Preparing Children to Be Little Nature Lovers

| 2/26/2013 10:11:15 AM

You might expect me to be sitting by the fireside during these recent Kansas snowstorms, but I’m using the time more productively to prepare for one of my favorite volunteer efforts – creating a love of nature in three to five year old children.

As a Kansas master naturalist, I enjoy working in the local gardens and nature centers and as a lifelong eChildrens Game in the Arbducator, I am dedicated to the idea of kids loving nature too.  At Great Plains Nature Center, one of my favorite activities is a weekly group for preschoolers called “Little Nature Lovers.” 

As you might expect, the attention span for this age group is short, so we have found a switch of activity about every 12 minutes works fairly well with parent help.  My group does one fiction and one non-fiction book on a nature topic followed by a simple craft for them to take home.

The selection of the literature is extremely important.  If your public library is like mine, it has thousands of books for children, but I look for books with particular qualities. 

First, for both fiction and nonfiction, I look for books that reflect animals and life forms that are “real” and not personified.  Sometimes I find a quality story that might have an animal talking, but I always point out to the children that “we” know that animals can’t really talk and that it is just a story.  An example of this might be Owl Babies by Martin Waddel, wherein the baby owls do speak, but say what we might imagine any baby saying that was left alone.  The book’s redeeming value is in introducing what owls eat and the hunting practices of owls.  Still another example might be some of the books by Eric Carle, such as The Very Quiet Cricket, where speech is used, but characteristics of crickets can be found in the illustrations.

Second, I look for books that either have excellent and realistic illustrations, or photos. These are becoming much more available with the new national standards emphasizing nonfiction comprehension.  I particularly like the books written by Jim Arnosky because the illustrations are full and beautiful and worthy of discussion as a picture book.  I also like the Lerner “Pull Ahead” books that have photographs and excellent text.  I am developing this week’s lesson on the eastern cottontail rabbit and chose Rabbits & Raindrops by Jim Arnosky and Cottontail Rabbits by Kristi Gallagher.  The latter is a Lerner publication.

2/28/2013 4:33:19 AM

Joan, I am trying to educate my eight year old grandson to the ways of nature by having him come with me to the garden. He's not really interested too much in gardening yet but at least he's exposed to how vegetables grow and where they come from. He loves sweet corn and popcorn so I'm hoping to get him interested in helping with the planting and harvesting of the corn this year. We have already had the discussion about how long it takes to grow sweet corn. He planted some last year and realized it took a long time to grow which led to the discussion of how some one had to grow the corn that he likes so well from the store and that's how long it takes. So I'm hoping some seeds of understanding about the way food is grown will help him to make better choices later in life. I believe it will be much more important to have that understanding in his generation than mine. Have a great Kansas master naturalist day.

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