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Volume 3 Issue 11
May 24, 2005


Let’s Learn Outdoors

WELCOME! to Education World's Early Childhood Newsletter. Every other week, I'll share some ideas on a familiar teaching theme. Hopefully you will find a new activity idea or two -- or a new twist on one of your old favorites! Since I know you are very busy, I'll be short and sweet -- like most of activities I suggest.

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Come on outside, the weather is fine! What better time than springtime to take some of your lessons outdoors? Whether your children are measuring water or playing shadow tag, they are using nature’s bounty to help them learn. Encourage children’s natural senses of wonder and their observation skills -- explore the outdoors!

Susan LaBella
Editor, Early Childhood Education Newsletter


Read to children The Cloud Book by Tomie DePaola (Holiday House). Take children outside to observe clouds and use the book to identify the types they see. Invite children to look for shapes in the clouds and to describe them. Give each child a piece of construction paper and ask him or her to draw an outline (at the top of the page) of the shape he or she described. Have students glue cotton to fit inside the lines of their shapes. At the bottom of their papers, students can draw themselves looking up at their clouds and can complete their pictures with sky, grass, birds, trees, and so on.

Take children on a walk through a flower garden and ask them to notice the various scents. During the walk, take time to sit in a grassy place with closed eyes and just smell. Then ask, “How does the earth smell when you’re digging in a garden? How does wet sand smell in the sandbox? What are some pleasant smells? Some unpleasant smells? After the walk, help children create scent bottles. Fill jars that have lids with layers of herb leaves, pine needles, and flower petals. Cover the jars tightly and open at special times to recall the smells of spring.

Treat your children to trees! Visit a park or neighborhood to examine trees. Be sure children notice tree shapes, trunks, leaves, and branches. Extend the learning by
--- making a graph of tree shapes. Show how many of each type you found.
--- having children make tree trunks from clay. Help them add natural materials such as bark, twigs, and leaves to complete their creations.
--- offering snack foods that come from trees such as apple slices, bananas, or orange juice.
--- creating a class “Big Book About Trees.” Let each child illustrate a page. Include text dictated by that child.
--- exploring trees as habitats. What lives on or in a tree? Let children use magnifying glasses to examine tree trunks or branches.
--- inviting children to use their bodies to illustrate a tree silhouette as they listen to music.

Let kids hit the sandbox for some learning fun! Encourage children to use sand and water to create sand castles. Then tell children to be shadow watchers. Do the sand castles make shadows? Next, have children create a forest for their sand castles by gluing paper triangles to sticks. Push the “trees” into the sand and note their shadows. Look again later in the day to see if those shadows have changed. Discuss shadows and what is needed for shadows to appear. Finally, let children trace one another’s shadows, compare their shadows, or dance to music with their shadows.

Set out on a rock hunt and let children collect some rocks. On your return let children clean their rocks and examine them. Children can then
--- sort rocks by size, color, or shape.
--- examine rocks with a magnifying glass.
--- find out about rocks’ composition by scraping cement with a rock or scraping two rocks together over black paper.
--- look at picture books of rocks to help identify those that they found.
Let children have fun making homes for their rocks. Offer a variety of containers such as
egg cartons, shoe boxes, or coffee cans. Then invite children to decorate their containers with fabric, tissue paper, aluminum foil, ribbon, yarn, and so on. Display children’s “rockin’ creations”!


Check out the following Web sites for more background and activities.

Butterfly Gardens
Want to start a special class garden? Learn all about creating a butterfly garden.

Ideas, projects, and tips on getting kids into gardening!

Feeding the Birds
Let young children make this simple bird feeder then watch for feathered friends to appear.

Gardening Influences Tots Views on Veggies
Gardening with young children? This researched-based article is worth a read.

Have You Ever Met a Tree?
Introduce your young students to a tree and help them observe, compare, and draw conclusions.