I recently discovered a book called Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting. I have fallen in love with this book!
The story is about a boy who plants sunflower seeds in a large circle. The book follows the boy’s adventures in watching the sunflower plants grow (and shows what’s happening in the ground before it comes up too). Soon, the mammoth flowers make a perfect fort for the boy and his two friends. They play in it all summer, and even have a sleep over in it one night. In the Fall, the flowers die off. The children discover the seeds in the center of the sunflower, and collect enough to plant more next year.
Besides the wonderful pictures, the story is told in a way that got children very excited about the sunflower house. There are many rhyming words, but it doesn’t have a Dr. Suess feel to it. We learned some great vocabulary words too: “sow” (to which one 5 year old asked me, “Then, we didn’t he just say they planted some seeds?”, “guaranteed”, and “mammoth.”
Some wonderful conversations started spontaneously as I was reading this book to my preschoolers. In the first class of 4-5 year olds, one girl commented that, “Kids don’t drink ice tea.” I then asked the group what they thought the mom should bring instead. Only one child said pop, and none said Kool-Aid. I was surprised! Most of them said juice, milk, or water. Orange juice was the clear winner. They also commented on the “gingerbread cookies” the mom brought, and they said the kids couldn’t eat those, because it’s not Christmas. Another conversation that we had in every class was around the wish the boy made on the stars when he was sleeping in the sunflower house. The children had some great ideas about what he might have wished for. The older classes thought maybe he wished for more sunflowers, or that they wouldn’t be scared sleeping outside. Every class mentioned snacks. Also mentioned, was a pink 4-wheeler, Lightning McQueen, a table, a dog, a teddy bear, and many more random items.
As I mentioned, at the end of the story, the children collect sunflower seeds to plant again next year (though, some children thought maybe they should eat them, make bread with them, or paint them and put them in their candy jar). Last year, I saved some seeds from my zucchini plants in my garden, and from a couple of pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. After letting them dry out, I put them in an envelope. I brought these to show the children. We noticed that some of the pumpkin seeds were pretty shriveled up, and brittle. I told them that I didn’t think they would grow, so I bought some more seeds at the store. I opened the seed packet, and we looked at the seeds.
I brought in several different kinds of seed packets that I plan on planting this spring. In addition to the pumpkin seeds, I brought in cucumber, snap peas, green beans, eggplant, and carrot seed packets. Before I opened the packages, we talked about what we thought the seeds might look like. My assistant teacher noticed that the sound of the seed package shaking was a good predictor of how big the seeds might be. This was a GREAT discovery! I pulled out one seed from each packet and showed them. Everyone was surprised by how small the eggplant seeds were, and how tiny a carrot seed is! During my lunch break, I photocopied all the seed packets, taped them to an index card, then taped the seed to the back of the card. I didn’t have a seed packet for zucchini, but I happened to have my laptop with. I had several pictures of the zucchini plant in my garden, so I printed one of those off for the zucchini seed card. I put these seed cards on our Science/Discovery table for the children to explore.
One more way we talked about seeds today was that I happened to have a half a bell pepper that I cut to put in my lunch. I noticed that most of the seeds were still attached to the inside of the half I brought to school. I showed the children what the inside looked like, where the seeds were, and gently pulled it off the pepper so they could get a better look.
To wrap up our day on seeds, we planted green bean seeds in a ziplock baggie, with a damp paper towel. We had already talked about how plants need soil, water, and sun to grow. We were using the paper towel sort of like soil, and we taped them to the window of the classroom. I have also done this with cotton balls, which I might do with the three-year-olds, so we can compare the differences in how they grow. We attempted to explain how this would act sort of like a greenhouse, but our explanation was confusing, and I’m not sure they understood the concept. I am hoping that when today’s class comes back to school on Monday, they will see roots starting to grow. We did also talk about the fact that in order for them to grow all the way to having beans on them, they would need to be moved to soil. We talked about putting them in a pot with some soil and putting them near a window if they didn’t have any garden our other outside place to plant them.
The children left today very excited about their planting, and about seeds in general. One mom stopped as they were leaving, and said, “This is a very big deal!” We are SO doing this at home!” Her son had not stopped talking about the planting and seeds we looked at the whole time she was there picking him up and getting him ready to go. In my book, that is enough to say this was a very successful lesson, and a very successful day!