"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

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Nature Study: A Week at the Pond

We are so fortunate to have a pond on-site at our school where we can do observations and studies. We decided to spend a week doing a study at the pond to take advantage of the natural resources and wildlife surrounding us.  

I love that the pond isn't merely considered a pond, but an outdoor learning laboratory. Thanks to the tireless effort of several of the teachers at the elementary school many years ago, grants were obtained to make their dream a reality. We are so grateful for this amazing resource!

There's always lots to see, hear and experience each day, but our goal for Day 1 was "What do you see?" We encouraged the children to really "look" at the surroundings and try to discover things they might not normally notice. 

Several years ago we released my daughter's turtle into the pond as he had outgrown our tank at home. His name is Aladdin and we like to think that he still resides at the pond. My kiddos exclaimed, "Look! It's Aladdin and his girlfriend!" Too cute! I'd like to think it is. 

Several ducks call the pond their home. They are definitely not shy. They came right up to us looking for food. We think they may have some nests there, as there are duck boxes built at the far end of the pond, but we aren't able to get to them. 

We were startled as we rounded a tree and saw a wild turkey hen sitting on a nest. We tried to be as unobtrusive as possible and walked by gently. However, as the last of our group came by, she ruffled her feathers and left the nest. 

When we walked back by we were able to count 12 eggs in her nest. No one touched them, but merely observed them. Later I did some research and found that most wild turkey hens lay their eggs in May and they incubate for 28 days, usually hatching in June. 

Day 2 our goal was, "What do you hear?" As we arrived at the pond we were greeted by this little guy who didn't seem to be concerned by our presence. We had the children sit on the benches, close their eyes and take in all the sounds they could hear.

The reeds by the pond

We had lots of opportunities to observe the ducks as they greeted us each day as we arrived and always seemed eager to be fed. 

I love this image of the kiddos observing the ducks at the pond. 

Day 3 goal: "Cleaning up around the pond" We had noticed some trash and lunch debris on the grounds by the pond so we decided to do a trash pick-up to help make the area more beautiful. 

We knew there were geese and goslings at the pond, but until this point they had stayed out of sight. As we approached the pond on this day I saw them in the distance before they heard us getting close. They tried to hide behind a patch of weeds. Ms. Celina walked back there to get some photos and her presence encouraged them to come up the side of the fence and into the water. We were thrilled to get to see the geese and their seven goslings. 

Heading to the pond

Happy on the water

We spotted this red-winged blackbird in the tree branches. It would flutter from limb to limb around the edge of the pond. 

We were able to observe several bees on the blackberry flowers by the pond.

When we arrived at the pond on the 4th day we noticed one of the eggs on top of the others. This brought about a discussion about how the mom would rotate the eggs to make sure the heat from her body was evenly distributed among the eggs and increasing the likelihood of survival of her baby poults once they arrived. Day 4 goal: collecting from the pond. Each child was allowed to collect one thing to take back to class with the stipulation of it not being a live animal or an egg. 

Day 5 goal: draw an image of something you see in nature at the pond. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to view a heron off in the distance. It was walking on the soccer field by the side of the pond, flew up onto the fence, flew to the fence by the pond, then flew into the trees. So exciting!!

Each child drew an image of something they viewed in nature.

When each child was done drawing they returned their drawing and pencils to one of the adults that was with us. 

We concluded our pond study knowing that we planned to check back periodically to see when the poults might arrive.

One of the kids' favorite things to do when we returned from the pond was to take off running across the green field leading back to our playground. So fun!

The following Monday, Ms. Shannon's class began a pond study and when they returned they informed us that the eggs had hatched, so though it wasn't planned, we quickly made our way back to the pond. 

All twelve eggs had hatched successfully and though we didn't see any of the poults, we felt sure that they had followed their mom away from prying eyes.

During this visit we were pleasantly surprised to see one of the turtles on the land. We don't know for sure if it's Aladdin, but he didn't retreat into his shell like most turtles would do. It sounds like Aladdin because he was never afraid. 

For our Open House we shared about our pond study, showed our collected items, and posted our nature drawings for all to see. We also retrieved one of the eggshells and brought it back to look at more closely. 

What an enjoyable time we had doing our pond study! It shows how you can truly learn so much by taking advantage of the nature opportunities that are in your surroundings. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nature Study...in the Classroom

Our student teacher, Ms. Hannah had a Nature theme prepared for her head-teaching day and had lots of fun activities planned for us. 

Mud painting, fun with a paintbrush, even MORE fun with your hands. Ms. Hannah had added organic food dye to the mud to give it a little color.

Painting with her hands was a HUGE hit for this friend!

She had a variety of natural materials displayed on a wooden tray and I invited friends over to create a nature story. Almost all of the kiddos participated in this activity and had some creative ideas floating around. 

The plan was for us to spend the majority of the rest of the day outside. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, we became part of a precautionary lock-down and had to finish the day indoors. Ms. Hannah was a trooper and took it all in stride. 

We continued with our Scavenger Hunt, as planned, just indoors. We have LOTS  of natural items in the classroom, so the kiddos were still able to find everything on the list. 

We divided the kiddos into smaller groups and they were off. They quickly began scanning the classroom looking for items on the list.


This friend was quickly able to find a tree, right in the middle of the room. 

These friends were excited to find a rock and quickly marked it off of their list.

Ms. Hannah shared her Five Little Turtles story and the kiddos loved doing the countdown with her. 

We even had time for each child to come up and listen to Ms. Hannah share their Nature Stories. 

The day's format changed from the original plan, but Ms. Hannah transitioned beautifully and it was truly a success. 

One of my college instructors always told us when you work with children you have to be emergent and flexible. Those words come back to my memory often as ideas are extinguished or extended based on the children's interests or plans are suddenly changed beyond our control. One thing is for sure, in this profession, you've got to always be on your toes and ready to pivot. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Preschool Explorers

We love exploring at preschool, inside and outside. Last week I shared how we use our nature packs: magnifying glasses, clipboard and paper, colored pencils, and clear backpacks. The kiddos grab a nature pack and take off on adventures. Love seeing the things they discover and sketch.

We also have a very cool magnifier that was gifted to us by a preschool family. One friend brought some roly polys AKA pill-bugs to share with the other kiddos. After we observed them for awhile, we released them into the flower garden. 

On another day a friend brought in a millipede. It was amazing looking at it through the viewer. With it, you have a magnified view from above and one from below. With the one from below we were able to view the movement of the many, many legs of the millipede, a rare perspective we wouldn't have been able to see without the viewer. 

After doing some research, I recently purchased four pairs of binoculars for use by the kiddos. I placed them out on the picnic table as a provocation and it wasn't long before they drew a crowd. 

The basket included the binoculars, field guides for insects, hummingbirds, western United States birds, bugs and slugs, and reptiles and amphibians. I also added Spring I Spy cards from spelloutloud.com. I also placed paper, clipboards, and colored pencils on the table. 

The kids were eager to take off exploring and looking around to see what they could spy. They were encouraged to find something, see if they could find it in one of the guides, and sketch an image of it, if they chose to do so. 

The guides were a great reference and they often would spend time browsing them looking for things they had seen before.

We recently did a unit called Eggs, Eggs Everywhere! We were able to explore a large variety of eggs and learn about all the different animals that come from eggs. 

We set up a sensory bin of "fish eggs". We placed rocks and a variety of aqua balls in yellow, orange, and clear in a tub of water. We later added some plants and a few plastic fish. 

We also had a "frog egg" habitat. We used rocks, aqua balls in green, clear, and blue, foam lily pads, and the frog life cycle pieces. 

Lots of opportunities for exploring and learning about the world around us.