Sunday, 21 September 2014

Nature Journals

There are so many different ways to include mark making and writing in the outdoors, but one activity that the children in my nursery particularly enjoyed was to create and continually add to their very own nature journals.

These journals can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be, we used large 'nature coloured' sugar paper and bound it with a long stick at the spine, we then decorated our journals by painting using sticks, leaves, flowers etc.
Don't forget to encourage the children to write their names on their journal! They should be able to take ownership of their own special book and feel proud and excited by it.
If you wanted to be extra creative, you could make your own recycled paper (maybe including some pressed flowers) and use it to create beautiful book covers.
Be sure to add plenty of pages inside and if possible, use thick, sturdy paper that will not rip if it gets a little damp or beaten while the children are out and about.

Another nice touch that you could include into your nature journals is to add small plastic pouches or pockets so that the children can store and keep small pebbles, shells and other exciting materials. They can then bring them back to nursery and continue to explore their discoveries in other areas.

Once your nature journals are ready, collect some pencils, glue, sticky tape and scissors and take the children outdoors! It really doesn't matter where you go, the woods, the beach, the garden or a walk around the block, but as you're playing and exploring, encourage the children to collect small natural items that they find interesting, or draw a picture of them, or write the words!

When mark making outdoors, ensure to provide your children with a range of materials such as chunky pencils, felt pens, chalk, crayons or paints. If you provide a variety of resources, you are likely to find a method that appeals to most children, rather than putting anyone off (for example, one of my children would never choose to write or mark make unless felt pens were on offer – then there was no stopping them!)

My children were fascinated by all of the different types of leaves that they came across while exploring the outdoors. They glued them into their nature journals, drew around them, took rubbings of them and matched and sorted them into groups of colour. This was fantastic for early maths skills as well as science, expressive arts and of course, language and literacy as they learned new vocabulary and attempted to write them.

The more that you take your nature journals out with you, the more confident the children will become in adding into them. A nice way to promote this learning is for the adults/ teachers to have their own nature journals as well. Remember, if you are excited and engaged in an activity, the children will follow your lead!

Later, the children's journals can be used as an aid for reflecting on their learning. They be able to look back through their book and speak about previous trips and findings, encouraging their language skills further.

Don't forget to allow your children to show off their work to their parents, or maybe even take them home for the weekend and add some treasures from their own back garden – this learning certainly does not stay within the nursery!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Lovely Lightboxes

Good evening everyone! I thought that today I would devote a post to a fantastic, sometimes a little under-appreciated resource - the Lightbox!

If you don't already have a lightbox (sometimes known as a light table) - don't panic! You can make your own quite easily by putting a lamp or some fairy lights into a large plastic container.
A nice simple tutorial can be found here.

Ok, first things first; in order to use your lightbox effectively you must put some thought into where  you'll put it and how you'll present it - hopefully making it into an exciting invitation to play!
My favourite way to set it out is to have the lightbox on a low table, or even set on the floor, so that it is easily accessible and at child height, and place it against a mirror, or better yet - surround it with a 3 sided mirror! 
There are some lovely examples of how to set out your light boxes on pinterest.

Now that your lightbox area is set up, you can start thinking about the skills that you want the children to be developing, and the resources that you can add to promote these skills!

Here are just a few ideas:

As well as these general ideas, there are many other ways to involve your lightbox in your learning, for example: if you are learning about the body and people who help us - you could add X-rays. If you are learning about Autumn, you could add discovery bottles with pine cones, conkers, leaves! You see? The possibilities are endless!

I find that the lightbox is a great way to encourage children to look at items in detail. It can also help children to concentrate and focus. I hope I have inspired you to have another look at your lightbox!

Here are some more fantastic lightbox ideas to inspire tou from blogs around the web:

Ice on the lightbox by Garden Gate Child Development Centre

A beautiful glittery light table by Fairy Dust Teaching

A huge selection of 'everyday' ways to use your lightbox from Teach Preschool