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March 8, 2010

Teaching About Nature

In reviewing the new PLT Early Childhood guide, I came across some great tips we can all remember when teaching children about the outdoors, though they apply for teaching ANY age.

All children will benefit and learn from nature experiences if you:
  • Provide a variety of learning opportunities for auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.
  • Provide a variety of ways for children to share what they have learned.
  • Allow children to touch physical objects.
  • Provide a variety of books, pictures, and recordings such as bird calls and nature sounds.
  • Label natural objects in primary and secondary languages.
  • Call on all the sense when observing nature.
The guide also touches on the following points to keep in mind as YOU adjust your lesson plans, routines and management style outside for very young children (and again, EVERYONE!):
  • Embrace the knowledge you have. You know more than you think you do. You know more than enough to explore and discover nature in your neighborhood.
  • Model research skills. When you discover something unfamiliar, say "I don't know. Can we answer that question by ourselves or do we need a book?" Find the answers together.
  • Know your comfort level. If you are nervous about things found in nature, such as spiders, then don't teach about spiders. The children will sense your feelings.
  • Participate with the children. Be a scientist and record your own observations. Be an artist and sketch along with them.
  • Rediscover your own sense of wonder. Share your favorite parts of nature and your favorite nature books with the children. Your enthusiasm will spread.
  • Go with the flow. Early Childhood classrooms can be unpredictable, but outdoor classrooms are even more so. If maple seeds are falling from the trees today, forget your plan and play with the seeds.
  • Model care and respect for the natural environment. Touch plants and animals gently. Return animals to places you found them. Carefully replace logs and stones.
  • Think through safety, logistics, and routines.
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he (she) needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him (or her) the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
- Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder.

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