Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bringing active learning to your Nature Table {PART 1}

Adding a few prompts to your nature table is a great way to get your children engaging closely with their nature finds! 

You can find our Nature Table Sorting Arrows here.

One of the simplest ideas is to get your children to arrange their finds on to a continuum (biggest to smallest, roughest to smoothest, heaviest to lightest etc).  I like to use arrows to support their arrangements, but you could just talk about different ways to group your objects and choose one to experiment with.  These types of activities are a great way to incorporate the skills of organising, comparing, ranking and ordering!
My little Grub attempting to match up and 'nest' his shells together.

Simple structure around how they’re required to group their materials often encourages very careful observation and healthy debate among kids – which one is the smoothest/plainest?  Which is the heaviest?  This is also a great time to remind them that there is often no correct answer and we all do things differently!

Don’t forget to take a photo of your child with their arrangement when they've finished (especially if the materials they’re using are somewhat ephemeral...)

You can find our Nature Table Task Card pack here.

Have fun!
Grubbily yours,

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Nature walking & exploring with a class {PART 2}

I've done a fair amount of rambling about with school groups of 50+ children, so these tips are tried and tested!

  • DO make sure everyone has appropriate footwear and are clear about expected behaviour around hazards that might be present on your walk (mushrooms, berries, wasps, water etc.)  You may also need to check your schools policies around this.
  • DO think through how and where you will manage toilet breaks!
  • DO ensure your children are clear about the differences between a natural object and man-made.  Make sure you set boundaries on what can be collected or touched BEFORE starting your hunt. E.g. are they allowed to collect leaves, birds’ nests and insects?  Or is it best to take photos of their finds instead?
  • DO insist on treating everything you find with the utmost respect and curiosity.
  • DO make sure you build lots of stops into your nature walk to listen, look closely and breathe deeply…
  • DO set up a classroom nature table when you get back for them to display their treasures on and discuss their finds.
  • DO make a brainstorm before you start about what things the children think they’ll hear/smell/ see etc.  Specifically discuss native species or introduced species that you expect to come across.  Revisit the brainstorm after the walk and do some class wide sharing of what they found. Add some more words to the brainstorm to describe what they actually heard/smelled/saw!
  • Do use their experiences as a spring board for deeper learning (art, science, writing, sorting, grouping & graphing, researching, displaying and presenting etc.)
  • DO think about taking the following items (these sheets are available as free printables and are perfect to support your pre-walk discussions!)
    ~FREE PRINTABLES~ Nature walk posters (explorers kit must-haves) Available here!
  • In addition to the items listed above, you may also want to include reference materials to help you identify the insects, plants and birds you might find.  A scavenger hunt personalised to your local area will also help your distractible students stay focused.  You might want to set up a 'bag-base' in the centre of your exploration area for the children to return to and collect equipment as they need it.
  • DON’T over or under estimate your student’s prior nature exploration experiences.  Many children have never walked barefoot in long grass or enjoyed sitting quietly, watching insects… whereas others may be very experienced in making leaf boats, grass whistles and huts!  Make sure you’ve identified the children that may need some guidance before setting out and buddied them up with an enthusiastic peer.
    ~FREE PRINTABLES~ These seasonal nature walk recording sheets are the perfect follow up activities.
For lots of other nature based activities, pop over to our TpT store and do some window shopping...

Happy nature walking,
Grubbily yours,

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Toddler Nature Walk DO's & DON'Ts!

Fresh air (maybe bare feet) and grubby hands – that’s what a nature walk is all about!  My ideas about exactly how a nature walk should work have changed a huge amount since having my son…. So here are 2 groups of ideas, one for rambling along with a toddler (below) and the other for nature walking with a school aged class.


