Through the eyes of a child, the outdoors is a mesmerizing world of fluttering, crawling, and walking insects and animals. The temptation for a small hand to reach out and capture or touch is not just a strong impulse, but an action. These are, indeed, opportunities to offer a teachable moment. Beyond the walks and strolls to witness and discuss nature, learning can be continued through educational books, conversations, and creative art projects.
In the rainy seasons, turtles are visible in the most dangerous location possible- the road. One common type of turtle is the slider—characterized by its stripes of either red or yellow across its shell and underbelly. In the safety of your location, rescuing a turtle can be accomplished by carefully grasping it on the side of its shell. While keeping it low to the ground, place it facing the same direction in which it was found. Please, do not take it home!
Art Projects: Preschool children may enjoy cutting and gluing a design of squares onto a wide oval piece of thin cardboard to practice both cutting and creating a pattern. The ultimate prize is being able to wear their cut-out turtle shells. Older children may enjoy painting a turtle or using a variety of mediums such as paint, construction and tissue paper to create a three-dimensional turtle.
Books: Everything You Should Know About: Turtles, by Anne Richards, (ages 5-6)
The frog is a fascinating creature, dating back 265 million years, and currently ranging from the tropics to the subarctic regions. While there are 4,800 species, only 85% are amphibians. Children may come across a frog when the weather produces puddles. The question may be asked, is it a frog or a toad?
Art Projects: Clay would be the perfect medium to create a replica of a frog’s and toad’s body to practice fine motor skills. Additionally, children could make a tadpole and froglet, or draw a frog’s life cycle.
Books: Oscar and the Frog: A Book About Growing, by Geoff Waring (Preschool to 3rd grade); Everything You Need to Know About Frogs and Other SlipperyCreatures, by DK Publishing (2nd to 5th grade)
“Calling all butterflies!” One of the most rewarding sights is watching butterflies congregate in a flower bed. One way to aid nature is to expand your flower garden by planting the very native flowers that attract winged insects, such as coneflowers, cosmos, daylilies, delphinium, lavender, and sunflowers.
Art Projects: The question, “Why can’t I fly?” arises often. Through influences such as Leonardo da Vinci and Mari Merian, children, too, can study the birds, journal clever findings, draw pictures, or manipulate paper.
Books: Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci,by Gene Barretta (1st- 2nd grade); Fold & Fly Butterflies, Birds, and Other Animals that Fly: Over 25Paper Creations that Fly,by Stephanie Hoover; The Girl Who Drew Butterflies:How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Scienceby Joyce Sidman (5th-7th grades)
The bee population is declining. One of the most powerful lessons we can give our children is to not to fear the bee, but to appreciate its strengths, its nature, and defenses. Most importantly, children can learn the benefits of bees, such as their ability to pollinate our crops and make honey.
Books: The Bee Book by DK(Kindergarten and up); The Honey Makers,by Gail Gibbons (Kindergarten-3rd grade); The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a HoneyBee Catastrophe, by Loree Griffin Burns (5th-7th grades)
Website: Check out www.pestworldforkids.com, a fun, safe, and educational website for children.
Experiencing wildlife first-hand is a wonderful opportunity. A whole new world of wonder can open up, and children can have the experience of witnessing the fragile creatures in their own back yard. Through books and artistic endeavors, children can expand their understanding of the special powers or habits of our outdoor insects and animals.