We are pleased to announce the third place winner in our Earth Day contest, Robin Tirrel of the Fieldcrest Montessori School. Below you will find an excerpt from her contest entry that shows how one teacher is using our books to connect children with nature.
From the moment I ordered the Sharing Nature with Children books by Joseph Cornell, I knew just the kind of nature program to start at our school. Your books have been instrumental tools in our environmental education curriculum that I have taught for the past four years to students (2-17 years old) at our Montessori School. We have a beautiful 50 acre campus where the children can explore open hills and forests, maintain and study our vegetable, butterfly, Art, & herb gardens, and maintain and create wildlife habitats. We are now a certified WILD School Site and Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat. My classroom has become the Nature Center. I use many of the “Flow Learning” concepts in our daily classes. Activities such as “Camera” & “Meet a Tree” are good for all ages. I have used “Role Playing” often—whether the students are acting out maple seed helicopters, dandelion parachutes, “spiderlings”, a butterfly coming out of its chrysalis, or other animals—they always emerge from the activity with a greater understanding of the natural world around them.
One of my favorite books to use as a springboard for science investigations and live animal studies is Under One Rock by Anthony D. Fredericks. First I will read this book under the trees in our log storytelling area. Then the students lift up the rocks and logs and look at what is under them. Using the book as a guide, they can then identify many of the insects. They spend some time making observations with magnifying glasses. We might then take some worms inside to start our “Worm Lab” or some ants for our ant farm. In the Nature Center we add these worms to our windowsill herb garden and “Rainforest” terrarium to nurture our soil. Then we can monitor the growth of our plants with and without worms. We study the life cycles of worms and ants. Students make their own worm and ant books where they record their observations and investigations. Eventually, this turns into a discussion about nature’s recyclers and we can tie in recycling/composting. By Earth Day they are adding their composted lunch scraps into the garden soil to ready it for planting. We also let our worms go free in the garden at this time. In the beginning of the year, there is always a few children who think “bugs are yucky” and have trouble even observing them much less handling them. Then, later on, it is amazing to see these very same students exclaiming with glee as they find wriggling insects under a rock. Awakened to the delights of nature, now they actually bring me worms that they find outside and then carefully return them back into the soil.
With the 2-4 year olds I enjoy singing/reading them, Sunshine on My Shoulders, by John Denver. We read this in the spring and begin our discussions on the sun. We search for signs of spring; robins singing, crocus & daffodils blooming, and groundhogs out and about. Sometimes, with their hands out and eyes closed, we just sit and feel the warmth of the sun. We look at the sun reflected on the dewy grass and puddles. We act out spring song/poems using the rainbow scarves and pop out of the earth like flowers, dancing in the sun. We hike and see the flowering trees and bushes starting to bloom. With arms outstretched they “fly” down the hills with the returning geese, honking loudly. They begin to truly appreciate the gift of sunshine.
I truly appreciate the gifted authors and illustrators you have put together to make these wonderful books to assist parents and educators in helping children understand and deepen their connection to nature. I see many ways your books can be integrated into our program to help children develop and maintain a strong bond to the natural world around them which will then, in turn, help them grow up to be good caretakers of our earth.