In most Kindergarten classrooms across the county you will find something called a “Science Discovery Table.” Teachers use this table or area of the room to offer students the opportunity to explore or discover items from nature. These items may be things they see regularly but never really examined thoroughly, or items that are found in nature but children may have never seen. Children at this age love to touch, manipulate, study and just simply “check out” items such as snake skins, pine cones, sea shells, bird's nests, etc. Why not adapt this idea for your home and create your own "Discovery Table" or "Discovery Box"?
What You Need:
- Small table or medium sized plastic box for collection
- Items from nature (shells, pine cones, snake skins, bird’s nest, lava rocks, etc.)
- Magnifying glass
- Blank postcards and markers
What You Do:
- You can begin this project by simply going on a nature scavenger hunt with your child in your own yard or to a nearby nature park. Collect interesting natural items that he would like to take home to study more thoroughly. Note: Use caution when collecting items such as bird’s nests and be sure to use plastic gloves and place the nest in a plastic bag.
- Another suggestion would be to write letters to family/friends that live in different areas of the country or world and ask them to send your child items found in nature that are not readily available in your area.
- Allow your child to sit and study these items with the magnifying glass.
- Discuss what he notices about these items. Talk about where they were found and what they are from. Did an animal make it? Did it grow in nature?
- If you do collect items from other areas of the country, use a map to show him where this item was found. Discuss how that area is different from where you live.
- In the designated box or table area, set up your nature table. Lay down the colored cloth and tuck the edges under. Have your child arrange his favorite items from nature artfully on the cloth, and encourage him to revisit it periodically.
- Keep your table up and running, with a rotating exhibition depending on the season. Once a week or so, ask your kindergartener to sit down and draw one special item from the table on one side of a blank postcard. On the other side, ask your child to select a relative or special friend. Have your child write a short message about the science object , and then help your child write the address. Stick a stamp on, and send a piece of priceless correspondence that reinforces both your child's science and writing skills!
Victoria Hoffman, M.A., is an elementary school teacher, writer and mother from Leonardtown, Maryland. She has taught grades K-5 in both regular and special education classrooms.