The preschool years are a wonderful time to explore the environment. Nature provides young learners unlimited possibilities for discovery. Most preschool curriculum objectives require environmental science lessons, including developing an awareness for conservation. Hands-on environmental science activities will introduce your preschooler to nature’s life cycles while teaching them to respect and care for their world.
Take students on a nature walk in the fall when plant life is going to seed. Collect different types of pods and dead flower heads. When you return to class, take them apart and show the children where the seeds have been hiding. Open a commercial seed packet to show students seeds that have been processed for sale. Marigolds work well for this. To demonstrate how seeds are formed, bring in several marigold blooms in different stages of life -- a colorful full bloom, a dying bloom, and a dried-out bloom in which the seeds can be harvested. Take the seeds from the dead flower head and compare them to the seeds from the package.
Recycling and Composting
Start a recycling and composting center in your classroom. Explain to children when we recycle items, we do not have to use as many natural resources. For instance, if we reuse paper, we will not have to cut down as many trees. Set up recycling bins labeled “Paper,” "Juice boxes” and “Cans and Bottles.” Or customize your recycling containers to accommodate your classroom's waste. Keep a compost bin outside, and have students take turns dumping your classroom compost into it. Throughout the year, point out how the compost is breaking down into a mixture full of nutrients that can be returned to the soil.
Nature Color Scavenger Hunt
As preschool students learn to identify colors by name, hold a nature color scavenger hunt to connect with the environment. Give each student a recycled egg carton. Provide paints, markers, crayons or construction paper and glue and have students color the inside of each egg cup a different color. Take a walk outside and tell students to look for objects in nature that match the colors inside each egg cup. They can use flower petals, small rocks and pebbles, leaves and bark. Put the colorful items in the corresponding egg cups. Be sure to differentiate between natural items and man-made items.
Winter Evergreen Adventure
Take a winter walk where you will find some evergreen trees. Talk about the difference between the evergreen trees and the trees that have lost their leaves for the winter. Smell the pine trees and feel the pointy needles and sticky sap. Discuss how things look different in the winter than the summer. Look for signs of winter wildlife, like birds, animal tracks, nests and holes in the ground or in trees.
Look under the evergreen trees for pinecones that have fallen. Gather them and bring them inside. Then, have students mix five parts of cornmeal with one part peanut butter to make winter food for the birds. Stuff the mixture into the pine cone crannies and tie the pinecone birdfeeders on the end of a string. Hang them outside a window where preschoolers can see the birds enjoying a snack.
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