Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Looking and Questioning When Outdoors

Walks anywhere can be fun for classrooms, summer camps, and families. When you have a chance to walk in a park or along a woodsy pathway, you can encourage thoughtfulness about nature with children. What may seem like a simple sight to you, can provoke age-appropriate critical thinking for children. For example, the stem of a dandelion, with an empty stalk and flower head can be the source of questions. "Why isn't this dandelion yellow anymore?  What happened to the seeds?"  These kinds of discussions can help children develop analytic thinking skills and to "think like a scientist." 

You may see a dandelion in bloom, one with its fuzzy head, and another with just a stem. This is a perfect scenario for discussion and questioning.
Stop to examine a tree on the ground. Is its trunk cracked? Is it uprooted? Pose questions like this to spark curiosity in children. Encourage them to make connections between a recent windstorm and the observations they make on a hike. Talk about what happens to animals that might depend on the tree. Did the squirrels 'scurry' off somewhere else? When we question like this, we are developing a sense of concern for nature. 

A walk on a sandy shore line or dirt road might yield animal tracks that can lead to more questions. "What do you think was here? What were they doing?" Asking children to imagine and make hypotheses based on these visuals helps raise curiosity about nature. 

Asking questions like, "What do you think made these tracks?" helps heighten curiosity about nature.
Walking along a sidewalk? Stop (at a safe distance) to look down at an anthill. Discuss the build-up of sand around the opening. Ask children to verbalize how this might have happened. You may see streams of ants busily going to and from the hill. Ask children to describe what is happening. Then encourage them to use interesting words (see the blog post titled Colorful Words) to connect language arts and science. 

Even an anthill, lodged between sidewalk cracks, can lead to important nature discussions.
You may even be lucky enough to see something like this: 
These kinds of discoveries can open a world of inquiry about animals and their habits. The child who was lucky enough to spy this, returned home full of questions about beavers. His family found several YouTube videos so that he could watch and then answer his own questions, based on the observations made from viewing the videos. 

Standards Alignment: 
NAEYC - 2.G.03.   
Head Start - XI.B.1.

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