  •          DO give up any ideas of having a destination to reach….. Just bumble along at their speed and try to be patient. If you feel yourself getting the urge to hurry them along, practice doing some deep breathing, take some photos of your little explorer, or do some gentle stretches!
  •          DO be guided by what interests THEM.  You may be very excited by a stunning blossom, but they might be enjoying picking up tiny bits of gravel or poking a twig into the dirt - and that's totally fine!
  •          DO use lots of words to describe what they’re doing/touching/smelling/seeing etc.  Talking about their 5 senses is a good place to start.
  •          DO take lots of photos of their special treasures so you can look at them later and talk about your adventures (Have a peek at our Upcycled Toddler Board book post for more ideas!)
  •          DO discuss showing respect and being gentle with living things – talk with them beforehand if there are specific things that they can’t touch or collect such as mushrooms or insects.  Talking about where little creatures live is a great way to nurture empathy (e.g. let’s roll that log back over – it’s where the beetle’s home is!)
  •          DO remember safety first.  Always watch carefully to make sure nothing icky ends up in their mouths, and that they’re wearing appropriate clothing and footwear.
  •          DO choose a nature walk location that’s not too stressful for you (e.g. the beach at low tide is a more relaxing ramble than trying to wrestle them out of the high tide every 3 seconds!)
  •          DO take along a camera, a little bucket (to save your pockets from getting filled with gooey things!) and if your toddler is older, a plastic magnifying glass.
  •          DO have a special place at home where they can keep their natural treasures.  My little man stores his nature finds at the base of a sturdy outdoor pot plant (perfect for things I’d rather weren’t brought inside!) and in the base of a dried Nikau palm frond inside (but any container made of natural materials would be perfect).  He periodically pulls things out, puts them into different containers, takes them out to his water tray and enjoys banging them together.  'Nature tables' for this age don't need to be anything fancy, just make sure they can reach their treasures!

  •          DON’T make a big deal about dirt, mess or mud.  You might want to set aside some special ‘exploring clothes’ that you wear on your adventures so you can just let them enjoy nature!  Pack a spare change of clothes and if they do get really dirty make sure you get some good photos!
  •         DON’T stop them poking and whacking things with sticks (just make sure they know what they can and can’t poke (e.g. it’s ok to poke the dirt and whack the rocks; it’s NOT OK to poke people or bugs etc.)
  •          DON’T make going on a nature walk a ‘big thing’ – depending on the age and attention span of your toddler, A daily 10 minute potter around your garden or local park/beach is perfect, and much more preferable than an occasional long walk.  Have fun!

Thanks for popping by!

Grubbily yours,

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Toddler board book upcycle!

My little 20 month old Grub LOVES books and loves photos (especially of himself!), so combining the two is a win-win situation.  During my sons early months, I carefully compiled special photos online, and then had them printed as glossy hard covered photo books.  Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that these were no fun for my little man – although he was desperate to look at them, the pages were easily torn and those sticky little fingers went everywhere...

I investigated getting the photos printed on toddler sized board books, but the prices were crazily high – especially considering the possibility of little teeth nibbling on the edges!  After testing out several different homemade versions, I hit upon the easy solution of upcycling dollar store board books - he loves them!  We’ve now compiled quite a little library that documents his adventures and experiences.

To make your own you’ll need:  

Dollar store board books, sellotape & scissors (plus the cost of printing & laminating your pages)
1) Fossick around your local dollar store on the hunt for cheap baby board books.  You’ll be covering the pages, so don’t worry about the contents.
2) Use the size of your board book to guide the rough layout of your publishing template.  Insert photos and appropriate text along with any borders, backgrounds or clipart you desire.  I used Publisher, but any word processing program that you can insert photos into would work.  *Alternatively, forget about this step and use some suitably sized paper to hand write your text and attach your photographs!
3) Print and laminate your pages (this is the most important step - you need to protect your hard work from those grubby sticky fingers, crumbs and snotty noses!)
4) Carefully cut out your laminated pages.  Depending on the board books original illustrations, you may want to make sure you cover them completely by trimming your pages appropriately)
5) Put a loop of sellotape on the back of each page to position the laminated sheets perfectly before sellotaping around each edge.  Voila - your board book is now ready to be enjoyed by your little darling!


COUNT YOUR PAGES:  Make sure you count how many pages your dollar store board book contains.  If it has too many, you can tape the first 2 pages, and last 2 pages together to create thicker cover pages.  

CHECK YOUR SPINE:  Use a laminated off-cut to cover the spine of your book if needed.  

USE YOUR PHONE!  There are many different free aps that you can use to create photo collages on your phone - I've made several books entirely of collages (including the text) made on my phone!  Just upload the collages to your computer and insert into your document.  This may not be appropriate if using a larger board book as the resolution may be reduced.

Happy upcycling and thanks for popping by!

Grubbily yours,
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