Birds (outside)

When it comes to gaining true understanding about the natural world, text and photos can only take a child so far. We believe that spending time outside and allowing the students to experience nature firsthand takes the learning experience to a whole new level, engaging the students senses in new and exciting ways.

Over the past couple of weeks we have been observing a mother bird and her baby bird in our outdoor area. When the children go outside each day they run towards the bird’s nest, eager to check on the little feathered family. With each visit, the children have been able to make a variety of observations regarding important scientific concepts such as the animal’s life cycle, habitat and other physical and behavioral characteristics.

The children have been observing how the mother bird feeds the baby bird and have been talking about how “the baby bird is growing.” Noting the bird’s feeding habits and growth rate reinforces valuable scientific skills and concepts such as careful observation, measurement, comparison and cause and effect.

The children also got to watch the baby bird try to fly. This was quite exciting for them because they have been observing the baby bird from the moment it hatched from its egg. While the bird was practicing flying he got stuck inside of the fence but he quickly figured out how to get free. The birds have been a popular topic of conversation between the students, increasing communication skills and unity within the class.

By spending time outside with the birds, the children not only expanded their scientific knowledge, but they also formed a special connection with the natural world around them. Getting a daily glimpse of the baby’s transformation allowed for a unique sense of attachment, appreciation and curiosity to grow within the children, increasing their interest in learning and their thrill as they witnessed the bird take its first flight.

Encouraging children to interact and connect with nature in a meaningful way is important because it allows them to better understand their potential impact on the environment, furthering their development into environmentally responsible individuals. 

Bug categorizing

Lately, we have noticed that some of the children have started confusing the names of certain bugs and insects that they have come across in our classroom. To resolve this confusion and further our understanding of insect names, we set up an exploration.

Using magnifying cubes to help us get a closer look at the bugs, we placed four ladybugs, four doodle bugs, four snails and two caterpillars out on a large sheet of white paper. The paper was divided into four sections labeled “Snails,” “Caterpillars,” “Ladybugs” and “Doodle Bugs.”

The children were excited to see our critters out of their natural habitats. They immediately started grabbing the cubes and excitedly shouting out which ones they had in their possession. We asked the students if they knew what words were on the paper and they all responded by saying “I don’t know.” We took this opportunity to explain to the children the different word in each square.

Some of the children started to place the critters that they had in their hand into separate sections. They repeatedly asked us which section was what. We talked about the first letter of each section to help them connect it to the name of the critter and some of the children helped their classmates find their correct section.

While they were relocating the bugs, some of the children wanted to bring chalk and oil pastels to draw their bugs on the paper. The children drew bodies, legs and antennas in each of the sections. They enjoyed rubbing their hand and arms on the areas that chalk was used. The bright colors rubbed off on their skin and some of them even started to draw on their arms.

By categorizing the bugs into their correct sections, the children practiced word association. Learning to properly label and name items is an important aspect of communication skill development. Writing the bug names on the table and using the first letters of the names to give the children “hints” also increased the children’s general letter and word recognition skills.

In helping one another find the appropriate category for the bugs, the children practiced teamwork, encouraged positive relationships and enhanced their interpersonal communication skills. Drawing the bugs in their correct sections also allowed the children to further instill their mental connection between each bug name and that bug’s unique characteristics, as a means of remembering the appropriate name.

While this began as a communications based exploration, it also built upon other cognitive skills like counting and categorizing.

Caterpillar Environment

The children are continuing to explore the fascinating world of caterpillars! We have been monitoring the caterpillars in the classroom by recreating their environment in a see-through container. In doing so, the children understand what elements are necessary for the caterpillars to live and what type of environment or habitat they need to survive.

When asked what they see they in the container they identified leaves, branches, flowers, water and the caterpillars. The children were asked what they think an “environment” is. Here were some of their thoughts on environments and their contents:

·      “An area and surroundings.”

·      “It’s a circle of life.”

·       “Caterpillars need chrysalises to turn into butterflies!”

Following their explanations, we laid out paper, scissors, glue, yarn, tissue paper and branches. The students used the materials to re-create what they thought the caterpillar’s environment might look like on paper. The children used their prior knowledge, gained by studying and observing the caterpillars, to formulate and document their own ideas of environments. We strongly support the documentation of children’s work, as it is key to showing levels of progress in understanding and development.

This project allowed the children to be a part of an environment that was rich in open-ended materials and invoked engagement, construction and inventiveness. By vocalizing their different definitions of environments, the children were able to practice articulating and refining their own ideas based on the feedback and thoughts of others.

Extended periods of interaction with nature is important because it allows the students to gain a full understanding of scientific concepts. The deep level of observation involved in this exploration not only furthers an understanding of natural processes and lifecycles, but also instills an appreciation of and deep interest in the natural world that is key in developing into an environmentally responsible individual.