Children’s Books to Inspire Collecting & Playing with Natural Materials

Children’s Books to Inspire Collecting & Playing with Natural Materials

Compiled by April Zajko, M.Ed.

www.aprilsteachingtree.com

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No book list is ever complete but here is a start. I’d love to hear about books that you like to read aloud to children to inspire nature play!

 

Collections:

Collections by Margaret Ballinger and Rachel Gosset

Hannah’s Collections by Marthe Jocelyn

Look What I Found! By Deborah Schecter (Level A Reader)

Small Treasures by Akimi Gibson

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert (collection of good snowman making things)

When This Box is Full by Patricia Lillie

 

Nature:

A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by LeUyen Pham

Bees, Snails, & Peacock Tails by Betsy Franco & Steve Jenkins

Discovering Nature’s Alphabet by Krystina Castella and Brian Boyl

No One But You by Douglas Wood

One Little Balsam Fir: A Northwoods Counting Book by Lesley A. DuTemple

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II

 

Rocks:

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston

Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet

If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian

Let’s Go Rock Collecting by Roma Gans

Stone Soup by Jess Stockham

Rocks, Fossils, & Arrowheads (Take Along Guides) by Laura Evert

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

 

Sticks, & Bark:

The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni

Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld

Trees, Leaves, & Bark (Take Along Guides) by Diane Burns

 

Clay:

When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor

Clay Boy by Mirra Ginsburg

 

 

Leaves:

Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber

Leaf Man – Lois Ehlert

Leaves by Violet Findley

Leaves on the Trees by Thom Wiley

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves! By M & G. Berger

Look What I Did with a Leaf! By Morteza E. Sohi

Make a Leaf Rubbing by M. Ballinger,Gosset

The Leaves are Falling One by One by Metzger

We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by S. Metzger

When the Leaf Blew In by Steve Metzger

Why Do Leaves Change Color? By Betsy Maestro

 

Acorns & Squirrels

Acorns Everywhere! by Kevin Sherry

Busy Squirrels by Melvin and Gilda Berger

Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane by Victoria Sherrow

Earl the Squirrel by Dan Freeman

Just One! by Sam McBratney

Nuts to You! by Lois Ehlert

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

Squirrels by Brian Wildsmith

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri (board book)

The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose

Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin

 

Pinecones:

Evergreens are Green by Susan Canizares

The Pinecone Walk by Barbara Springfield

Night Tree by Eve Bunting

 

Sand suggestions?

 

Tree Study

A Tree Can Be…. By J. Nayer

A Tree for All Seasons by R. Bernard

Acorn to Oak Tree by Camilla de la Bedoyere

Are Trees Alive? By Debbie Miller

Be a Friend to Trees by P. Lauber

Evergreens are Green by Susan Canizeres

Eyewitness Books: Trees by David Burnie

FANDEX Family Field Guides: TREES by Steven M.L. Aronson

Look at a Tree by E. Curran

Look at the is Tree by Susan Canizeres

Now I Know: Trees by Sharon Gordon

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf –  Lois Ehlert

Redwoods by Jason Chin

The Tallest Tree by Robert Lieber (board book)

The Tree by Brian and Jillian Cutting

Treats from a Tree by Susan Canizeres

Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids by Gail Gibbons

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves! By N. Wallace (all 4 seasons)

Trees: A Poem by Harry Behn

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Who Will Plant a Tree? By Jerry Pallotta

Who Lives in a Tree? By Susan Canizares

Trees by B. Lessor

Shells:

What Lives in a Shell? By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfelf

Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars (Take Along Guide) by C.K.Tibbitts

Seashells by the Seashore by Marianne Berkes

Books to Inspire the Grown Ups:

Beautiful Stuff! Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini

The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or Do with a Stick by Jo Schofield & Fiona Dank

Nature’s Playground by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games by Peter Houghton & Jane Worroll

Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson

Dirty Teaching by Juliet Robertson

Clay: The History and Evolution of Humankind’s Relationship with Earth’s Most Primal Element by Suzanne Staubach (reference for adult readers)

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Nature Inspired Alphabet Frieze

I’m working on creating an alphabet frieze inspired by nature to add to my preschool classroom. I want to make letter sound correspondences for all 26 letters using materials from by bioregion (Northeastern U.S.). This is a work in progress, and I will update this blog post as I progress. I hope to have it ready to share at a workshop I am teaching at the fall conference for the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children.

