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Hotchalk Global

news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Signs of Spring

I know that many are tired of winter by February. Some are tired of winter by early January. When this happens in the classroom we find ways to cope with the cabin fever. But, there are signs of the coming spring all around us and many can work into a dynamic lesson on migration, climate, weather and observation. We are all creatures of the seasons. Our ancestors lived or died on their abilities to read the seasons, and plant or find food. We are creatures of seasonal variations whether we live in Southern California or North Dakota.

The king of all signs of spring sites is from Journey North.

Here your class can participate in several activities that connect your observations with those of other classes around the country. You can track Orioles and other birds, earthworms, frogs, maple sugar, leaves, ice on lakes and ponds, as well as other signs of spring. The site provides a map and all the information for gathering the information. You can simply lurk and use the activities. However for the full experience you can add your class data to the site and see how the signs of spring show up in different regions of the country. If you do begin this your kids will want to check the site often to see what is being added by other classes. This is a powerful use of the internet.

Here in the Midwest the geese are moving and along with them we see a few eagles looking for an easy meal. Watching the direction of these flights does not tell the whole story as many will fly south a bit to find open water or food. If you look at the numbers of flights and see an increase in the numbers that is a sign of spring. You can watch birds or plants or weather. All will help foster the skill of observation and recording.

The folks who most closely monitor the coming spring are bird watchers. They have a good site for the signs from bird songs to sightings.

If your classroom has windows and the benefit of a bird feeder or source of food (berry bush or such) there may be lots of birds visible to your class. You could do a bird count and compare the results year after year. A local birding group is always available to come in and teach your kids the high points of identifying different species of birds. This was one of my kid’s favorite activities. Of course there are online identification guides to help if a birder is not available.

If you do not have a bird feeder it is a good time to make one in your classroom and have your custodian help you place it in a location where you can refill it and watch it from a classroom. Of course you do not need a permanent feeder. You can build one from oranges, pinecones and even a toilet paper tube.

It is also a good time to start some plants and then when the ground is not frozen have the students plant them in the school yard. Many local nurseries will donate bulbs and seeds to local schools. Often they will also send someone to help teach the planting class. This is a great time to discuss what all plants need or photosynthesis or any lesson on these green growing amazing plants.

You can start bulbs and these may flower even before winter is over. I tend to enjoy starting plants. Here the kids learn a bit of geography by determining what zone they are living in.

Then, the differences between annuals and perennials come into play. Many students in response to the First Ladies gardening at the White House want to plant some vegetables. This is easier with fast growing plants like lettuce, radishes, greens, green onions or spinach. Here you can start a plant and harvest it before the school year is over. This is a great time to involve the nutrition folks from your school or from a local grocery store or hospital in helping your students understand how much nutrition these green plants pack into their growth.

Fast growing vegetables:

For general planting one site suggests using Ziploc baggies.

Of course you can just sprout seeds and use those for a quick snack lesson on nutrition. You can sprout seeds, beans, nuts and grains. You need to select seed, bean, nut or grain that produces a safe and palatable sprout. This site guides you through the process and gives you the best possible starters for your snack.

I have had the local health food store or organic grocery donate these in quantities large enough for the entire school. These folks are very helpful in a unit like this.

One site that caters to ELL student work has a great Venn diagram for lower grades on the differences and similarities between winter and spring.

So, as winter drags on and spring only shows us signs in short moments it is a good time to find a way to connect what is going on outside with our inside activities. It helps to ease the tension of the long cold days in the colder climates and in the warmer states you can help foster an understanding of the seasonal nature of our lives.


Shannon C ‘de Baca is a passionate educator who teaches at Iowa Learning Online. Visit her blog at 

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