It’s finally spring, but with the end of school fast approaching, it’s just so close to summer for many of us. If your students are anything like my sweet first graders, they’re itching for that last day, and a ticket to summer freedom. However, we still have so much to accomplish. Although it can be challenging, this time of year can also bring some of the most rewarding and fun times. That is, if your students are engaged!
Each spring my dear friend, Lori Keitt, and I have been bringing the outside world into our classrooms in an effort to hook our students those last few weeks. Nature, in the form of ladybugs, caterpillars, praying mantis egg cases, tadpoles and more overflows our the rooms. It’s sometimes messy, and it does take a bit of time and effort, but the payoff is worth it! All throughout April and May students rush into our classrooms to check on chrysalises and tadpoles each morning. The critters inspire our writing, inquiry projects and even math problems.
Here are just a few reasons and examples to inspire you to bring the outside world in!
Let the bugs take over! As student interest is peaked, they’ll want to share new knowledge. Take the opportunity to allow them independence in when and how they share. After all, your students have worked hard all year long, and have surely found their style. Do they want to paint? Write poetry? App smash, and record their voice? Will they write more on their own or be happy drawing their thinking while they read?
We created a garden to share what we learned with beautiful flowers and bugs.
This playlist showcases a few ways my students chose to share the information they learned. Each one has a QR code on the board. I love that there are so many different methods of sharing here!
Bugs. Need I say more?
It’s just magical to watch what happens when students get to observe nature. Curiosity takes over, and there’s an intense focus that will fall over the room. Everyone will share wonders and schema, allowing students learn from each other. Students end up taking a break from their work to stare at an insect.
3. Writing with Nature
There’s nothing quite so inspirational as a slimy earthworm, or newly formed chrysalis. Students will willingly pull out their notebooks to record their thinking through pictures and words. I bet you didn’t know that birds don’t like to eat ladybugs because they stink!
This worm poem was inspired as we watched several earthworms twist into a knot. We all think it’s fabulous!
4. Reading and Inquiry with Nature
When you invite outside critters in, your bound to spark a slew of questions. I’m always sure to have plenty of reading material and resources to help students answer their questions. Researching and learning about your classroom visitors, together and independently, will allow students a safe way to practice all the skills they’ve learned through the year.
You’ll really want to include Kate Messner’s book, Up In The Garden and Down In The Dirt. Reading this beautiful book inspired so many questions about the world around us, especially in the garden.
Invite some critters into your classroom to finish off this year! You and your students will get hours of enjoyment from them, as well as learn a healthy respect for even the smallest of creatures.