As we grow up, we form many misconceptions in our minds. You may have heard that lightning never strikes in the same place twice or that mother birds abandon their chicks if they are touched by humans—these are two common misconceptions. No direct harm usually results from believing misconceptions, but if there is a way to prevent as many misconceptions from forming in children's minds as possible, shouldn't we take it?
Common misconceptions children believe are the following:
- Rain comes from holes in the clouds.
- It rains because we need or want it.
- Leaves pick the color they want to change to in the fall.
- Humans are not animals.
- The moon can only be seen during the night.
- There are four separate moons.
Creative Investigations in Early Science by Angela Eckhoff helps educators and family members conduct science experiments with young children to prevent them from ever forming common misconceptions. Use the sample activity below to help children understand and observe seasonal changes by studying the leaves changing colors on trees.
Long-Term Project: Seasonal Change
Seasonal patterns can be observed, described, and predicted.
Children will observe and document the changes of a tree in the fall.
This activity can be done as a whole group and will take place over four to six weeks in the fall. You will need to select trees that will change color and are on your school property or nearby. To see a list of trees that change color, visit www.arborday.org/shopping/trees/topfalltrees.cfm
- In advance, create simples science journals that include spaces for children to write or draw their weekly observations for four to six weeks. You can also create a space for children to make predictions about what they will see the following week.
- Prior to beginning your observations of the trees, invite the children to talk about what happens in the fall: Can you tell me what happens to leaves on a tree in the fall? Do you know why that happens? What are some of the colors that leaves change to?
- Choose one day a week when you can take the children outside to make their observations and record them in their science journals. Allow at least 20 minutes for exploration and recording. It is important for the children to be able to record their observations while they are outside observing the trees and leaves.
- Invite the children to choose one tree to observe each weeks. Encourage them to draw what they are observing. You can ask prompting questions such as, What colors are you seeing on the trees’ leaves? Do you notice any differences in color this week? Have you looked at your drawing from last week? What is different this week?
- You can supplement their drawing with descriptive text that the children dictate to you, and you can include weekly photographs of the tree in their journals.
- At the end of their project, invite the children to share their journals with the class and their families.
The children’s journals are documentation, and so are the conversations you have with children each week while they are drawing.
This lesson can be extended by doing a similar project in the spring and tracking the emergence of leaves on the trees.