Our Year of Joe

If you've been reading Sewing School, you probably heard about our tree, Joe.  He's a Ginkgo tree that we pass by daily and have been writing about each month in our paper bag journals.  I was inspired to explore nature at our school after reading The Nature Connection.

On the last days of school, we filled in the May journal entry and then consolidated a school year's worth of work into a watercoloring of the seasons as told by Joe. 
First we "read" our journals and looked at them according to the months and seasons.  We saw that we began school in August, which is summer.  Then, Joe's leaves were bright green and big.   When we ended school in May, the leaves had turned bright green again for spring.  I talked to the kids about the concept of a cycle and how the seasons always follow in the same order.
I modeled illustrating the cycle of the seasons with Joe to the class.  Then, they took off on their own.  We pre-folded a standard sheet of drawing paper into fourths and the kids used flair pens to draw the trees.  Begining with summer, a tree was drawn in each square along with the name of the season.  They used their journals to do this work.

As they looked for a change in Joe, which also represented a change in season, they talked about how long each season was and reminisced about activities that occurred. You could see and hear a year's worth of learning.
After drawing the trees, they were watercolored.  Many kids had a little trouble with winter, showing no leaves at all.  How do you watercolor that?!
After this work was complete, early finishers were invited to write about Joe.  It could be fiction or non-fiction.
We had studied acrostic poems earlier in the Spring and one student penned a poem about Joe.
The idea of Joe as a DJ caught my imagination as well.

Reflecting on this project, I am excited to try it again next year and am interested to see what the student response will be with a new class.  One thing I will change is the journals.  While I love the idea and look of the paper bags, the little pockets didn't hold things well and they kept falling out.  I'm thinking of either using envelopes or a book that includes a little pocket in the back.

See you in August, Joe!

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