using stories from our own lives.

…enjoyed our first foray to the new and improved Baker field ( yay!) with our 5th grade buddies for a game of tag and hula hoop fun.

… added the word empathy to our list of noble qualities and have been so impressed, as teachers, to see the children giving  Friday “shout-outs” to their friends for acts of empathy:  “thanks for helping me when I was hurt”, “thanks for making me feel better when I was sad”, “thanks for always being kind.”

Jenny and I thank YOU, for you wonderful children and for your support of our work in second grade.