Firsthand Natureby: Francesca Michaelides Weiss and Moses Gostev

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It’s no secret that many school programs don’t give children enough opportunity to explore the natural world—i.e., to “mess about” and to have firsthand experience with nature and animals. Not so at the Muscota New School in New York City! This innovative public elementary school actively promotes inquiry-based learning and encourages teachers to use creative methods in the classroom to help children study the natural world around them. In this article, we share the experience of a teacher and her students over the course of two years (kindergarten and first grade) as they explored nature through direct observation of animals in the classroom, child-centered inquiry science, and school-sponsored field trips. As the years progressed, so did students’ learning. Not only did students develop scientific literacy and communication skills, they also deepened their understanding of their environment.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (2)
  • on Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:54 AM

To develop a young students understanding of the natural world, one group of kindergarten students were exposed to animals in the classroom as well as field trips to develop their scientific literacy over a two year period. This learning experience included reading about nature as well as observing nature first hand in a nature center. Making observations was the key to their learning and this helped develop their vocabulary as well.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:12 PM

The author explains how kindergarten and first grade children progressed from making passive observations to being able to look for and document evidence of the world around them. Student-driven questions were investigated using resources such as the Internet and fiction books. Caterpillars, for example, were kept in the classroom to provide opportunities for observation and hypothesis-making while a stream table was utilized to simulate a dam constructed by beavers. Although this article does not include specific directions for activities for your classroom, it will nevertheless spur you to using the outdoors as a way to develop curiosity and process skills for budding scientists.

Patricia McGinnis  (Pottstown, PA)
Patricia McGinnis (Pottstown, PA)

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