In this lesson, children will explore their immediate neighborhood and look for natural elements they can observe, describe and document.
Curiosity and Wonder
This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:
- Understand that living things rely on their environment and/or others to live and grow
- Understand that living things grow and change
After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:
- Observing, investigating, describing and categorizing living things
- Showing an awareness of changes that occur in oneself and one’s environment
- Describing and comparing the basic needs of living things
- Showing respect for living things
Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers
Step 1: Gather materials.
- Clipboard with paper
- Chart paper
- Camera (optional)
Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.
Step 2: Introduce activity.
- During a large group time, explain to the children that the group is going to go on a walk around the neighborhood.
- Discuss the ways that we will use some of our senses to explore our surroundings, including seeing, touching, smelling and hearing.
- Explain that we will write down our observations on a clipboard and create a chart of observations when we return to the classroom. As this is an open-ended walk, any kind of cause and effect relationship or natural concept that the group encounters, or observations that are made, can be the focus of the group’s discussion.
Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.
- Go on a walk with the children in the neighborhood and encourage the children to use their senses to observe.
- Use questions to prompt the children to describe what they observe and gather data about their walk. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell?
- If the children seem hesitant about making observations, give examples to start the conversation. “I see something that flies up at the top of that building.” “I see something that’s growing that is green.”
- On the clipboard, write down the children’s observations. You can also use a camera to photograph observations for later discussion in the classroom.
- In addition to these observations, prompt the children to think about changes that may have occurred in the neighborhood due to changing seasons, weather events or different times of day.
- After returning to the classroom, invite the children to share their observations in a large group. Use dictated observations to prompt the children’s recall.
- This opening observation activity can lay the foundation for longer-term explorations. Based on the children’s interests and observations, engage them in activities that focus on observations that can be made over time.
Step 4: Vocabulary.
- Observe: To watch and document an item to gather information
- Data: Information that is collected through a study or an investigation
Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.
Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
- Use simple statements to describe what they observe
- Use gestures to identify their observations
- Not yet engage in lengthy discussions
Child care providers may:
- Use small groups to provide more individualized support
- Use self-talk to describe what they observe
- Describe and extend children’s gestures or simple statements
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
- Want to draw their observations
- Want to write down simple words as they observe
- Make connections to natural items they have previously seen
- Act out their experiences through dramatic play
Child care providers may:
- Have individual clipboards available for students to draw or write independently
- Collect some items on the walk to utilize in dramatic play
- Extend this activity into a daily routine that involves noting and documenting changes in the environment
- I Went Walking by Sue Williams
- Look Book by Tana Hoban
- Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre
- I Took a Walk by Henry Cole
Music and Movement
- Recreate sounds heard on nature walks with musical instruments
- Mimic the movements of animals observed on nature walks
- Continue observation activities during outdoor gross-motor play at the park
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