“Hey! How did you make that sound?” Elizabeth comes running over to see what four-year-old Vera is up to.
“I’m popping the flowers!” Vera replies. “It’s so fun!”
Popping hosta flowers or opening the jaw of a snapdragon flower is a skill that has been passed down from child to child for decades in our early childhood program.
I watch as Vera scans the purple hosta flowers in front of her.
“You have to find the puffy ones,” she tells Elizabeth. “You just pinch them with your fingers and they pop, but watch out for bees!”
This simple childhood moment offers a great opportunity to capture scientific and mathematical learning in our outdoor classroom. It may look like play, but Vera is developing observation skills and looking for attributes such as “puffy” as she works her way up and down the row of flowers.
When children approach learning with curiosity and wonder—and work through their learning with active engagement with materials—they are quite often working their way through the scientific method!
“I did it!” shouts Elizabeth triumphantly. “This is fun!”
I look on as the girls observe, develop reasoning skills, make predictions and hypothesize which flowers will pop.
Science learning begins with curiosity. Observations and questions can create a climate of discovery, which is key to scientific learning. Children are natural-born scientists—and they often use the scientific method to make sense of the world.
Even our youngest friends have discovered the art of flower popping!
“Wait! Will the flowers still bloom after we pop them?” Rowan asks Vera.
“I don’t know, will they?” Vera looks at me. “Will it still get a flower if we pop it?”
“I have no idea,” I answer. “Let’s investigate and figure this out! Let’s try putting a little piece of tape below a few flowers that you pop and we can watch for a few days and see if they bloom.”
“I’ll go get the tape! Guard the flowers, Elizabeth!” shouts Vera, who is off in a flash.
We mark the white and purple flowers with blue wasabi tape and make a plan to collect data by checking on them several times a day for the rest of the week.
This is early science at its finest. A simple moment of play that sparks a sense of wonder. Children are born with an innate sense of wonder and curiosity, which prompts them to observe and question their surroundings to build their knowledge base.
Curiosity is the spark that drives the learning process. Given the time for scientific investigation, children naturally develop the critical-thinking skills that are the foundation of scientific inquiry.
As early childhood educators, it’s our job to nurture the curiosity of young children and foster the skills that will help them become future problem-solvers and innovators.
As Elizabeth and Vera ask meaningful questions, they are working to come up with their own answers by experimenting and gathering data. I simply guide their learning. Scientific investigations like this one encourage children to follow their curiosity and develop the habit of persistence as they try out new ideas, ask questions and solve problems.
These friends are making careful observations, collecting data and sharing their findings with others. When children engage in these aspects of the scientific method, they develop critical-thinking skills that can be applied to any situation.
This pedagogical method of child-led, inquiry-based learning allows children to direct their own investigations, which leads to deeper thinking and investigation.
“I think these flowers pop better in the morning,” observes Rowan.
“Maybe it’s too hot after lunch,” hypothesizes Elizabeth. “But some of them still pop.”
“Do the flowers on the bottom bloom before the ones on the top?” wonders Vera. “These up here look like they are still growing, but these lower ones look like they already bloomed.”
“Do the white flowers pop or just the purple ones?” asks Elizabeth as she spots another species of hosta a few feet away. She quickly pinches a white flower to find out.
“Yes! The white ones pop, too!” they shout in unison.
“Wow, Elizabeth, I have never even tried to pop a white one,” I say. “You taught me something new today.”
Both girls stop and look up at me. “Really?”
“Yes, really!” I respond with a smile. As an educator, it’s always gratifying to learn along with my students.
Much to my relief, our research that week proved that the popped buds did still bloom. I’m so thankful that the children were motivated to research this phenomenon. I’ve been popping these flowers for as long as I can remember and I, too, have wondered if my hosta-popping habit inhibited the blooms.
If you’re lucky enough to have a hosta growing nearby, take Vera’s advice, look for the puffy buds and pinch them. If you don’t have hostas in your outdoor environment, consider planting some to enhance your science curriculum. These maintenance-free perennials will re-emerge every spring and provide plenty of opportunities for measuring, observing and, of course, popping!
Check out the video below to see how fun hosta popping can be!