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Local resources support an outdoor inquiry-based project.
Having access to a farm, pasture, gardens, forest and a pond made this series of investigations especially engaging for its preschool participants. Using the guiding question, “ How Do Plants and Animals Prepare for Winter?”, the author takes us through the 5 Es on an inquiry-based project – all outdoors. Children were allowed to investigate plants and animals in these various settings in order to connect new with old experiences and develop a deeper understanding of the survival needs of plants and animals in the variety of settings. One of the activities that stood out in my mind was how students practiced representing their learning through art (p. 66). Among other things, children looked for and observed star patterns in nature. I especially liked the authenticity of some of the tasks that students considered: On the farm, they contemplated how goats might prepare for the winter, discussing where they would get shelter and food. Then they took their knowledge of seeds from another activity to consider how birds and squirrels prepare for the winter. Throughout the unit, children helped to create a “Wonder Wall” that synthesized what they had learned and made their learning visible to each other and their families (p. 68). This article provides an excellent template for how to provide children with rich, engaging informal learning experiences to supplement their natural curiosities and understandings of the natural world.
Carolyn Mohr (Buffalo Grove, IL)
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