Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. ~ Rumi

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nature and Nomenclature

Reniform, Orbiculate, Linear and Ovate
Lanceolate, Elliptical
Many many more!

When I first attended the AMI Training center in Washington DC to receive my Montessori teaching certificate, one of my first assignments was to memorize the names of leaf shapes so I could teach them to the students.

In the process of memorizing the shapes I became more aware of them. I lived near Chevy Chase circle and the training was near DuPont circle. Sometimes I would walk or ride the bus or both. In any case there was time to observe the plant life either as hedges neatly trimmed or as weeds struggling to get out from under the concrete and occasionally there was an empty lot with all sorts of weeds and abandoned gardens. I didn’t memorize easily so it was important that I got to know my subject matter.

I used those walks to quietly name the shapes that I saw. I not only noticed the shape but I also took in color, edges, growth, attachment to the stem, insect life, the parts of the leaf etc. One observation just led to another. And so it was with the children. What I had learned as a student myself I saw in my students.
After bathing students in experiences in nature I waited to give the nomenclature until a student asked for the name or I saw that an observation had been made. I never gave more than three names at a time and if possible names and shapes that were contrasting. The younger ones were excited to know the names and would repeat them often as they saw them on walks or in pictures. They enjoyed touching, smelling and in some instances tasting them. The older ones enjoyed collecting drawing, printing, painting them. Both groups enjoyed creating songs from the names as well as learning music that was inspired by plants. Both groups also became more interested in the details and the classification games were endless. As the students entered the elementary they began to ask how they grew, how were they connected to the other plant parts, what gave them color, where on the earth did they grow and what are they used for? As they collected their answers,they became connected with a discipline that they had a genuine interest in. Then,there were more questions, experiments, the building of a garden, a cooking program, planning trips to botanical gardens, invitations to guest speakers, farms, nurseries etc.

…All from learning the names of leaf shapes and going outside. Expand your life. Learn your leaf shapes today and get outside!

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