Today, I want to elaborate on patterns that connect. The good news is that we have confirmation that an almost 3-year-old can work with patterns that connect. One young friend whose Mom had been talking with her about various patterns told her mom “mommy this spiral is bigger than the teeny snail (just the shell) we found yesterday.” The bad news is that I don’t think I said enough about some of my favorite patterns that connect, so today I’m just going to describe each in enough detail so that y’all can talk about them with your kids.
Grains: A grain is any small irregular chuck of matter. Grains of sand (including those that break off of granite), grains of salt, and grains of rice are all common examples of grains.
Fibers: A fiber is any long thin piece of matter. Thread, string, muscle and nerve cells, fungal mycelia, the strands in celery, the nasty strings that form in some avocados, and the strands of spider webs are all examples of fibers. Many fibers are actually bundles of fibers (see below).
Tubes: A tube is any elongated cylinder or hollow fiber. Straws, pipes, grasses and rushes, blood vessels and pant legs are all tubes and cups and glasses are just tubes with bottoms. Tubes can also be considered rolled up sheets (see below).
Bundles: Bundles are just fibers and/or tubes somehow wrapped together. I explore bundles with kids by cutting up rope and showing that rope is a bundle of bundles of fibers. Nerves, muscles and plant stems including celery and hemp are also bundles of bundles.
Sheets: Sheets are simply uniformly thin objects. Bedsheets, sheets of mica, leaves, sedges (i.e., plants that look like grasses but are more sheet-like), skin and clothing are all examples of sheets. Clothes are sheets made of nets (see below) made of bundles of bundles of fibers.
Layers: Layers are stacks of sheets. They are to sheets, what bundles are to fibers and tubes. We can see layers in rocks, in sheet mulching, in sandwiches and cakes, in settled soil shakes (and any other suspension that has been left to settle) and in soil.
Branches: Branches occur when any object splits (diverges) or joins with another object (converges). Branches can be found, in paths, creeks, conversations (to abstract for young kids) and, oh yay, trees.
Spirals: Spirals can spiral in one dimension like a snail or in two dimensions like springs and DNA. We can see spirals in the fiddleheads of young ferns, the growth pattern of some pines, herb spirals (more on these later) tornadoes and in whirl pools in our sink drains and toilets and in whirling water in a stream, river or creek.
Webs or Nets: Webs, like many other patterns can be physical or abstract. Physical webs involve the crisscrossing of fibers like we see in spider webs or butterfly or fish nets. A food-web is an example of an abstract web. Webs are one of my favorite patterns as I think the realization that we and all other living creatures are members of a global web of connections and interdependencies (more on that later) is essential to our survival as a species.
Cycles: Cycles are another favorite pattern of mine. This pattern is inherently abstract and I believe that an understanding of its role in how our planet works is absolutely essential to our survival (more on that later). The movement of the moon around the Earth and the Earth around the sun are cycles. As are seasons, life cycles (e.g., seed, seedling, vegetative growth, flowering, repeat), the water cycle, the carbon cycle, etc. I get kids of all ages to recite the seasons as a way of getting cycles. I ask them what season this is and then what comes after until we’ve gone around a couple of times.