How to Create Rich and Engaging Math Unit Studies – Circular Patterns

How to Create Rich and Engaging Math Unit Studies – Circular Patterns

Looking for circular patterns in nature is an easy yet intriguing activity. They can be found just about everywhere you could look in your backyard. Why start in your backyard first, or wherever you are? It's for simple convenience sake. In this post, I invite you and your children to do a treasure hunt of circular patterns in nature tour of your own backyard.

Why do I suggest parents try this activity on their own first?

You might want to try this activity alone before you bring your kiddos outdoors (during nap time?) so that you can spend that almost always much needed alone time to really focus your mind and learn to see these magnificent patterns for yourself first. After you've done this relaxing nature-connecting activity, repeat the activity with your children at a later time.

How to Do a Treasure Hunt Looking for Nature's Circular Patterns

Materials:

  • Download the Backyard Patterns in Nature Template - Circular Patterns below.
  • Clipboard or book for the Backyard Patterns in Nature Template - Circular Patterns
  • Pencil or mechanical pencil with a good eraser
  • Camera phone
  • Optional: colored pencils

Procedure:

  1. Go out in your backyard armed with your template, writing utensil(s) of choice and camera.
  2. Look over the template download below. Notice the familiar types of patterns. 
  3. Locate and draw the same types of patterns from your backyard. You can be as general or as detailed as you like with your drawings. 
  4. Really look at and study each, plant, animal, or mineral you find. Learn to see with "mathematical eyes." See the main pattern which you'll draw into your template, but also look for other mathematical connections - what is its size? Shape? Weight? Other related numbers?
  5. If you choose to bring out colored pencils, use those to add color to your drawings.
  6. Complete the template. 

GET the Backyard Circular Patterns in Nature Treasure Hunt Template

You'll get a handy template that will help motivate your learners to find and mathematically describe circular patterns found right in your backyard!

How I Learned Nature's Math

Learning to look at nature's patterns, numbers with cross-curricular connections takes time. In my early 20's, while in college, I was FIRST introduced to the concept of nature's patterns in a Time Life book entitled, Mathematics. I still marvel that I was NEVER introduced to patterns in nature in grade school nor college. Why, I wonder? It is such a simple concept and it's all around us! Time Life very unexpectedly showed me circular patterns such as spirals found in sunflower and daisy seed heads among other patterns which I'll cover in future posts. It also brought in ancient history connections such as the Parthenon being within the Golden ratio.  You can read more about the Golden ratio and what it is here from my How to Create Rich and Engaging Math Unit Studies Part I. It wasn't until my early 30's after my teaching career was well underway that I was re-introduced to the patterns and numbers in nature concept by wellness teacher and educator, Don Tolman. His teaching inspired me to get outdoors on my own personal search looking for the patterns. Have a look at some circular patterns photos I took during my 7-year patterns in nature intensive study.

From left to right, top to bottom: a spiral created from two curved plant stems, tracks from a mountain lion - look how cute the circular paddy paws are! Was it lurking in the bushes near me? An argiope, a type of orb weaver spider. Notice the ovoid abodomen, quite prominent. My friend Julie was holding up a white foam board behind it. Wildflowers - Globe thistles exhibiting what? Spheres! Last but not least: bright orange mushrooms showcasing amazing circular caps.


I strongly suggest teachers and homeschool parents get a lot of dirt time in both by themselves and with their learners. When I say dirt time, I mean, getting outdoors in nature. Starting right in your own backyard looking for circular and other patterns found in nature, will train your eyes and mind to learn to see the patterns. Then, you go from your backyard looking for them, to finding them at your local state parks and national forests. Your backyard no matter how urban or rural, will offer you and your children early training in learning to find patterns in nature and see their connections across your curriculum.

What Cross-curricular Connections Can you Make with Nature's Circular Patterns?

Bringing in your other academic subjects allows for very creative connections and thinking. I don't know what curriculum you use (or perhaps none at all), but, here are a few helpful guidelines to bring your own backyard math into your current curriculum.

  1. Think about what you're learning in each subject.
  2. Look at each pattern clipart example, your own drawings and descriptions. 
  3. How can you tie these patterns in with your history, literature, writing, math, and art?
  4. Literature & Writing - You can create writing activities around each type of circular pattern. Students can come up with stories and poetry about what they see in nature.
  5. History connection - The Flower of Life is a famous symbol made up of circles that has been mysteriously found across cultures and religions. Find out what countries, temples and cultures where the pattern has been found.
  6. Art - There are some beautiful online art projects you can do recreating Kandinsky's famous concentric circles painting. Check out short YouTube video of the project beneath Kandinsky's original 1913 painting.

GET the Backyard Circular Patterns in Nature Treasure Hunt Template

You'll get a handy template that will help motivate your learners to find and mathematically describe circular patterns found right in your backyard!


What about high school studies?

Learning patterns in nature is something that can and should be done at any age. Being that most of us have not studied patterns in nature in mainstream or from boxed curriculum, there's no time like the present, even in high school, to learn to find, describe, write about and make cross-curricular connections while learning about patterns in nature. The above art project, for example can be done as early as kindergarten and as old as a human being can be. 

High school students can bring in studies such as high school geometry, algebra, and calculus all the while creating art projects using those maths and incorporating nature's patterns. 

In closing, here's a fun video of a great pi day project (appropriate for upper elementary, middle and high school students), but you can still do it on any day. He he! As a refresher, pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Pi is always the same number no matter what size the circle is. Dividing any circle's circumference by its diameter will always yield the same exact number: 3.1415…or pi.

As a precursor to this art project, I would suggest taking a photo of your own town or city's skyline at sunset and make circular connections between the skyline and the buildings you see. Usually, the circular patterns will be found in the sky's clouds


I hope your family enjoys these cross-curricular connections starring circular patterns in nature!

Until next time!

NatureGlo

Meet NatureGlo Founder of NatureGlo's eScience
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