Learn All Year Long
ReadWriteThink has a variety of resources for out-of-school use. Visit our Parent & Afterschool Resources section to learn more.
Explore and Write About Nature
- Notebook and pencil
- Computer with Internet access and printer
- How to Keep a Field Journal webpage
- My Nature Story form
- Construction paper and art supplies
Before beginning this activity, you may want to read and talk about In a Nutshell by Joseph Anthony. This book tells the story of how an acorn grows into a tree and then what happens once the tree dies. Any book that closely looks at a natural process or life cycle will work well. You many want to help the child keep track of the books you read using the What I've Read chart.
If you are working with an older child, visit the How to Keep a Field Journal webpage, and read and talk about ways to explore and write about nature. The site includes a great list of questions to bring along on your nature expedition.
Print a copy of the My Nature Story form.
|1.||This activity should begin outside. Go to a green place—anywhere from a backyard to a playground or a park will work. The child you are working with should have a pencil and a notebook or a piece of paper on a clipboard.
|2.||Ask the child to find an insect or animal to look at. He or she should then spend five minutes sitting as close as possible to the insect or animal, watching it and imagining what it would be like to be that living thing. The child could choose a snail, ant, spider, squirrel, ladybug, butterfly, dog, or cat.
|3.||After five minutes, prepare the child to write a story from the point of view of the living thing he or she has been watching. The story should include what the living thing looks, sounds, and feels like; what it does (such as eating leaves or running up a tree); what happens to it (such as being walked on a leash or trapped in a spiderweb); and what the child imagines the living thing might say if it could talk. It may be helpful to have the child act out what it is like to be the living thing before writing.
|4.||Help the child take notes about the living thing using words and pictures. Answer questions; write down any questions that you don’t know the answers to so you can look up the answers together later.|
Writing a Nature Book (This part of the activity can take place inside and on a different day.)
Help the child use the My Nature Story form to write about the living thing. Each phrase on the form should be one page in a book. The child can copy the phrases onto blank pieces of paper, finish them, write a few more sentences for each page, and then draw pictures.
Use the child’s age and interest level to help guide you during the writing exercise. A younger child might be happy just to write about what he or she saw on your outing; you may just want to ask questions that help include more detail in the book. An older child may want to do some research to get more information about the plant or animal. You can answer questions and help the child find information online or in books.
|6.||Once the child has written and drawn a picture for every page in the book, ask him or her to come up with a title and make a cover page on construction paper or using the online Book Cover Creator tool. See the Book Cover Creator page for more information about this online tool.
|7.||Staple or tie the pages together and have the child read the book to you.|
When children and teens observe, they may be following a formal process with a checklist of things to look for, or they may be exploring such a new experience that they can ask questions only after observing. Either way, observing should involve children and teens in the process of watching something closely, asking questions, and discussing what they have seen.