Posted by: jwhiff | October 20, 2012

Nature Based Play Inside: Great Stuff on a Big Table

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to bring in some scarlet runner beans that were growing in my garden.  I thought the children would enjoy opening them and seeing the colourful beans inside.  I put out magnifying glasses, a microscope and the pile of beans on one of my big tables and waited to see how the children would react.  To give you a bit of context, I always have open play/explore time for the first 30-45 minutes of the morning.  I always have a science exploring table during this time.  The beans were my science focus for this particular morning.

At first, they behaved as expected.  I sat discussing what they were seeing, encouraging them to take the skin off of the beans, separate the two halves, smell everything and examine it closely.  Then a handful of children got out some scissors and started cutting up the bean pods.  They did this with great intensity and focus for the duration of the playtime.  When it was time to stop, they really struggled with the transition. They really wanted to cut up those beans!

So…I put the beans aside, promising to bring them out later during our second playtime (always in the afternoon).  During second playtime, I placed them in the house centre, thinking they could use them with an imaginative, albeit domestic-inspired twist.  They loved them all over again.  They chopped them, “cooked” them, arranged them, smelled them…I was completely blown away by how engaged they were.

The next day I tried fresh, fragrant herbs from my garden.  The smell dimension made them extra special.  I also wheeled the water table over and put out some old yogurt cups, eye droppers and plates along with the scissors.  They chopped and mixed and squished and smelled like they were completely possessed!  Again, I put them out for a second time in the house centre and the result was completely engaged children, a watery-herby mess and an extremely fresh-smelling classroom!

Now I continue to look for stuff that matches the success of the beans and the herbs.  I’ve tried old flowers from my flower bed (a huge hit), old corn on the cobs (equally messy and awesome) and I’m now looking at all plants and produce as potential candidates for kindergarten dissection.  Despite the messy nature of the task (more in the second house centre phase), it is completely worth it.  Besides, if you bring in a few sponges for clean up the kindergarteners will likely take over that task as well.


Responses

  1. Lucky, lucky kids to have a teacher who so truly understands and facilitates ‘hands-on, nature-based’ learning!


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