Monday, July 18, 2011

Nature Center

Nature Deficit Disorder

Several years ago I read a fantastic book called LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS.  It reminded me that children need to be connected to nature, and in our technical, fast paced society they are just not getting to spend enough time outdoors.
We all need balance in our lives or things get out of whack.  It’s especially critical when children are young and their brains are developing to make sure they have plenty of sensory stimulation, time to be creative, time to use their imaginations, and time to experience all seasons of nature. 

Last week when I attended a conference in El Paso I happened to walk by the Lakeshore exhibit.  Now, I’ve seen enough plastic toys in my time that I usually walk on by.  But Todd Hays (Lakeshore’s sales rep) had created the most engaging scenario. On logs made from real trees he had placed some little plastic animals.  I wanted to stop and play!  I usually don’t push commercial products, but this was something unique, different, and refreshing.  
You can buy the kit, or perhaps it will inspire you to collect natural objects and create a nature center of your own.  Surely, there’s a parent in your classroom who would saw some limbs off a tree and cut them into sections for the block center.  A little bag of forest animals and you're in business! 

Materials:  basket of leaves, rocks, shells, pine cones, sticks, nuts, or other natural items (rotate for different seasons)
magnifying glass
clipboard, pencils, paper
field guide book (leaves, rocks, shells, etc.)

*free exploration
*seriating by size
*observing with a magnifying glass
*sketching with a clip board
*identifying with a field guide book
*non-fiction writing