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Youth Education Program

of San Francisco Botanical Garden Society

Web of Life

Suggested Activities

I am a camera Children work in pairs, taking turns being a camera and a photographer. The camera keeps their eyes closed while the photographer takes them by the shoulders and carefully guides them to a spot of photographers choice. The photographer positions the camera so that the childs face is pointing at something interesting or attractive. The photographer then presses on the cameras shoulder for a count of five while the camera opens its shutter (eyes). The camera closes their eyes again, the photographer moves the camera away, and then the camera describes what they saw. Children switch roles. Be a plant This activity works especially well with younger children who love to pretend, but even older children will become engaged if asked to imagine The kids should imagine that they are rooted to the ground, with roots growing out of their feet. Can they feel the water being pulled up into their stems or trunks (legs and bodies) and moving out to their leaves (arms and hands)? Have them turn their hands to catch the suns rays can they feel the warmth? If they were really plants, they would use that energy from the sun to make food in their leaves! You can keep this activity simple, or make it more elaborate by weaving in the life cycle of a plant, changes in the weather, or having children represent specific kinds of plants (watching a forest of child trees waving wildly in a winter storm is always fun!). Share your air Many kids can tell you that plants produce air that allows us to breathe. Some may even know that plants are actually producing oxygen as they photosynthesize. But most dont realize that we animals are also producing air for the plants! Explain to the children that as plants photosynthesize, they give off oxygen, which we animals need to breathe. But oxygen makes up only part of the air around us. As we exhale, we add something else to the air, carbon dioxide, which plants need in order to grow. So lets all take a big breath of what the plants have made (big noisy inhalation) and then give them back something they can use to grow (big noisy exhalation)! Roll a log This is a great way to introduce children to the decomposers in the forest, as well as helping you model a positive attitude toward creepy-crawlies. First talk with the children about the role of decomposers in the forest, then ask them to think about where these decomposers might be hiding. Find a log in the Redwood Grove or Cloud Forest which is small enough for you to roll, but big enough to have significant surface area in touch with the ground. Have the children position themselves so they can all see the log. Tell them you will count to three, then roll the log. Many of the small animals will try to hide quickly, so its essential that kids watch closely!

Web of Life Suggested Activities

Have kids describe what they see how many legs? Which end is the head? How do you know? If you wish, you may catch a critter or two in a magnifying box. Collect algae Many children may not realize that the green stringy stuff in a pond is actually plant life! Use a net, stick, or your hand to pull a strand of algae from a pond (the ponds in the Dwarf Conifer Garden are particularly good for this). Encourage children to touch it what does it feel like? Explain that this is a plant, using energy from the sun to grow. Older children may be interested to see the bubbles caught in the algae, oxygen bubbles which form as the algae photosynthesizes. Animals in the pond eat the algae, or make their homes in it. What animals can they see that might make use of the algae? (note to the scientifically precise: strictly speaking, algae are no longer part of the plant kingdom. However, they are indeed photosynthesizing organisms at the bottom of the food chain. It is entirely appropriate to refer to these organisms as plants with younger children.) Observe a bee Children are often unnecessarily afraid of bees. Explain to them the important role that bees play in pollination, and that they have gotten a bad reputation due to their more aggressive yellow jacket cousins. On a warm, sunny day, when the garden is abuzz with bees, have each child find a bee to follow. Staying on the paths (especially in the Native Garden!) children should follow their bees for a minute, observing where they go and what they do. Then children can describe or act out what they discovered. Sense poem The redwood forest is a wonderful place to help children focus on their senses. Before entering the redwoods, explain to children that this is a special place and that to recognize how special it is, we need to enter it silently. Encourage them to use all their senses (except taste!) to observe this grove. After you have spent a few minutes moving quietly through the grove, settle the children on a bench or on the ground. Tell them that they will create a group poem about what they experienced in the redwoods. Go around the group and ask each child to complete one sentence: In the redwood grove I heard -----------I saw -------------I smelled ---------I felt--------------Record their sentences on an index card. Repeat as necessary to include each child. When they finish, read their completed poem to them. Be sure to include it in their folder. THERES LOTS MORE YOU COULD DO, THESE ARE JUST SOME SUGGESTIONS!