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Children and the Importance of Connecting with Nature

Posted on 25 June, 2014 at 2:45

A creative arts spin on science investigations

   

As an early childhood advocate, I am particularly passionate about children having the opportunity, extended periods of time and to explore their natural environment. Whether this may be experiences in the garden investigating leaf litter or planting veges, or going on a nature walk to look at the trees and listen to the birds…. it is so important children are actually given the freedom to be in nature, learning about their world, and developing a connection that runs deep.

My favourite learning journeys with children are when we look at plants and animals, in particular insects and mini worlds. To truly take an inquiry approach however, plenty of time must be spent in the “outdoor classroom”, it is pointless to teach about nature using just paper based resources or models. Bringing the outdoors inside can lead to amazing play scenarios, and even better, bringing the inside out means more time in nature for exploration and learning.

Investigating the lifecycle of the butterfly is something I do each year with young children. The learning journey we go on together lends itself to the most engaging and exciting creative learning experiences. Whether it be garden exploration as we go on a bug hunt, looking for caterpillars, butterflies, chrysalis or eggs, or an art response through painting, drawing, sculpting or designing, the learning is rich ad multi-faceted and always directed by the children, in the aspects of the experience that they are most interested in.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle is a firm favourite in classrooms and homes all over the world, and for very good reason! There is so much to take from this wonderful picture book, from sequencing and ordering events, to lifecycle investigations, to discussion about food and sorting. I always start with this story in particular, and move on to non-fiction texts afterwards. The children are very capable of telling the story too! Through play or literacy targeted mat sessions, provide them with props and pictures and they will take the lead!

I always like to incorporate musical experiences in my teaching! Here is a wonderful music and movement activity to try with your children, using colourful sheer scarves.

 

A Caterpillar Lifecycle" - a musical scarf activity

(Sung to the tune of The Wheels on the bus)

Provide each child with a scarf. The children lay down on their scarves and then wriggle around like caterpillars trying to keep the scarf under them.

Sing: The caterpillars are wriggling all around, all around, all around. The caterpillars are wriggling around, all around the garden.

The children then roll into a ball and cover themselves with their scarf - just their head if the scarves are small)

Sing: The caterpillars are building their cocoon, their cocoon, their cocoon. The caterpillars are building their cocoon and now they're fast asleep, shhhh!

Wait a few moments while the children are very quiet in their cocoons.

Sing: The butterflies are flying high and low, all around, up and down. The butterflies are flying high and low, until they rest on the ground.

Children will be using their scarf to fly like a butterfly all around the room, but at the end have to come and sit down quietly.

 

“Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is a fantastic piece of music for getting children up and zooming Boys especially love this one as it is quite fast paced and they often feel like little "superheros" as they act out flying around the indoor or outdoor space whilst listening to the imaginative music. The girls love to take turns wearing a beautiful handmade crown, with natural materials and jewels, as they pretend to be the Queen Bee.

I like to set the scene by talking about bees, and their important job, often turning it into a little story. The children love to discover the bees in the garden in the spring, following our music and movement experience. You can also add shimmering scarves to the experience for the children to use as wings so they can really feel they are taking flight.

If you head to your local farmers market on the weekend you can also pick up fresh honeycomb and dried pollen that the children will marvel at up close. There are plenty of delicious cooking experiences you can do with honey as the focus, and perhaps you can invite a real bee keeper to visit the children to show the special clothing they wear and the slats for the honeycomb in the bee house.

There are so many art experiences relating to flowers you can do with young ones. My students especially love making perfumes and potions with flower petals and essential oils, and using flowers and foliage to make beautiful nature crowns.

Here is a delightful little finger rhyme about bees that children adore…..

 

“Here is the Bee Hive”

Here is the beehive, where are the bees?

(Hold one hand closed tight and “look” for bees)

Hidden away where nobody sees.

(Try to peek into the hole of the beehive)

Soon they come creeping out of their hive,

1,2,3,4,5

(Take fingers out of the closed fist one by one)

Buzzzzzzzzz!

(Make all the little fingers fly into the air like little bees)

 

Exploring famous artworks with children is a wonderful cultural experience. One of my favourite artworks to look at with children is The Snail (or "L'escargot") by Henri Matisse. Matisse is a particular favourite of mine as he was the artist who at the age of 72 became unwell and could not stand to paint for long periods of time, began to "paint with scissors". He would paint large sheets of paper with watercolours and then cut freehanded shapes to create his masterpieces.

This a technique children love to explore, and delight in finding they share a connection with this wonderful artist. The picture book "Snail Trail" by Jo Saxton, is perfect to complement this art study. There is so much you can explore here and by giving children the materials for open ended, unique expression they will be responding and reflecting as they imagine and create.

For a scientific look at snails, why not collect some from the garden and display a observatory snail house in your classroom (you only need a glass tank, some foliage and tray of water). Clipboards with paper and black markers provide a lovely invitation to draw the snails and you can focus on extending vocabulary by using rich, detailed language focused on snails in your discussions with the children.

As you know by now, I love a finger play or two! This little snail rhyme is a perfect accompaniment for your snail investigations!

 

"The Snail”

Slowly, slowly, very slowly

Creeps the garden snail.

Slowly, slowly, very slowly

Up the wooden rail.

(Creep fingers up your arm)

Silver snail is slowly moving

Up the window pane

He leaves a shiny path behind him

And then comes down again

(Creep fingers up over head and then down again)

Silver snail is never worried

Though he wanders far and wide

For on his back his house he carries

And when he's tired he pops inside.

(Creep fingers back over chest and down arm again. Close hand into a fist at the end)

 

Enjoy your nature explorations, and don’t forget to take your teaching outside to allow children to really connect with the world around them!

 

 

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