We begin teaching nature preschool students about birds the very first week of school, when the children learn to identify the bird for which their classroom is named: the Cardinal, the Chickadee, or the Goldfinch. From then on, the children serenade each other with their classroom bird call whenever they pass on the trails.
Philosophy of Teaching Nature to Young Children
Our approach to teaching preschoolers about nature, including birds, is to be as developmentally appropriate as possible. When outdoors, we look for bird signs in the prairies and woods, by the ponds, and whenever we visit Lake Michigan. Back inside, we play bird matching games, we sing, we dance, and read books about birds. We learn through touch, movement, sound, by asking questions, and making predictions.
Highlighting the Seasons While Teaching Nature
During the fall migration, we learn about the Canada goose and the children head outside to mimic the “V” shapes that they see in the sky. In the winter, they learn about owls, listening to “Owl Moon” by David Stokes, or perhaps getting to meet one of the Center’s resident owls in our auditorium. As spring approaches, we become aware of how vocal some birds are, as Red-Winged Blackbirds and other migrants return to the Center. The children play games in which they race to construct mud and grass nests, one spoonful at a time.
Birds Are Important Partners in Teaching Nature
Our Preschool reaps the benefits of the Center’s bird-related resources, whether that is the Raptor Program, the Raptor Exhibit, or our native habitats that attract wild bird species. Each spring, the children hike to the Center’s Raptor Building, where they get a behind-the-scenes tour. They see not only the birds, but where the birds live, what they eat, and even their toys: such sights are fascinating for children and can form powerful memories.
From the wild Eastern Screech Owl that moved into the Woods Play Space this past winter, to the Raptor Program’s beloved Red-tailed Hawk, Skywalker, our students move beyond seeing birds in books and movies to experiencing them in real life. By having these formative adventures, fledging Preschool naturalists can soar into a lifetime of wonderment inspired by the natural world.
Learn more about the Nature Preschool at Schlitz Audubon.