"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love Nature? It's Only Natural!!

“The most effective kind of education is that a child 
should play amongst lovely things.” — Plato

It's only natural for a child (or adult) to long to be out in nature taking in the beauty and wonder of it all. Nature is an amazing teacher. Nature awakens all of the senses.  So what can one do to foster love for these experiences?? The following are a few of the nature exploration opportunities we've enjoyed.

We call these "nature packs". We use clear
backpacks (from Lakeshore), small clipboards
with paper, colored pencils, and a magnifying glass.
The children are encouraged to look around at things
in nature. Observe them closely with the magnifying glass
and then, if they'd like, they can sketch what they see.
This can be done individually, with a friend, 
or in a group.

This winter we haven't experienced much rain,
but we normally do. Last year our rain came 
a little later than usual, which may be the
case this time, as well. Last year I found these
adorable rain boots and purchased 4 pairs so
we could take the kids out on rainy days to do
some exploring. We call them "monkey boots".
We were so fortunate that when we decided to
try them out, one of our preschool dads who just happens to be 
a park ranger, was hanging out with us. He
was able to help us identify the birds, mushrooms,
plants, and worms we saw. What fun!!

Another valuable resource we have available to us is
an Outdoor Learning Laboratory aka "the pond". Our
ranger dad was able to be present when we went there
for a visit with our buddies and was able to give us on
the spot nature lessons about the ducks, geese, and other
animals that live and frequent the area. Thanks, Ranger Jeremiah!

Another activity we began doing this school year
was "nature frames". I saw this idea when visiting
a Reggio exhibit in Monterey in the fall.
Simply place some old picture frames, without the
glass or the back insert, on a flat surface. We then
encouraged the children to collect nature items and
arrange them within the frame. The kids had a blast
collecting and arranging. It was a group activity so they
had to all agree how it was to look.

Then there are always times when the kids come up with
their own experiences without any adult guidance, my favorite.
One day some of the kids began collecting and sorting natural
materials on their own. Love it!!

An amazing resource a friend of mine discovered awhile back and
after viewing it and drooling for a bit, I ordered by own copy. This 
book is amazing. It has short, concise lessons that you can do in
a short while or you can extend into larger experiences. Not every
lesson applied to animals or plants in my area, but lots of them do.
I ordered it through Amazon. It's definitely worth checking out.

I realize not everyone has access to the resources we do, but
with a little effort and creativity you can enhance the experiences 
of your children. I'd love to hear and see pics of what you do!!


  1. I love this post Miss Barbara! I made up your backpacks a while ago, but haven't used them yet. With the weather so nice, that's what we'll do next week!!! Love your monkey boots! And so glad your implementing the Reggio idea we saw! Looks like great fun!!!

  2. The backpacks are definitely a hit. I bring them out for awhile, then put them away. This has been effective to keep them really excited to use them. The boots are a definite fave with the kiddos, as well, and the frames, I love seeing the creativity that comes across. Thanks, Shannon!!

  3. I love all the ideas to encourage learning outdoors! How great the students each have their own nature backpack. The idea of using frames outside for creativity is wonderful! Thank you for linking up to The Outdoor Play Party. I am going to share this idea on my Facebook Page, The Golden Gleam.

    1. Thanks, Rebekah. The kids love the backpacks, too. They are always eager to see what new adventures they can discover. I just discovered your page this morning and began following you on Facebook. I love what I've read from your page so far. Where are you located?

  4. Oh, I love the nature frames idea! Thanks for linking this up to the Outdoor Play Party!

    1. Thanks, Mama Pea Pod. I got the idea when visiting a Reggio exhibit at Monterey, CA. I loved how they used the natural materials. The kids love it, too. Sometimes they designed the frame contents collaboratively and sometimes one at a time. We tried to make sure to take a photo of each child with their frame, as it was always changing.

  5. Great outdoor play! It is wonderful that you are incorporating the pond and so much nature exploration into the play that these children are doing outside. That is wonderful.
    Thanks for linking up to the outdoor play party!

    1. Thanks, Abbie. I know when I was a child, I had the freedom to roam the woods and explore outside, which is something most all preschoolers rarely are free to do now. We are so blessed to be in a somewhat rural area of California and to be on an elementary school site that has access to the pond (their outdoor science lab).