Lunch & recess are generally a time when kids want to run around, play sports, swing , etc… So I was somewhat hesitant about trying to lead a lesson with the kids at Harding during this time. We usually do less structured activities, digging up beds, harvesting lettuce, planting seeds, but I had decided that the garden is a place for exploration, a place where children can discover bugs, plants, and natural interactions that they have never seen before. In order to be expert explorers I wanted the kids to develop their 5 senses. I was somewhat shocked to discover that most of the 1st-3rd graders could not name their 5 senses. With a little prompting, however, they began to call them out and our activity began. I should mention that the Harding lunch schedule is somewhat confusing, as the first half of kids get about 10 minutes of play time before they line-up for lunch, where as the other half eats first and plays after.
The first group of kids came running into the garden, and following the tradition I am trying to create I had us all hold hands to form a circle. I explained that we would be exploring our 5 senses so that we could be expert garden explorers. Following a lesson I had found in “Meadow to Milkshake” we began to explore each sense individually.
Smelling: I asked each child to close their eyes and to breath in deeply through their nose. I asked them to try and distinguish different smells, did they smell something yucky? Did they smell something yummy? I then allowed them to walk around the garden to find different smells. Naturally many of them gravitated to the herb bed, holding leaves of chocolate mint to their noses and taking big whiffs. Some found their way to our makeshift compost pile. When I discussed that smells can bring back vivid memories one girl chimed in that the tomato plant smelled like her grandmothers house. We then related the smells to other animals, What animals use their noses? Dogs! What might they be using their noses for? To find food! -then the whistle was blown, my entire group of children was running off to the lunch line. “Can we bring our lunch in the garden?” To which I of course replied, yes!
Once they were all sitting with their lunches around the table I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to skip a couple senses and jump to Taste. I asked them to try closing their eyes while they ate their food. Or try plugging their nose. Smell and Taste are related, when you can’t smell your food, does it change how it tastes? Try moving the food around in your mouth versus letting the flavors sit on your tongue. Finally, once they were finishing their lunches I asked them to find something in the garden to taste, maybe something they had never tried before, a mint leaf? A cherry tomato?
We came back to the circle and began discussing Seeing. I asked them to find 3 different shades of green? Using one eye or the other, was one eye better? I then told them they could choose to be an ant or a hawk. If they chose to be an ant they would get low to the ground and begin to see the world through an ant’s perspective, how large a blade of grass looks or another bug. As a hawk they could stand on the table bench and see how far the could see. I explained that hawk’s have much better eyesight than humans which is how they can see the ground from way up in the sky. We then all pretended to be owls, keeping our eyes forward and moving only our heads to see, which did they prefer?
I then led them in an activity I learned at LifeLab called the “Pencil Game” . I explain to the students that I will be hiding a pencil somewhere very close in the garden. They must use their Seeing Sense to find it. I repeat that I will not be hiding the pencil farther than 10 ft away. I also emphasize that when they find the pencil, they are not to call out where it is, but instead to put their fingers on their nose and rejoin the circle. When their eyes are closed, I place the pencil behind my ear and tell them to go find it. Of course they begin to check the far far corners of the garden, but slowly one or two students will find it and return to the circle with their hands on their nose. When enough time has passed I ask them all to return and I take it out from behind my ear. They failed to notice the little detail that the pencil was right in front of them. Of course all of the students want to play the game again, which is impossible as they know where the pencil is
For hearing I had them close their eyes again, listen closely and try to distinguish 3 different sounds. This was INCREDIBLY difficult as we are in the middle of a playground full of screaming children. What sounds do you hear? Kids. Oh, of course. I then stood 10 ft away from the kids and told them that I was going to count to 10, when they heard the number 5 they were to cup their hands behind their ears. This has always been one of my favorite things to do and it was no surprise that the kids loved it. I had them break up in pairs and try talking to each other at various distances using the “deer ears”. When leading this lesson with the 4th-6th graders my variation on the activity was to add in the predator prey game. A student stands in the center of a circle, blindfolded, and when I tap the shoulder of the students surrounding him they can begin to creep in to attack their prey. If the student hears his attacker he turns and points. His predator must then return to the circle and the game continues. This game was a HUGE success.
We ended the activity with Touching. I asked the students to find the softest plant in the garden, the roughest plant, a waxy plant, a prickly plant (our eggplant are perfect for that… but can be pretty painful too!) I asked them to try using different parts of their body to touch things, their elbow, their cheek? Which is most sensitive?
Time seems to fly by and lunch is over, they are going to line-up. On Fridays I give out small envelopes with seeds to students who can answer my questions correctly. When I ask who can tell me the 5 senses all hands go up 🙂
Other fun moments at Harding:Salad Party! Sweet Lettuce, Mesclun, violas, and cherry tomatoes!