One of the most influential books I’ve read in the past ten years is Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. Louv talks about how too many kids are not exposed to nature, are unfamiliar with nature, or are unaware of the power of nature in their lives. Caught up in a world of electronic do-dads and technological marvels, kids are often oblivious to what may be right outside their door or down the street. Louv presents a great case for the role of nature in everybody’s life-so much so, that I have now made this influential book a required text in an undergraduate course I teach at York College – “Teaching Elementary Science” every semester.
Louv’s book came out after I began this series, but the message was essentially the same. Kids can find an incredible world of discoveries in the simplest of things or the simplest of places. If a child turns over a rock and discovers a creature she’s never seen before then my book will have done its job. If you take a group of kids out for a walk through a grassy field then Louv’s book will have done its job. Simply put, we’re all in this together-as we should be!
As an assist for teachers, I have compiled a whole lot of “Activities, Projects, and Ton of Really Neat Ideas” to jump-start using Under One Rock in the classroom. Here are three of my favorite activities. You can download several download activities to my books by clicking here.
1. Invite each student in the class to select one of the animals illustrated in the book. Encourage each child to conduct necessary library research on his or her identified species. Then, invite each student to write a series of diary entries told from the perspective of the creature, for example, “A Day in the Life of a Slug” or “My Life as an Ant.”
2. Invite students to select a rock near the school. Encourage them to take periodic photographs of the rock throughout the year and maintain a diary or journal of the events or changes that take place around the rock. Who comes to visit the rock (animals)? What does the rock look like when it rains, snows or is sunny outside? Periodically, talk with students about any changes in the surrounding environment and how those changes may be similar to or different from some of the events in the story.
3. Invite students to each select one of the critters mentioned in the book. Invite each child to demonstrate the movement of that insect in a designated area. For example, for an earthworm, students can slither across the floor on their bellies; for a cricket, students can leap on their hands and knees. Provide opportunities for students to describe their movements and why they may be unique to each selected animal.