Through PNC Grow Up Great with Science, I recently visited the preschool classes of Friends School. I came to share a backyard ecosystem I set up with dirt, rocks, decaying leaves, worms, slugs and pill bugs. (Pill Bugs are great animals to bring into a classroom, and I’ll write more about them at a later date.) The children had a wonderful time lifting up the rocks and leaves, watching the pill bugs move and examining everything through their magnifiers, but what I want to share with you today was what I encountered after the activity, when I stayed to go on a nature walk with Blaine Hicks’ classroom.
A simple walk around the school provided a myriad of learning moments. As soon as we were out the door, Blaine stopped the children and had them use their different senses to observe the environment (listening for birds, tasting and smelling the air, feeling the roughness of the brick), and as we walked along the sidewalk, the children were encouraged to look for insects under rocks, to notice the dew on the grass and to wonder about what creatures we might find in the mulch. A 15 minute walk, that totaled less than a city block, yielded an orange and black beetle, flowers in different stages of life and decay, a tiny millipede, miniature pine cones, an army of ants, wild strawberries, clover, a feather, mushrooms and a pill bug. Children gingerly carried their findings, and every step was full of wonder about what we would find next. Blaine didn’t fill the walk with facts, information and instructions. She explored with them; asking questions, modeling curiosity, letting the children discover their world at their own pace and teaching them how to look closely.