Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sensational Senses!

This last week at our nature preschool group at Woodlawn Nature Center in Elkhart, we explored our senses to start off our fall series of weekly programs. We wanted this as a foundation piece to explore the other topics as we learn so much through our senses. A friend and I volunteer to pull these learning and exploration experiences together. It takes a lot of time, planning, and research; however, it's great to see the impact it makes on the children. My son went through the program the last 2 years. He is now in kindergarten and often asks when he can share the insect he caught with his Nature Preschool friends or if he can be a helper if he doesn't have school on the same day as Nature Preschool. He misses. I need to find/create something to help bridge that gap for 5-year-olds. Soon! :-) I'm thinking a family nature club will be just right! We started by decorating our nature journals with nature themed stamps, pictures from magazines, crayons, etc. We will record our observations in these each week and the children can then bring them home at the end of our time together.

We also had a basket out for each of the senses for free exploration. There were fresh herbs from the garden for smell; bones, furs, rawhide, and more for touch; magnifying glasses, binoculars, and more for sight; boxes of raisins for taste; and a rain stick for sound. These were just perfect to start our exploration!

Later we made toilet paper tube binoculars. These really help with focus with young children, helping them use their sense of sight more keenly while out on the trails. During story time, we read My Five Senses by Aliki and talked about the senses that foxes use. They have pointy ears on top of their heads that help hear, moist noses to help them smell, paws that help them feel, and tongues that help them taste. 


We explored sound by having various colored eggs filled with natural objects. There was a pair of each object. We shook our eggs, tried to figure out what might be in them, and then tried to find our partner. Surprise! The children used words like heavy, light, dull, strong, etc. to describe the sounds they heard and what they felt through shaking their eggs. Each child then filled an empty egg with a natural item they found in the nearby yard. There were many acorns, a rock, mulch, etc. We tried to guess what they might be. I wonder what other natural sounds they will explore in their egg shakers this week. 

We looked at other natural items, noting their reflections on the mirrors. We touched the smooth buckeye, the bumpy rock, the pokey pinecone, and the rough black walnut. We also touch various animal furs, comparing the different textures of the animals. 

On our hike, we used sensory cards to help us explore what we found. When we encountered pokeweed, we used our eyes (maybe even binoculars) to explore the colors of the plant. This is a plant we don't want to taste as it will make us feel yucky! Near an evergreen tree, we found a branch on the ground. We found several senses helped us explore an evergreen branch. We could smell its fragrance, look at it pointy shape, and touch its sharp edges.

On a nearby stump (one of my favorite places to share with the children), we decided that squirrels must taste so many things here, as there were lots of acorn nut remains in the crevices of the stump. 

With these small stick tights, we could touch the edges that like to stick tight to our clothes. (Not sure of their technical term, but tonight someone called them by this name--it fits!). A tree trunk let us use our sight to see the shades of brown and the rough and flaky bark. Seeing is one thing, yet we could also feel these concepts with our hands as well. 

We explored a little wild ginger, digging up a root to smell the fragrance. Other times, we stopped to listen to the sounds we heard nearby and farther out. What a great sensory hike, even if it was on the shorter side! :-) 

After washing our hands, we made fox watermelon treats to reinforce the senses of the fox, just like we have senses. I keep thinking about gingerbread men from childhood stories! 

Later we had several free explorations area, like messy materials, digging in dirt, music and movement, texture cards, nature art explorations, jingle bell painting, sensory sorting, and more! I needed more pictures of these! Maybe I'll get the items out with my older kids at home to extend the experience more. Next week is trees! We'll explore trees through our senses!