Grade 5: Botany Block

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The first day of our Botany block was the perfect spring day: the air was chilly, but the sun was warm. All three of us worked together and turned over both garden beds. I was feeling *pretty* proud of myself for choosing the *perfect* month to study plants outside. Mother Nature, however, has a wicked sense of humor. The rest of the month was cold and windy and gave us more snow than we had all winter. I can tell you, studying plants indoors is not fun at all. We did do our reading, although I found the Charles Kovacs Botany book unengaging and The Mary Frances Garden Book dated and tedious. As I had planned on using both of these books as our spines, I was pleasantly surprised by two beautifully illustrated picture books I off-handedly checked out of the library: The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt and A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

The Gift of a Tree by Alvin Tresselt tells the story of the life cycle of a tree, concentrating on what happens after the tree dies. (Incidentally, it was first published under the title The Dead Tree in 1971. Oh, the 70s, what a wonderful decade to be born into.) The tree becomes home to a variety of animals and insects, eventually decomposing and becoming fertile soil that nourishes the next generation of oaks. This little story connected the dots of so much that we have studied in grade 5. Starting way back in September with Ancient India, I gave Vincent the symbol of a circle representing the ideas of life, death and rebirth. We have touched on that symbol throughout the year, but this book let us really explore the idea of reincarnation/resurrection/rebirth in almost every block. This was one of those serendipitous moments where I fall in love with the Waldorf curriculum all over again.

Resources:

  • The Gift of a Tree, Alvin Tresselt
  • Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children, Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
  • Seed, Leaf, Flower, Fruit, Maryjo Koch
  • A Seed is Sleepy, Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  • The Mary Frances Garden Book, Jane Eayre Fryer
  • Botany, Charles Kovacs

Projects:

  • Field Trip to the local botanical gardens
  • Bark Rubbings
  • Botanical scavenger hunt
  • Botanical mobile using items found on scavenger hunt
  • Kitchen seed exploration and collage of seeds found
  • Forced cherry branches inside

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For more posts about Botany, click the images below.

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16 thoughts on “Grade 5: Botany Block

  1. Love the chalk drawing! Right now, I’m combining 5th Grade Plants and 3rd Grade Gardening blocks and I appreciate all of your ideas here :>)
    xo

    • Hey Siobhan,
      I did a lot of combining with this block. And your girls are closer in age, so I’m sure this would be work well.

      When are you going to start a blog??!!

      xo
      Happy Monday.
      Sheila

      • Happy Monday to you! Over the weekend, we started our “Rainbow Flower Experiment” with a bunch of carnations and daisies. Each girl put flowers into clear cups of water and food color to see what would happen. Then MAGIC! Overnight, the daisies gradually developed some color in the petals, while the carnations rapidly absorbed the color; they look so pretty already! The girls keep checking them whenever they come into the kitchen. Such excitement over something so simple.

        The girls are outdoors a lot with this gorgeous weather. To have the time and space just to BE is a great gift. I guess I can’t help but compare with last Spring when our whole family was short on time and energy with the frantic pace of traditional school. Now, there’s more room for awe and wonder . Last week, Anya discovered a bird’s nest in our backyard–with such reverence! On Friday afternoon, Audrey shrieked with joy and insisted that I come outside to see: The first blossom on our cherry tree. Her enthusiasm is contagious. It’s a balm for all of the recent tragedy in our country.
        In many respects this has been the best Spring ever!

        • This makes my heart sing!!
          I really believe in the power of a year: long enough for change to happen, yet short enough to remember what it was like “before”.
          Your courage is to be commended.
          Glad to be on this journey with you, my friend.
          Sheila

  2. I always love your sharing of your blocks. I also just bought the Gift of a Tree book (: However, due to your diligence and humor, I bought it for 1/11 the price under its original title (;

    Sounds like you guys had a very sweet time.

    Love,
    Mama

    PS. I have successfully made Sheila’s Italian Bread every Sunday for the past few weeks. I dipped into your other bread recipes and am looking forward to trying our hands at Vincent’s Yeast Cinnamon Rolls soon xox

    • That is funny about the difference in price. Just think, by reading “The Dead Tree” to Grace and Dinah, they will grow up with the same toughness we did!! Maybe you should stop using car seats and bike helmets too. Kids are way too pampered these days.

      LOL

      That is great about the bread. Those cinnamon rolls are yummy!

  3. I love your book choices! I got to meet Diana Hutts Aston at a writing workshop several years ago in Mexico. She lives near where my mom lives in San Miguel. Later that year, she came to my bookstore to do a signing for “An Egg is Quiet.” I love all of her nature themed books and the illustrations are breathtaking! I so enjoy reading your “block” posts as well.

    • Emmie,
      I have to say, you are a rock star to me! Who haven’t you met? Barbara Kingsolver? Mary Oliver? JK Rowling? Rudolf Steiner (LOL)???

      I do love “An Egg is Quiet” as well – I own two copies actually. One I use for collage bc the illustrations are just so wonderful, I couldn’t keep my scissors away! I have a bird block planned for the beginning of school next year and that is one of the selections.

      xo,
      Sheila

      • Ahhh, yes, my glory days… ha ha! Ms. Aston was (and still is, I am sure) a lovely and down to earth person. How fun to use the art work from “Egg” for collage. You are very creative, my friend! I say that she has a new one out about rocks that looks gorgeous. Always inspired by your ideas!

        • I was supposed to finish that collage for Ladytown – hmm . . . may need to do that soon since it was for spring!!

          I saw the rocks one. I’ll definitely use that for rocks and minerals next year.

  4. I love all the Aston/Long books! A Seed is Sleepy helped us solve an unsolved family mystery- a strange object that somehow showed up in our house and we just could not decide if it was from nature or man-made – until I saw the picture in the book It was a hamburger seed! I look forward to checking out The Gift of a Tree.

  5. May I ask how long your botany block was? And, would you explain the “botanical scavenger hunt” and the seed collage and the last one about the cherry branch? Thanks. :)

    • Our blocks usually stick to about a month. This one was two years ago, so my brain is a little foggy. I think the scavenger hunt was I gave the kids a list of things to find outside, the seed collage was we rummaged through our cabinets for different grains, seeds and nuts to look at texture and then glued them on a piece of paper. The cherry branches were cut from outside then placed in a jar of water so that they bloomed inside.
      HTH.
      Sheila

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