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Student Responses to Major Leaf Project

Before we started reading THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z by Kate Messner, the science teacher on my team, LaShauna Quarles, assigned the exact same leaf collection project the main characters in the book are doing to our students. The students must collect and identify twenty-five leaves (they should also include some nuts or berries of the tree). They may present the information how they choose.

In preparation for reading this heart-warming mid-grade novel, I shared the stories of my experiences with the leaf collection from my own two children, one who is a planner and the other a procrastinator. They easily identified with one or the other. In Messner's book, the MC gets herself into a jam because she keeps putting off this large project. The students then wrote in their journals briefly, sharing their progress with the project. Here are some of their responses, which I think you will enjoy reading:

Student One:
I was so scared when I heard about the leaf project. I had NO idead how I was going to collect all of them. Lucky for me, my dad has a degree in forestry and knows a thing or two about trees. I worked with my best friend, with help from my dad. He...works in the woods, so we weren't short on resources. It took us three weekends total, one to collect most of them and two to put it together. The best thing was having it done and being able to look at the finished project. The worst thing was running around and collecting.

Student Two:
So far, Ms. Quarles' leaf project has been enjoyable. I have twenty pairs, so I need to get five more. My parents and I like to go outside and collect the leaves on a path near the lake. There are a lot of leaves there. For the identification part, I work alone for the presentation and how the leaves are organized. That's because I know that onlly I know what I want and nobody else. The thing I liked most about the project was going outsdie to collect the leaves - breathing the fresh air, walking my dog, and having fun with my parents. I didn't like having to identify the leaves. I like knowing things, but I still didn't like being inside to figure out what they were.

Student Three:
I am still working on my leaf project. Right now I am laminating and working on finding info about my leaves. I found the majority of my leaves behind the Field House {at the State University in our city} and around my neighborhood. My mom is sending me some leaves from Florida. I worked on my leaf project with 3 friends. The best thing I liked was hanging out with all of my friends. My least favorite was looking up ALL the information.

Student Four:
I had a lot of fun doing my leaf collection because we had to walk around in the woods to find them. I got most of the leaves from our woods, but my sister's boyfriend had a lot of land, so we got leaves there, too. My Mom and Dad helped my identify them and I wrote all of the facts down and helped preserve them. It took about three weeks to do the project. I turned in twenty-eight different leaves. What I liked about the project was that is was outside and I love being outside when the leaves change color. The worst thing about the project was that I had to write a lot of fact.s. I really couldn't identify any leaves before, but now I can identify about 15 (without the guide book).

Student Five:
All I had to do is go to the park and I collected ten. Then I went to the cemetery across the street to get some more and got about ten. My dad and I went to get a project binder at Staples. Then we are identifying them. Now I'm going to go over to my Mom's and write stuff about them. The best part was doing the collecting with my dad. The worst is writing stuff about it.

Student Six:
I got most of my leaves around my neighborhood looking for leaves. When I found an interesting one I asked the person who owned the tree if it was ok if I took a sample of it. My mom helped me. She borrowed her laminator from her business she owns and we laminated the leaves and found all of the resources I needed to get an A+. The best thing about the project is that I found very uncommon leaves and it is very interesting. The worse thing is when my mom borrowed the first laminator and the berries got stuck in it and squeezed juice all over the machine.

Student Seven:
I got most of my leaves close to my house and I am not doing it all by myself - my sister is helping me. She is only helping me find the leaves, so I still do not have it done. The best part about the project is collecting the leaves because it is the simple part. The worst thing is identifying them because it is harder. I can't id none of them without the book.

Student Eight:
I have had a good time working on my leaf project. My grandpa helped me the most out of everyone. He got my supplies that I needed to complete my project. He took me to Pt. Au Roche  {a nature preserve} to get most of my leaves. We went on walks also. He is taking them to a college professor to make sure that I identified them all correctly. I couldn't have done it without him. The best thing about the leaf project is that I got to spend time with my grandpa because we never just hang out just the two of us. The worst thing about the leaf project was having to go out in the cold and having to do homework.

Student Nine:
I am almost done my leaf project. I am the kind of person that just wants to get the project over with. There are three things I have left that I will get done tonight: One is gluing my leaf to the information about the leaves. Two, I have to write or type my table of contents. Three, I have to write or type my bibliography. I had a little bit of trouble finding thirty different leaves and identifying them all. The best thing about the project is that it is a fun project once you get the hang of it. The worst part was it took a long time to find 30 different leaves . I can identify 15 different kinds of leaves now (without a book) without any problem!

Student Ten:
I finished my leaf project last week. I worked on it with {a friend} and her dad was helping us pick leaves. It took us about two weekends to do it because I would spend the night there and her mom doesn't have a printer so we had to do it at her dad's house. It was really easy - there were only three that were hard to identify. The best thing is that we were allowed to work with a friend so that when we were doing the project we were having fun at the same time. The worst thing is that I don't like leaves.

Student Eleven:
I am finished my leaf project. I had a lot of help from my Uncle Bill. He let me find most of my leaves at his maple sugar farm. He would
show me great spots to get leaves and cool trees. My mom also helped me a lot by identifying the hard leaves. It was hard but fun and I am glad I got it done. I found some great leaves. The best thing is seeing the coolest trees that you really never noticed before. The worst thing about the project is the few leaves you can't figure out what tree they come from.

Student Twelve:
My experience with the leaf project is sort of great! And it is great because it is very, very easy because I have a brother that did it two years ago. So he knows how to perfectly identify them, but the downside is he does not like to help me, but my mom makes him. I also went behind the Field House to get them and around my neighborhood. The best thing is that is went by fast and easy because my brother helped me with it. The worst thing is that I had to get so many leaves and I had to spend time with my brother.

After we shared how the project was progressing, we read the first two chapters of the novel. The class broke into small groups to discuss various topics I posted on the board.

Stay tuned for more insights into TEACHING GIANNA Z!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)
I love the bests and worsts!
Oct. 20th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
I know - aren't they great? My students are very honest and have such a great sense of humor! I wish that I would have been able to post all of their comments. In my parent email, I linked them here - I wonder if they will be able to identify if their child wrote it or not?
Oct. 21st, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
These are cute. It's interesting that so many of them identified working with their parent, grandparent, aunt etc. as one of the best parts of the leaf project.
Oct. 22nd, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)
That is a good point - family is so important! It can be a rather daunting project for some students. (My daughter did hers alone before I even knew it was assigned & then helped all of her friends.) (My son...well, it became an intergenerational project!) I always feel for the students whose parents can't, or won't, help them. Fortunately we have a lot of faculty and staff willing to assist, as well as parents who help other's children. It is good to see everyone pulling together to ensure each child's success!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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