Nature

Poop in the Sandpit

By Zhou Jiang and Ting Zhang | By Children in urban kindergartens lack opportunities to get close to nature. But with help from teachers, getting close to nature can still happen – as the following story illustrates. The story is about a kindergarten in the West Lake District, Hangzhou City, where poop in the sandpit inspired a class of 4–5-year-old children to explore their relationship with a cat.

Into the Woods: Review of “The Hike”

Review by Leah Harrigan | There’s something extraordinary that happens when a child steps out into the natural world, the possibility of exploration ahead of her. With each overturned leaf and puzzling new sight, there’s a momentum that propels curiosity forward. The Hike by Alison Farrell is an outdoor adventure story that follows three curious, brave young female explorers who set out for a hike that takes them wherever the trail leads.

When Nature is the Classroom

By Amy and Dan Warren | Our son, Lio, hops in the car at the end of a cold and damp school day. Rosy-cheeked and smeared with earth and ash from fort-building and fire-making, he reaches down to take off his boots and empty them of leaves, water, and mud. His pockets carry the day’s found treasures: Quartz rocks, cool sticks that double as swords, acorns with their cupule caps carefully removed. He tells us about playing in the stream, falling in, and then warming up by the fire. The cold and wet, and the restorative warmth of fire, are intimate experiences for Lio, part of his personal history. Consequences—the interplay of these experiences—are naturally rooted in the context, and so they are predictable and seemingly just. So too is his personal efficacy, as he navigates the context: The warmth of the fire he helped to make, and his regained comfort, signal his effectiveness. He is but a part of a whole system called Nature.

Mushroom Girl - Illustration by Ellen Dubreuil

Deep Entanglements: Children and Fungi

By John Hornstein | My mother was happiest when foraging for mushrooms. Being an immigrant from Germany, she had difficulty adjusting to life in rural Maine. Foraging became a way for her to stay connected to her childhood. It also connected her to something more primal, the natural world. As a child tagging along on her foraging adventures, I sensed the importance of those connections, and it made me happy. She has been gone a number of years, and now I am the one foraging for mushrooms, moreso as I age – a way of remaining connected to her, but also a way to connect to nature – so much so that my fascination with mushrooms has become an entanglement – one raising basic questions about who we are as humans and what we need to do for children’s development, questions such as, “What is it about fungi that fascinates and inspires?” and “How can mushrooms help us teach children how nature works?” and “What can fungi tell us about the precarious world we now live in?”

We Are Fungi Book Review: A Hidden World Awaits

Review by Leah Harrigan | Deep inside the damp, dark forest, something hides behind the pine needles and twigs. But upon closer look, there’s more than just a hidden treasure to be found. There’s a whole kingdom to explore. We Are Fungi is a compelling introduction to the many functions of fungi that keep our planet healthy. But mostly, it is a way to cultivate wonder, a wonder that can lead children to want to know more. Guiding the reader with a welcoming sense of mystery, it depicts fungi as a presence lurking in the background yet grasping for our attention to explain all the incredible things they can do.

Augario's Adventures in Evaporating Featured Image

Free eBook- Augario’s Adventures in Evaporating

By Allison Choi, illustrations by Kirsten Malsam | Anthropomorphizing to explain nature need not, indeed should not, be limited to explaining nonhuman animals. Even the elusive chemistry in evaporative cooling can become intuitively understood by children, if only we bring that chemistry alive — as Allison Choi and Kirsten Malstem’s story clearly illustrates.

Letting “Mother Nature” be “Just Like Me”: On the Use of Anthropomorphizing

By W. George Scarlett | In E.B. White’s classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Webb, Charlotte, the spider, becomes the kind and smart friend of Wilbur, the pig. Charlotte saves Wilbur from the usual destiny of farm pigs by weaving into her web words praising Wilbur and making him famous among the surrounding humans.  But if that were all there was to the story, though it would appeal to many and maybe even cultivate in children empathy for spiders and pigs, it would stop short of teaching about how nature works and stop short of motivating children to show care for nature.

Review: Nature Apps

Review by Joy Chi | The following article is a collection of reviews of smartphones apps that serve to help children and adults alike to connect with nature.

Technology for Playful Learning

By Mitchel Resnick | In recent years, a growing number of educators and psychologists have expressed concern that computers are stifling children’s learning and creativity, engaging children in mindless interaction and passive consumption. They have a point: today, many computers are used in that way. But that needn’t be the case.

Exploring the World on a Bicycle: Memories of Connecting to Nature

By Theo Klimstra | One of the striking differences between the Netherlands and most countries is the vast number of bikes that you’ll see everywhere. In the Netherlands, everybody rides bikes, partly because they are cheap to buy and cheap to maintain for commuting (no gas required) and partly because Dutch employers team up with the tax service to allow employees to get a full refund on their new bike. Furthermore, parents bring their children (yes, multiple children, sometimes as many as four or five on a single bike!) to school or daycare; others bring TVs and small pieces of furniture home on bikes while dodging wandering tourists in the busy streets of Amsterdam, and if you visit The Hague, you might see the prime minister himself biking to work. Even taking your rusty old bike to a job interview is considered completely normal. All this is to say that, in the Netherlands, riding a bike is not just something that kids do; it is something almost everyone does – making the Netherlands a true biking culture. Why is this so? And was it always like this?