To construct them I have cut out cardboard letters and attached the materials. I want them to hang in my class all year, so I am using Mod Podge to add some durability to them. I want to use materials that are readily available and will be recognizable to my preschool students. I want these to be real materials, that will lie mostly flat, and will dry and still look nice. My list so far:

A- acorns,

B – bark, butterfly, buds, bugs, Birch Bark

C – clay, coneflower

D – dirt

E – eggs, eggshell

F – feathers, fur

G – grass

H – horsetail, hay

I-

J – Juniper

K – knot weed,

L – leaves, lichen

M- moss

N-nuts

O- oak leaves

P- pine needles, pine cones, pebbles

Q – quills (anyone have some to donate?)

R- rocks, roots

S – snakeskin

T- twigs

U-

V-valerian (though kids wouldn’t know this one)

W – wheat, weeds

X-

Y- yarrow (need to find some to dry)

Z -Zebra mussels (and teach about invasive species?)

Some of the letters are kind of stumping me, but I’ve asked a few friends to help me brainstorm a materials list. A special thanks to all the smart folks on the FaceBook groups “Loose Parts and Intelligent Playthings” & “April’s Teaching Tree”!

(Stay tuned!)

 

 

Going Green Practices for Child Care Programs

Adopting environmentally sustainable practices is a wonderful way to model and teach children about being a good steward of the planet. Slowly adopting new principles and making changes to existing practices will likely be more successful than trying to change too many things all at the same time. Involving the children in your program and their families will help them have ownership of the changes, and hopefully inspires them to make similar changes in their homes.

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The “Going Green Checklist” (see below) is not meant to be a judgment about how you conduct your program, but rather as a way to reflect on what you currently do, identify one or two strategies to add, and to think about how you would like your program to be in the future.

Often teachers in larger child care centers or public schools may have little decision making power for large scale changes, but can make powerful small changes in their own classrooms. It is better to think of the grand sum of little changes, than to take on an overwhelmingly large task at first. Build off of the successes, even if it’s just teaching children to take one paper towel instead of five to dry their tiny hands! The slow but steady approach often creates lasting changes in a program because the changes become daily routines.

We can teach our children about caring for the planet through a range of rich opportunities, reading a wide selection of books on the topic throughout the year, and by creating hands on learning experiences about nature and the environment. This is not a one week experience in the month of April when it’s “Earth Day”, but rather a yearlong integrated theme that is woven into the curriculum and daily routines. It is through simple daily practices that we implement in our classroom that we can meaningfully show to both children and families. Through educating our children and modeling green practices, they will grow up knowing how to care for the Earth. It will be their love of the planet that propels them to care for it.

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Going Green Checklist

  • As plastic toys are replaced, substitute natural materials or toys made from recycled materials
  • Books about the environment are in the classroom library
  • Children bring reusable water bottle from home
  • Communicate with families about environmentally sound practices
  • Compost food scraps
  • Conservation activities done within the community
  • Daily outdoor time in nature
  • Discuss current environmental issues with children in an age appropriate way (such as drought, new recycling laws, keeping rivers clean)
  • Eco Art projects are part of the program as a way to talk about reusing and re-purposing unwanted materials
  • Eliminate paper plates and plastic utensils
  • Energy audit is conducted for the program
  • Grow plants indoors year-round as way to clean the air & teach children to care for plants
  • Growing a green wall to create a living garden in minimal space
  • Locally produced materials are used; teach how these materials do not require fuel to be shipped, and supports the local economy
  • Lower consumption of energy (lights off when we leave the room; less lights on when sunshine brightens the room)
  • Lower consumption of water (encourage quicker hand washing; use a rain barrel to water the outdoor garden)
  • Make recycled paper and discuss how paper comes from trees
  • Non-toxic “green” cleaning supplies
  • Non-toxic furnishings, wall paint, and floor coverings
  • One paper towel to dry hands
  • Organic local food served as majority of meals and snacks
  • Participate in Earth Day; or “Green Up Day” if you are lucky enough to be a Vermonter
  • Philosophy of “No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”
  • Purchase reusable plates, bowls, and utensils for meals & snacks
  • Purchases of art supplies in large containers so less waste
  • Read about landfills and find out where our trash goes; contrast that to recycling
  • Recycling program implemented
  • Redemption of bottles is another type of recycling and can be a fundraiser
  • Seek input from families and community about ways they see the program could become ‘greener’
  • Serve milk from gallon container and eliminate lots of small cartons of trash a day
  • Switch to cloth napkins
  • Teach about reduce, reuse, and recycle & model those practices in the program
  • Teach about trees and ways we can save paper by using both sides of a paper.
  • Vegetable garden at school that supplies a portion of the food
  • Walking and riding bikes to school instead of using the car
  • Waste management
  • Worm farm as an indoor composting project

