A Turtle Steals the Show!

Today, I presented nine times on prairies! In the morning, I saw four kindergarten classes. I like students of all ages, including kindergarten. The weather was fine, although a little overcast and cooler. They listened to me talk for about 10 minutes, and then, went on an I SPY walk in a man-made prairie looking for a list of things that I read to them. These included:

  • a green narrow leaved plant
  • dry, dead grass
  • moss
  • a bird nest
  • trees
  • seed heads
  • a fuzzy leaf on a light green plant
  • a hole in the ground
  • a maple tree seed (commonly called helicopters)

Most of the groups found these things. There were reasons I included them, and those reasons will be discussed in another post. But the cool thing about this morning’s sessions was that each group found something not specifically on the list!

  • a milkweed seed pod
  • a robin’s empty blue egg
  • a feather (tiny)
  • flower buds (one plant)

By our lunch time break, I felt things had gone well and the students had a glimpse of a prairie landscape.  After lunch, we were expecting five groups (larger with two classes each in them) of forth and fifth grade students. Because I am who I am, I made a separate lesson plan for the upper elementary students. It included some math and was based on the prairie grass adaptations. I had gone over it at lunch.

The first group arrived. In the middle of my brief presentation on prairies, one of the students screamed! “A turtle! A baby turtle!” And, just like that the lesson was shot! Every student crowded around this painted turtle that was no bigger than the size of a quarter!

Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting! It was memorable and in the field of environmental education, that is what you want! It was also an awe-filled moment which is something I try to provide when I teach. I did not have anything to offer that was “awe – inspiring” today until that baby turtle came along! Thank you, baby turtle!

Well, by the time we finished watching it, and this group of students did only watch; they did not touch it or try to pick it up, I had made the decision to delete the math mini-lesson.  There just was not enough time. Our sessions were only 20 minutes each with no time built in between the groups, so they were actually closer fifteen minutes long by the time the groups rotated.  So, aside from the turtle and a few more pieces of information, the students (who turned out to be third graders, no older), they got a very similar lesson to the kindergarteners – in theory, anyway.

But, as the afternoon when on a bird nest was found, as were more milkweed pods, lots of “fuzzy leaves” and more than a few holes in the ground.

The turtle, I believe it was the same one, made a second appearance with the last group of the day. It was spotted near the edge of the man-made prairie about 60 feet away from where he or she was seen during the earlier group. Another scream! Another bunch of running kids!  Another memorable experience – all brought to you by the baby painted turtle on the prairie! (There is a large marsh near by!)

This is learning provided by mother nature – the best teacher.

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