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Hands-on Projects Bring Nature Indoors

-------By Montessori for Everyone-------

Kids love nature. The endless varieties of trees, bugs, rocks, and flowers provide unlimited opportunities for learning and exploration. Naturally, they love nature-themed projects, too. Here are a few of my favorite ways to bring the outside in:

1. Construct a Miniature Biome These are one of my favorite projects. I start with an inexpensive glass bowl (less than $1 at craft or hobby stores) and provide the kids with materials to make a biome. Here are a few ideas:

Desert Biome: a layer of dirt, then a layer of sand. Add some real miniature cacti and small plastic desert animals (spiders, scorpions, lizards). Water occasionally. Here’s our version:

Ocean Biome: Start with a layer of sand, then add colorful shells, dried sand dollars, and dried starfish. Add some plastic ocean animals, or have the children make some out of clay and then paint when dry.

Forest Biome: When I comb through the local garden center, I can usually find some plants that look like miniature trees and shrubs. After putting in a layer of gravel (for drainage) and then a layer of dirt, plant the mini-trees and add some animal figurines: deer, squirrels, chipmunks, bears, etc.

You can make mini biomes for just about every climate, including the rain forest, tundra, and savanna. They’re a nice project to do with Biome Research Guides 1 & Biome Research Guides 2.

2. Hatch Some Butterflies or Ladybugs

Every year, we buy ladybug and butterfly larvae and have a great time watching them metamorphose and then hatch. I get all my supplies from Insect Lore; they have a ton of bug- and nature-related items, from books and videos to gardening supplies and habitats.

3. Make Some Nature Trays

Nature trays are a great way for kids to get their hands on a variety of nature objects. You can put the trays together yourself and set them in the classroom for kids to explore (don’t forget the magnifying glass!) or you can have kids gather their own items and add them to the nature trays over time. Here’s one we made with a tree/forest theme:

4. Carve Out Some Animal Tracks

You might remember the free Animal Tracks file I made awhile back. My son and I decided to get some white Sculpey (clay) and make all the tracks. We divided the clay into even amounts, then flattened it into oval discs.

Using a variety of clay tools and kitchen implements, we did our best to make all the tracks. We also “wrote” the name of the animal on the clay. After baking, we had a beautiful set of animal track imprints. Besides the six animals in the Animal Tracks work, my son added a human footprint using the side of his fist and fingertips for toes:

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