Nature in the Classroom
There are many ways to bring nature into the classroom. Use natural materials for toys, storage, and equipment. Put natural materials in science, dramatic play, art, construction, story, and visually stimulating displays. Have the children collect items from outdoors that might be used in the classroom. Don’t forget the elements such as wind, rain, earth, things that grow, minerals, and water.
Sound effect tapes of nature help working memory, contribute to literacy, and emotional well-being. Introduce children to natural elements, then take them outside to discover them for themselves. Children will connect their experiences in the classroom to what they discover outside.
Fill your classroom with living things. Plants your students have grown from seeds, terrariums, fish tanks, window bird feeders, and ant farms can all provide ready access to nature. You'll be amazed at how much attention your students will pay to a bean plant, a hungry goldfish, or a crawling hermit crab. That attentiveness will set them up for a lifetime of nature observation.
If possible, save energy by opening the shades, blinds, or curtains wide and using natural sunlight instead of electricity to light your room. When appropriate, open the windows for fresh air. Brighten the room with cut flowers or house plants. You'll be surprised at how much more alert kids will be when the atmosphere of their classroom is less artificial and confined.
From early cave dwellers scratching pictures of buffalo on their walls to today's kids choosing sea pictures for their computer wallpaper, people have filled their lives with images from the natural world. You can continue this tradition by creating a classroom that is rich in nature images. Create a bulletin board with pictures and information about wild places in your area. From a list you provide, let each student choose a "totem animal" to be their special symbol for the year. Surround the blackboard with images of local animals. All of these pictures will remind your students daily of the wondrous world they inhabit.