Sunday, 25 August 2013

Shells, Rocks, and Feathers:
Using Reflective Journals to Expand Learning with Children's Nature Collections

The Spark:
It all starts innocently enough.  You are walking along, outdoors, and you come across an interestingly shaped rock that catches your attention or a magical plume fallen from the breast of a bird or you uncover a wonderfully patterned shell as the tide waters wade out into the ocean along a beach shoreline.  You pick it up and then it happens... your collection begins!  You want to share your excitement with friends and family who delight in your amazing findings.  The colours, patterns, and shapes in nature are awe inspiring to say the least.  Starting a nature collection can be a wonderful endeavour and it may eventually make you an expert in that which you've chosen to collect.  The best part of a nature collection, though, is that it is one of the few things that is all yours to learn about, explore and share.  You started your nature collection because you saw something that sparked your interest.  Nobody, not an advertisement, nor parent, or teacher told you to be interested in it and you did not have to ask anyone to purchase it for you.  You simply stumbled across it and picked it up because you found it interesting in some way.  So, what can you do with this interesting item in nature that you picked up?

As with every quest, we do our best to be kind to the Earth.  So, let's begin with a fun game that puts an interesting spin on whether or not it's a good idea to start a nature collection in the first place.  The game is called "Top Five."

Are you interested in embarking on a nature collection quest that could turn into a life long pursuit?  You may have already started one so this quest will help you think about, expand upon, and share what you already have.  Before you begin, get out a journal to explore, share, and learn from your collection.

Start Your Quest:
Why:  To choose something in nature that truly stems from your own interests, to respect the Earth by playing "Top Five," to use a reflective journal to expand learning based on the way you like to learn,  to share your findings.
What:  To play "Top Five," to explore your collection in different ways, to expand on learning, to share with others, to inspire others in ways that teachers or parents could never do.
When:  As soon as you can get yourself organized
Where:  In a nearby patch of nature or wherever you find yourself in nature that inspires you to notice your first item in your nature collection.
Who:  You, your family and friends
How:  Find out below.  It's a S.N.CH., or is it?

Take Action:

1.  Play this game:  Top Five!
Teaching children to collect and amass a grand nature collection is a questionable practise when you are trying to model a lifestyle that reduces consumption and promotes conservation.
Playing Top Five will help:
*Teach you to value and respect the natural world
*Teach you to conserve as much of the natural world as you can
*Teach you that nature does not belong to you
Here's how to play:
If you find something that interests you in nature, that is great!  If you decide to start a nature collection then keep it to five items only.  The way you play is if you find a rock, for example, then when you collect the sixth rock you have to replace one of your existing five rocks with the new rock so that your collection only contains five items from nature.  Tell your parent, friend, teacher, or sibling why you find those five rocks interesting?  What is it that attracts you to them?  What is special about them?  When you have chosen your Top Five, return the sixth rock back to nature.

2.  Shells:  Explore Patterns and Shapes In Nature vs. Man-Made Design.  Introduction of the concept of biomimicry.

3.  Rocks:  Become a Material Scientist- 
Investigate the properties of soil, sand, and rock.  Relate findings to building principles of weathering and erosion (rain, wind, heat, water).  Share ideas.  Use a small mallet to try and break rock into pieces.  Which rock crumbles?  Which one is strong?  Describe their qualities.  Build a structure with them.

What is needed for these structures to withstand forces?
How does nature build?  How do we build?

4.  Feathers: Become an Aeronautical Engineer- Flight.  How Does Nature Fly? Study and compare the aerodynamics of seed dispersal, clouds, feathers.  How has nature "designed" flying objects.  Make connections to parachutes, helicopters, and airplanes.  Design and build aerodynamic prototypes.  Fly!!

5.  Reflective Journals:  As you explore your nature collection, use your reflective journal to track findings and explore ideas. The main object is to share your knowledge and inspire others.  Also, keep in mind that you should share your findings in any way you feel inspired to.  It does not have to only be through writing.

Your reflective journal can contain:
three diminutional samples
qualitative and quantitative data

You can express these by:
creating a video and including the web address in your journal so people can access and view it
drawing and painting
keeping non-living samples
adding photos and comments
stapling a "pocket" to collect items in

6.  Share:
Place all of the reflective journals in a makeshift library for all to view, share, and learn from.  If you find that many people are interested in some of the entries, create a feature wall to share observations, comments, and ideas on a poster-sized bristol board.  Explore the many different ways that learning and the expression of learning can take place.

Don't Stop Here:
Keep on learning about and researching your nature collection.  Keeping you interested in nature is our goal.  If you have a hunch about something don't forget to drop us an email and we'll give your hunch a whirl and get right back to you.

Quest Check:
Follow our blog to keep checking on us to see if your interests match our quests.

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