Originally appears in the Fall 2017 issue
I am always looking for ways to connect kids with nature. I teach art to 450 students in grades K through five for 45 minutes per week and tie the lessons to other disciplines, including the Next Generation Science Standards. As an art teacher, my curriculum tends to be more flexible than a classroom teacher’s, where whole timed blocks are devoted to one task. I developed 15 Minute Field Trips™ to get students outside learning despite busy school schedules, which I do as either part of my 45 minutes with them or as part of a 90-minute block my principal arranged in my schedule.
Through art and outside activities, the children learn about and connect with the environment. When kids have concrete experiences, like finding a caterpillar or smelling a flower, it engages their emotions as well as their desire to learn more. When they look at a leaf or a seed, they are not simply identifying it, but analyzing it. What kind of leaf is it? What does the plant provide for us? How did the seed travel there? What do insects do? How do other animals fit in? By exploring and helping out with a school garden, kids take personal ownership of the space and a vested interest in what happens there.
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