The snow and cold temperatures experienced this winter have been too much for some people to endure, and yet, the weather still persists! It seems like spring will never arrive, but, in fact, it is already here in some ways. The change in seasons is marked by the return of migratory birds, the appearance of flowers and buds on the trees, and the lengthening of daylight. If you have yet to see these signs of spring return, do not worry; you know it is coming. Prepare to enjoy the teachable moments the new season will bring. Here are a few ideas you can use in your classroom to get your kids motivated to learn when the weather begins to get nice.
From Winter to Spring
Because of the tilt in Earth's axis, we have different seasons on our planet. Let students see this concept illustrated. Next, have students record the differences between winter and spring on a T-chart labeled with these two seasons. Students can include the temperatures and types of weather experienced during these times of the year in the local area. They can write the names of the months and holidays that fall in each season as well. Have students note the kinds of clothing they wear and activities they like to participate in during these times of the year. After guiding students through this activity, extend the chart to include summer and fall.
Once the chart displays all four seasons, have students predict what they would see in nature if they were to go for a walk outside during each of the four seasons. In describing the plants and animals that they would see, students can infer what it is about the season that is beneficial to the flora and fauna of the local environment. You may want to share with students what the seasons are like in another areas of the globe.
Does your school or nearby park include an early-blooming tree? Teach students about this plant's lifecycle as you watch it change throughout the next several weeks. Begin by discussing the difference between evergreen trees and those that are deciduous, those annually losing their leaves. Next, prepare the class to go visit a nearby deciduous tree. Have them bring along an observation notebook, pencils, and crayons. Once at the tree, have students record the date in their notebooks. Then have them draw pictures of what the tree looks like, paying special attention to the colors that are detected. Students can also add written descriptions that include the temperature, what the weather is like, and how the tree's leaves or buds appear at the present. Repeat this procedure every few days until the tree is in full bloom.
To assess students' understanding of the growth process, have each child chronologically arrange pictures of the leaves in different stages of their lifecycle.
Migration of Birds
Will birds be returning to your area once the warmer weather arrives? Perhaps students have noticed that the birds living in your neighborhood come and go with the seasons. Migration is an important aspect of a bird's lifecycle. Teaching students about this pattern in the creatures' lives will help them understand why some birds migrate while others stay in one place over the course of a year. Together with your class, check out a map of the major flyways birds travel in North America. Discuss what your students already know about how nature necessitates migration. What observations have students made about the climates of the areas where the birds live during the summer and where they live during the winter?
Students should be able to infer how changes in temperature and precipitation can adversely affect a bird's habitat and food supply. Ask students how changes in these factors could affect a bird. Students should draw the conclusion that there are clues that indicate it is time for the bird to migrate.
Birds use a variety of methods to navigate during migration. They can rely on magnetism, key landmarks, and even the sun and stars. Ask students what people rely on to navigate from one destination to the next. Have students make comparisons like these between people and birds. Ask students to list the obstacles faced by each during travel. As a class or in small groups, have students comprise a list of birds found in your area. Create a chart that indicates whether each type migrates. If one breed is migratory, have students research to find out which states that bird must pass through to reach its destination for the summer and winter. Then, calculate the distance.