Nature Study for Young Children

I hope you are enjoying the first week of summer !

If you are running a summer program, you are probably thinking about what kinds of activities might be enjoyable for the children in your class and perhaps a bit different than the activities you have been doing during the rest of the year.

First , chances are, you and your students will be spending more time outside over the next two months.  Being outside gives you and your class the opportunity to enjoy one of the most important areas of the curriculum —  that is, science, especially the study of nature.

Nature study gives children a sense of wonder and excitement as they explore their world.   Nature study for young children is feeling the wind blowing, smelling the flowers, watching a squirrel hunt for food, hearing the birds sing and tasting a new fruit! Encouraging children to observe, compare and contrast, experiment, ask questions, research, predict and  communicate what they have discovered with others will further extend and expand their knowledge of nature.

Here are a few suggestions for doing nature study with young children:

  1. Take  a field trip.
    A nature field trip for young children can be as simple as taking an “observation walk” through the nearby park. Take time to observe the trees, the flowers, the birds, the animals, and anything else that might be present in the environment.  A farm, the zoo or the beach are also great nature study environments.  Just picking up seashells or touching an animal provides a wonderful opportunity for young children to learn more about their world
  2. Create a nature center.
    After exploring the world outdoors, bring back samples of what you have found and encourage the children to bring in things from home they can further investigate and research. Objects such as shells, stones, leaves, petals and feathers can be sources of much exploration and discussion. Create a little area where the objects can be on display and children can observe them with tools such as magnifying glasses, scales and rulers.
  3. Create a nature study area of your classroom library area.
    Collect books, magazines, photographs, and pictures about nature
    that can be used by both teachers and children.
  4. Sings songs and rhymes and listen to CDs that are related to nature study.
    Sing songs and say rhymes about nature including – BINGO; Old McDonald; Bear Hunt; and Eensy, Weensy Spider.  Enjoy listening to CD’s about nature including Animal Antics and Spin, Spider, Spin.
  5. Read books, both nonfiction and fiction, about nature.
    Use the summer to explore some of the excellent books that will help children gain knowledge about nature such as Swimmy, Counting in the Garden, Wonderful Worms, and Are You a Butterfly? among others.
  6. Help the children document their nature study explorations.
    Help the children record what they have observed and learned about nature by having them photograph, draw and write about their findings.
  7. Use technology to enhance your nature study.
    With the use of technology, you might also try using an Interactive Whiteboard, video clips and online internet sites to enhance your nature study activities.

What kinds of activities have you done in the area of nature study?

Did the children enjoy them?

Please feel free to share any ideas that you think might be helpful
to other teachers.

I hope you will enjoy your nature study with the children in your program.

Best wishes,

Dr. Vardin
Additional references:
“ Encouraging Explorations in Young Children.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today.  April, 2003.
“ Sciencing and Young Children.”  Scholastic Early Childhood Today.  April 2003

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