mystery The answer to the clues may be found at the bottom of this column.    Teachers and Parents: Enter to win an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for your home or classroom. It's fun and easy!
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I'm a member of the "dog family."
glass1 Clue 2:  I live throughout North America in deserts, prairies, forests, and even in towns and cities.
glass1 Clue 3:  You might hear me howling at night to communicate with my pack.
glass1 Clue 4:  Don't let me trick you—I am NOT a wolf.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the monthly drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced at the end of September.
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: SEASHELLS Although Inside Outside Nature blog is changing it's focus, this weekly "Who Am I?" will remain the same! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.  

Monthly Archives: August 2013

Creating Collections

003_cropWhat part does nature play in your classroom? The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to create a special place where kids can see and touch natural objects. I’d call it a “Nature Nook,” but so many children associate the word “nook” with an electronic tablet, that an alternate name is simply “Nature Collections Spot.”

Your collection spot may be as simple as the top of a book shelf  or as elaborate as an entire corner of the classroom. Having a special place where children can go to explore nature items lets students know “this stuff is important.”

INSIDE: Starting a Collection

Choose a monthly theme for your nature collections. photoThe theme for this month’s blogs is “A Walk in the Woods,” and I’ve begun gathering up some woodsy items. For example, I pulled out two of my prize skulls—one from a deer, the other from a skunk. Then I added a piece of birch bark and a milkweed pod bursting with seeds, both of which I collected from a trip to Michigan. Viola! My nature collection spot has begun.

Last year, I rotated into a classroom shared with other teachers, so I didn’t have the luxury of being able to set up a permanent Nature Collection Spot. My solution was to use a plastic tote box. Each week I put one nature item into it. I gave my students clues to help them guess what was in the box, then I would do “the big reveal.” Kids could examine, touch, and hold the object I had brought in. After the kids had time to make observations, share information, or ask questions, I’d read a related story.

For example. when I brought in a wasp’s nest last year, we discussed the difference between a wasp and a bee. Then I read In the Trees, Honeybees! Afterwards, we made honey treats. Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods, would be the perfect book to go along with my “Walk in the Woods” collection this month.

OUTSIDE: Kids Collect

Have your students find interesting natural objects around the school grounds. Pair them up as they come back into the classroom to share and explain their discoveries. Integrate their objects into other classes throughout the week. For example, in math class have them use the objects to practice measurements. For a writing project, have them incorporate three different objects into a creative writing story. For my “woods” theme, I would have students bring in different kinds of leaves to explain the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees and introduce the concept of photosynthesis.


EHWNS_StoreTeddy Roosevelt was six years old when he collected his first natural object, a seal skull. He went on to fill his bedroom with skins, bones, and living animals. He continued his collections throughout his presidency. The famous naturalist,  Henry David Thoreau, was a great collector, too. Local villagers would bring him flowers, nests, and bones for him to  identify—he often asked to keep some of the most interesting specimens for his personal collection. Inspire young collectors by reading aloud stories about naturalists in Earth Heroes: Champions of the Wilderness.

Get tips for creating a nature discovery center from Audubon.

Making collections is one aspect of the  Naturalist Intelligence identified by Howard Gardner, author of the book Multiple Intelligences.


Why Go Outside?

imagesI love the beginning of a new school year. Everyone (teachers, kids, and parents) have a clean slate. It’s a time to approach learning with fresh energy and new perspectives.


As I look to the year ahead, my hope is that the ideas, lessons, and resources I share with you in this blog will give you helpful information about how you can connect  children with nature, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Outside: The Reason Why

I usually post  both “inside” and “outside” ideas and activities. However, this week I’m focusing just on OUTSIDE because it is so very important. As a teacher, I know going outside with a group kids poses all kinds of challenges. But there are also lots of benefits. I hope this article from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will encourage you to go outside this year:

image_previewWhy Go Outside? Simply put—it can improve both classroom learning and classroom behavior.

There is no doubt that as a teacher, you get pulled in many directions as you try to offer your students the best possible educational opportunities. It is a balancing act – you have to make some tough choices about how your students spend their time.

It’s worth knowing though, that a variety of research has shown that creatively engaging children with the natural world on a regular basis can make a huge difference in their health, well-being, and ability to learn.

• Students who spend more time outdoors in natural areas are more motivated and enthusiastic about learning.  Their academic achievement is also higher across multiple subject areas.

• Having a natural view from a classroom makes a difference – it positively impacts both student academic achievement and behavior.

• Students’ classroom behavior is better when they have recess.

b02B0ByNg2B9B927.lgOf course, some of your students’ outdoor time needs to occur when they are with their families and friends – those are the opportune times for free, unstructured play in natural areas.

But, you and your school can also help connect them with nature by providing more outdoor education opportunities, making sure that they continue to have outdoor recess, and even “greening” the school grounds with naturalized areas.


More Facts and Fun Outside

Get curriculum and find out about the Schoolyard Habitat Program from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Nature Explore Classrooms provides ideas for outdoor classrooms—gateways that connect children with nature.

Go to The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Rocks website to search for activities by age, time, and/or location.