We continue to enjoy our Nature Explore Classroom and love the opportunities it opens for the children to get outdoors and explore.
We are focusing this year on Sobel’s principle of Animal Allies. The children are being encouraged in their pretend play in the garden area and classrooms. Preschool children are really great at learning about their environment and the animals in it by “becoming” the animal. This is a natural part of their everyday play. On any given day there may be groups of children flying and building their nests like birds, jumping about like crickets or buzzing around the flowers like bees. It is the role of our teachers to capitalize on this natural inclination and lead the children to observe and discover more about animals and insects.
This year, in the Nature Explore Classroom, animal homes and habitats have been another focus. Some of the children scoured the garden area for materials to make cricket habitats. Others observed bird nests and then put out materials the birds might use to build nests. They are anxious to go out to the garden this Spring to see if any of their gifts for the birds are a part of the new nests. Wiggly worms are being sought this Spring by more than the birds. In the digging area each shovelful yields more worms. The children have made worm habitats to learn more about them. Some of the classes have been learning about Mason Bees and each child has made a Mason Bee habitat. The group just planted the bees favorite purple flowers and they are making sure the bees have a supply of mud.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” (Carson, 1965) At school, the teachers use the Nature Explore Classroom to guide the children towards discoveries and then aid them in their observations with simple questions on their level and capitalize on teachable moments.
Many parents do have a natural instinct to enjoy and lead their children towards discoveries in the outdoors. We share our nature activities with the parents to further encourage them. We also send them a monthly outdoor activity calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The activities invite families to help children discover and explore nature in the yard or neighborhood.