Skills Children Develop

The wonders of nature fascinate children. They're eager to explore pictures and text (vocabulary, early reading skills), examine specimens (research), find out what happens with magnets and plants (experiment), and show what they know (art projects and stories).

Thinking, about why and how things work comes naturally when children are encouraged to explore plants, animals, foods, weather, and the world around them. They make predictions, measure, compare weights and amounts, and draw conclusions from their experiments.

As children care for plants and animals, they learn to care for the earth's fragile environment, and grasp concepts about change and growth.

Setup Ideas

Weather is right outside, and sunshine needed for plants can come streaming in if the science and nature area is near a window. On low, open, labeled shelves, store learning tools and materials to touch, such as magnifying glasses and scales.

A table for experimenting and a display area for collections of leaves, shells or rocks are both key. Display reference materials, such as pictures, charts, and nature guidebooks. Safe green plants and healthy, safe animals round out the picture for this area.

Teaching Strategies

Curiosity is the name of the game. Wonder with children about how bees make honey, what happens when water freezes, and what bones feel like. Pick up on children's excitement about stormy weather, a new baby, or a bird's nest on the playground. Explore, experiment, and research skills that stand children in good stead all their lives.

Suggested Materials

  • growing plants (nonpoisonous)
  • healthy animals such as fish or gerbils, in proper housing
  • natural materials to touch: dried plants, rocks, shells, chicken bones
  • nature books and posters, X-rays, model teeth
  • tools: magnifying glass, thermometer, magnet
  • water and sand table: measuring cups, funnels, empty plastic containers

Close adult supervision is required to ensure safety of young children. Projects with small parts and scissors with metal blades are for children ages 4 and older.