No matter the political climate or negative things happening in the world, helping to connect children to nature will have an immediate impact on them…and will likely help them become better stewards of the Earth in years to come.

*What would you add to the going green checklist? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

 

Books for Nature-Inspired Teachers

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Full bookshelves are so inviting…don’t you just want to settle down and get reading?

Professional Books for Nature-Inspired Teachers

Compiled by April Zajko, M.Ed. (updated March 2017)

 

A Moving Child is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think (Birth to Age 7) by Gill Connell

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela J. Hanscom and Richard Louv

Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel

ECO Literate: How Educators are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind by Linda Buzzell

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray

Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

I’m OK! Building Resilience through Physical Play by Jarrod Green

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning by David Sobel and Patti Bailie

Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities by David Sobel

Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids by P. Houghton and Jane Worroll

Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy by Edward M. Hallowell

The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places by Gary Paul Nabhan

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson

Theories of Childhood (2nd edition) by Carol Garhart Mooney

What If Everybody Understood Child Development? By Rae Pica

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Snow Mazes

img_1131One really simple and fun activity to do outdoors is to create “Snow Mazes”. I like to head outside with my snowshoes on, and pack down a winding path with a couple of dead ends. (This could be created with boots, but will take you much longer.) At the end of the path I hide a large plastic tote by burying it into the snow. Sometimes the tote is pretty easy to spot, but the kids play along since they love the idea of hunting down buried treasure. What to offer as the treasure depends on what you have available. Some ideas to get you started include plastic outdoor toys, colored ice cubes, large chunks of snow, large ‘diamond’ ice chunks or icicles, or a stuffed animal brought from home.

Another option would be to hide treasures along the path and the kids could have a bucket to gather the items such as pine cones or colored ice cubes as they travel the path.

Sometimes these mazes are simple with straight lines so the kids run longer distances, and other times I create lots of twists and turns.

With one group of preschoolers these mazes always turned into an imaginative game of them playing that they were race car drivers, so I brought out a bunch of Frisbees to be their steering wheels.

Children also love to make these mazes their own – maybe suggest they create a pirate’s map first indoors and then create it once they get outside.

Have you made snow mazes for your children? I’d love to hear about them!

Chubby Little Snowman Props

“Chubby Little Snowman” is a classic poem that has been part of my teaching repertoire for almost two decades! I’m not sure of the original source, but I think most early childhood teachers know the poem by heart.

A chubby little snowman
Had a carrot nose.
Along came a rabbit
And what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny,
Looking for his lunch,
ATE the snowman’s carrot nose…….
Nibble, nibble, CRUNCH!

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After my students learn the rhyme, we create props to act it out. To create the noses, I cut toilet paper tubes and help the children roll them to create a cone shape. Using orange masking tape the children layer on until the whole outside is covered.  This year the kids decided they wanted noses of multi-colors…why limit yourself to just orange! Then we use a whole punch and add thin elastic to make a way to tie the nose on!

For the bunny, we cut out a bunny shape from card stock and tape it onto a tongue depressor. The children then have a set of props that they can use to retell and act out the poem.

Simple and almost free…which are often the most beloved projects we do!

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Snowflake Print Making

I love to offer open ended explorations for my students that connect to what we are studying. Currently we are learning about snowflakes, so what better way than to create some snowy paintings.

For print making I like to lay out a variety of materials such as: spool of thread, bottom of a berry basket cut into snowflake shape, foam snowflake stickers stuck onto wooden blocks, snowflake shaped cookie cutters, and foam snowflake stamps.

For paints I like to use a shallow pie pan to attempt to contain most of the mess. I like to offer a variety of blues, whites, and glittery paints. Washable paints are essential for this project, and I love BioColor paints from Discount School Supply!

After the materials are set up, I let the children explore and create!