Jaime Escalante Early Education Center
Observing our students as they investigate the natural world is amazing. They are hyper-engaged in their discoveries and wonder. Many times our students skip the plastic toys that are provided for them and instead dig in the dirt, view ants and roly-polies through a magnifier, collect, sort, and count rocks, water plants and trees or collect nature objects.
Our teachers capture students in their discovery and learning and support student’s growth in knowledge by asking them questions about what they see, hear, feel, smell, or they take pictures of students as they are completely absorbed in exploration.
What follows are dictations, stories of students as they are in our Nature Explore classroom
Eva helps teacher water trees. While she waters a peach tree, Eva makes an observation. She says, “Look I am taller than this tree.” Teacher replies, “You are right Eva, the tree is smaller than you.” Eva then stands next to the tree and measure herself using her hand. 11/4/21
This child was interested in planting a seed and wanted to show her friend, while staying social distanced. This is during our outdoor free choice time. Student: “A flower”,
Teacher, “what do you think is going to grow from the seed?”
Student: “a tree”
Teacher: “you think a tree is going to grow?” What about you Milan, what do you think is going to grow?
Student: “A flower”
Teacher: “a flower”
Student: “Milan, next week we are going to come in the bike area again, ok to see the plants.”
Teacher: “to see if it grew?”
Student: “ok, ok, I need a little bit more”
It is encouraging to see children explore and learn from nature. Watching them actively engaged in activities reminds us about the importance of maintaining and improving the Nature Explore classroom. Today children decided to bring some rocks to a bench to explore them. They started by cleaning them and as they were cleaning them they were counting them. Their conversation touched aspects such as measurement, spatial relations and number sense of quantity. Nicole requested the balance to weigh the rocks she had collected. “I am going to put the biggest ones in the red box and the small ones in the blue, I already know the biggest ones are heavier than the small ones but I’m still going to show you.” Nicole told Celine. “Okay, I am going to show you too when you give me a turn.” Celine replied. They continued to converse about their comparisons for the duration of the outdoor play.
Our Nature explore classroom has changed our perspective and how we see nature not only for me as a teacher but also for my students. We plant, we care, and we love our garden. For the past 8 months, we have been exploring the life cycle of a butterfly. We planted Milkweed plants, which is the plant that attracts monarch butterflies. The beautiful Monarch Butterflies come and lay eggs here in our Nature Explore and our students come and hunt for the tiny caterpillars. We can now say that we are experts! Students have learned the stages of the life cycle of a butterfly. Their vocabulary expanded, their interest in literacy increased in regards to books related to the butterfly cycle. Students work together as a team and collaborate on voting on naming each butterfly. Finding caterpillars has become our classroom passion.
Our Nature Explore classroom has been used as another important tool for development for our students. In room 6 we have continued to use our outdoor classroom to enhance different areas of growth and development. For Example we are able to do hands on activities with the students. My students go to the nature explore classroom to collect loose parts such as leaves, seeds, rocks, pebbles, twigs, needle leaves and used them as counters. For students this is just another form of play, but we can use these moments to incorporate mathematics and other subjects which make it fun and memorable for the children.
“look teacher I has a lot of twigs, this one is big, this is small” -Lucas
“I have dry leaves, one, two, three, four” -Amayrane
“There are a lot of sticks, where do they come from?” -Lucas
Our students enjoy looking for insects in our beautiful outdoor Nature Explore. They look for butterflies, ants and roly-polies. My student Daniel found a rolly polly while going on our nature walk. “I see a roly-polies, he is walking on the rock.”