In discussing the height of the twelve-foot high sunflower:
O: How tall would you be?
T: Oh my gosh.
O: It would be double you.
S: [The stem] is normally this big (indicates with hands), but I think it would be this big (indicates again with hands, about 3 feet apart).
Exploration about the height of the plant began almost immediately. Guesses were made – how tall IS twelve feet? What is in our classroom that is twelve feet? Many children looked to the support pole in our classroom and others thought that the door to our room might be twelve feet tall, and all were very surprised that both were far less than twelve feet. We then stretched out a tape measure, first inside the classroom and then outside our building.
They then engaged in measuring the length with non-standard units of measurement, beginning first with their seated bodies, then with popsicle sticks, lengths of yarn, pencils, Dixie cups, and other materials.
B. and others sit on the side of the path, others join in until 11 children are sitting side-by-side from one marked side to the other.
What else could we measure with?
Children began to place pencils along the path. L. laid out yellow pencils end to end and N. laid out colored pencils so that each pencil’s tip overlapped with the other. They begin to argue about which way to lay out the pencils.
L: The colored pencils are smaller, so it takes more of them.N. agreed, and L. laid out yellow pencils for the entire length. They counted each individual pencil. There are 20.
Laying out pencils to measure twelve feet:
We also tried lengths of colorful yarn:
B. decided to measure with cups, and put down one after the other, lip-side down. N. laid out the tape measure again, from one tape mark to the other.
Why are you laying out the tape measure?
N: Just to make sure it was 12 feet and that we’re doing it right.
L. gets the idea to measure with sunflower seeds and brings out a handful.
O: It’s not that tall!
You mean it’s not that tall compared to you?
O: I’m 4 feet so…EXACTLY 3 of me.
O (pointing to his foot): This is one foot!
So is this 12 of your feet?
O: Yeah (Walks along the measured space, adjusts his steps to allow 12 steps).
L. brought out popsicle sticks to measure with. He and K. laid them out end to end and counted 30 popsicle sticks. N. measured one stick with the tape measure. It is 4 inches. Then he measured a pencil with the tape measure. It is 7 inches.
N: I take the measurements, that’s what I do.
O: We could measure with people.
O. then suggested measuring himself with the tape measure—Nolan measured him at 44 inches.
O: I’m gonna get a lot of people who are 44 inches on the tape measure.
D: I’m forty-fine inches.
O: I’m 44, how many feet are you?
D: 3 and a half.
O: I’m 4 feet.
O: I’m 4 feet.
N. measured O., and found that he is 44 inches. L. measured O., and found that he is 47 inches.
N. measured the space with 11 strings.
|B. decides we need to try measuring with Dixie Cups|
|How about popsicle sticks? They each measure four inches|
|How tall are we?|
A natural extension of this activity was a visit to Pippin’s garden on the school campus, where the children looked to see if the sunflowers growing there were as large as the mammoth sunflower. Returning to their project work back in class, further measurement explorations began to take place.