3.13.2013

St. Patrick's Day Stories, Gardens, and Other Fun

Saint Patrick's Day is a fantastic time to explore some Irish traditions and folktales.  The shamrock, or three-leafed clover, has long been associated with Ireland.  Occasionally, clovers grow with four or more leaves instead of the usual three.  These rare four-leafed clovers are thought to bring good luck to those who discover them.  Let students experience this tradition first-hand by growing clover in the classroom.
Visit The Schroeder Page to get this free printable clover observation chart.  After the seeds are planted, you can set the clover up in an observation center for students to visit independently or in small groups.  They can fill in this comparison sheet, draw diagrams of the plants as they grow, and use magnifying glasses to search for four-leafed clovers.
At the end of the month, students can chart their individual results, compare to classmates' observations, and chart the class' cumulative data.  Clover plays an important role in nitrogen fixation, so this experiment is a great springboard for a discussion about the nitrogen cycle.  Visit Backyard Nature to find out exactly how clover fits into Earth's nitrogen cycle.

Carry the clover theme into reading, with this shamrock book recommendation form from The Centered School Library.
Students will have fun using this sheet to tell their peers about books they'd be lucky to read.  Meanwhile, they'll get practice evaluating books and writing persuasively.

Students could also use the book review form to recommend their favorite leprechaun stories.  Read a few leprechaun picture books, like Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaula and Tim O'Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott.  With older kids, read Leprechaun in Late Winter from the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. Also check out Leprechauns and Irish Folklore, the nonfiction companion to Osborne's novel.

Invite some luck your way by making the clover patch or another area of the garden into a retreat for leprechauns.
Kids can collect items from the outdoors and the recycling bin to accessorize the leprechaun garden.  If they don't find the shapes they need, students can use air-hardening clay to create pieces like the leaf-chair and yellow mushroom above.  Then, print out this free leprechaun puppet that kids can use for storytelling and imaginative play in the new mini garden.

All this learning and gardening will work up an appetite.  For snack time, make Irish soda bread, a traditional St. Patrick's day food.  Soda bread is simple to make, because the baking soda in the recipe helps the bread rise.  This means no repetitions of kneading and rising like in many bread recipes.

For more St. Patrick's Day fun, check out these rainbow-themed learning ideas.

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