If you're looking for a way to encourage your preschool students to explore the natural world, a lesson on insects provides ample opportunity to make discoveries and better understand the nature of living things. Instead of just talking about insects, get the kids to bug-out on a schoolyard insect hunt. Take a trip -- on a warm spring day -- around the outside of the school, looking for bugs to observe and document.
Start the insect lesson off with a literacy activity, reading a book or two about bugs. The educational experts at Scholastic Teachers suggest titles such as "Backyard Insects" by Millicent E. Selsam, "Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!" by Bob Barner, "The Grouchy Ladybug" by Eric Carle or "A Ladybug's Life" by John Himmelman. Give the children magnifying glasses to look through, instructing them to act like "bug detectives." Take a walk around the outside of the school building or visit a local park, depending on what local resources are available and what your school's policies allow. When you find an insect, allow the children to observe it -- telling them that they must stay back and not touch the bug. Bring along paper and crayons for the children to draw what they see.
Before heading outdoors you'll need to gather a few basic materials. Pack magnifying glasses for the children's observations. If you don't have enough for each child to have their own, ask the preschoolers to take turns using the few that you have available. You'll also need plain white paper and crayons to make drawings of the insect observations. If you don't a have suitable outdoor space to draw on, such as a concrete walkway or picnic table, you'll need to bring clipboards to provide a level space for student documentation.
The primary goals or the insect exploration lesson are to discover the natural world and better understand what insects are through observations. Additionally, you can include literacy learning goals for learning new vocabulary words -- such as arachnid -- as well as connecting the beginning story with what the children see in nature. Add in creative and fine motor objectives, setting goals for the children to use crayons to draw their own interpretations of the insects outside.
Don't Pass on the Opportunity
Extending the learning into other curricular areas provides additional opportunities for learning at all levels. For example, take the insect lesson into the art area and have the children create their own bug sculptures using clay or make a construction with recycled egg cartons, tissue paper and glue. Another option is to extend the lesson into the dramatic play area. Set out butterfly or bee wing costumes in the dress-up area and encourage the children to move like their favorite insects. Add in a few bug-themed songs, rhymes -- such as Little Miss Muffet -- or finger plays that feature the insects that the children found outdoors.
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