Nature is an element that can have a strong impact on the progression and development of our students. Nature can inspire students to think creatively, encourage students to think critically, and enhance students interactions with their peers and teachers. Nature is open ended and the opportunities that it presents is endless. I own a family child care home, Jitta Bug Learning Center LLC, and we have used nature as a teaching tool since we opened in 2013. We started with a butterfly garden to show students the full cycle of a butterfly. I have found that nature adds a richness to my instruction and adds meaning behind my interactions. With the increase use of nature I have found my students to be more caring towards earth and how they treat their home. This is also a passion I was raised in. Both my parents are gardeners and taught me all that I know! When I was younger my parents owned their own landscaping company, and would take my siblings and I on different jobs and teach us the art of gardening. I enjoy it because its a passion we share.
I have five objectives with the use of nature and these five objectives help guide my instruction, use, and implementation of nature:
Grow a love for earth
Learn how to grow at least one thing
Recognize different herbs by smell
Develop a fearless attitude towards bugs and insects
Enhance their love and respect for God's creations
Have you ever been blessed to watch a caterpillar spin into their chrysalis? Thanks to our butterfly garden our students have been able to watch this process upclose without disturbing the insects. These little experiences have a lasting impact on the child's connection to nature and the living world around them.
You can start by simply having open discussions with your students about nature. You can talk about things they see, living VS nonliving, and how things grow. Going on nature walks either around your community or playground can help open these discussions. Keep in mind students brains are like sponges and they are highly capable of learning anything if taught on their level. In the pictures below my students noticed fruit on one of the trees arund the playground area. We then started talking about mangos and had a week long discussion and lessons on mangos. To top it all off we had fresh mangos for snack and made a bar graph to show how many students liked it verses how many did not like it. The student even climbed the mango tree with appropriate support and safety protocols.
Go a bug hunt and challenge the students to find different kinds of bugs on their playground. During the bug hunt take pictures to put together a book about different bugs, to use for further lessons or even recall weeks later. When we did this we used PowerPoint to create the book and print in full slide. We then used the slides and saved each individually and created a digital story with bug facts. You can also use this as an opportunity to teach the students how to take a picture and work the zoom feature. Nature can take a simple lesson and elevate the overall outcome for the students.
Nature can also create an opportunity for students to be free and just explore the dirt. This can help the students learn how to treat God's creatures and how to grow things. Students should be able to freely dig in the dirt and learn proper hand washing when they are done. Gardening can help students understand where food comes from and can offer hands on lessons and experiences that a book or video does not offer. It also offers a bonding experience that helps build relationships and friendships within the classroom. Teaching these skills at an early age can help the students develop a "green thumb". Check out our garden from the very beginning by watching our video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/fTicCx89D20 which started as a butterfly garden and we grow into vegetables and herbs which you can see below!