In one of my favorite lessons, I take my kindergarten students outside to explore the schoolyard. Though I take my students outdoors throughout the year, I do this lesson at the beginning of the year because it’s an opportunity to teach students to make observations and ask questions. I love seeing my students’ excitement grow as they move around the schoolyard, noticing and wondering about everything! I also get a chance to learn about my students and the wealth of ideas and experiences with nature they bring with them to school.
In this lesson, students begin to develop elements of the Science and Engineering practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Record information (observations, thoughts, and ideas) and Use and share pictures, drawings, and/or writings of observations. We talk about our five senses and how to use them to make observations. I also want to develop the Asking Questions element: Ask questions based on observations to find more information about the natural and/or designed worlds.
Students walk around the school grounds looking for something in nature they would like to observe closely. I like to have everyone walk in silence or very quietly so they can hear the sounds in nature. They might see a bird or butterfly nearby, or find one of the courtyard box turtles eating some tomatoes from our class vegetable garden spot. Many different flowers and plants surround the area, too. When students find that one thing they want to study further, they draw what they see and record in words, pictures, and symbols what they’ve observed with their other senses. They can also measure the object using grade-appropriate tools.
I ask the students to think about questions they could ask about the object. Then students share with a partner or small group the observations they made and the things they are wondering about the object. Their partner or group members can then ask additional questions and share their own observations.
Every student has access to this type of learning to help them succeed, and each is bringing different experiences to share with others while experiencing all kinds of new things in nature.
Julia Deevers-Rich has been teaching for the past 36 years in five different states. She is very passionate about teaching, especially the S (Science) in STEM. She currently teaches STEM to grades K–5 at A.M. Yealey Elementary School in Boone County, Kentucky.
Note: This article is featured in the January 2020 issue of Next Gen Navigator, a monthly e-newsletter from NSTA delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction. Click here to sign up to receive the Navigator every month.
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