Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many guest posts in my brand new nature study “idea catalog!” These posts are intended to provide inspiration and ideas to supplement your studies of the natural world in your home or classroom. Today’s theme is snakes, a guest post written by the wonderful Sarah Street of @the.silvan.reverie!
Snakes Nature Study
Guest Post by Sarah Street
How We Do Nature Study
I have two children: my oldest is almost 6 and is in his Kindergarten year of homeschool, and my daughter is 4 1/2 and doing Preschool. At this age we primarily do nature study through real life experiences in nature and through reading living books. If there is a particular topic that interests my children, I may add in printed resources, nature journaling, and related poems or artwork. Since my kids are preschool and kindergarten age, I may also find little ways to include on-theme phonics or math or age-appropriate crafts alongside our nature studies. I don’t always do this, but I try to allow for the lessons to be fun and playful.
Snakes Nature Study
We have been encountering a variety of snakes on our forested property all summer. There is a lake and multiple creek flows on property and the most common snakes we encounter are water snakes (which are fun to watch). We see a lot of Rat Snakes as well, and sometimes Copperheads. We also recently visited the Indianapolis Zoo's snake exhibit to enhance the experience and see snakes from around the world. My kids are always fascinated to discover which snakes are venomous and which are not.
In most nature studies we use the term "hands-on" to describe the experience we want our children to have. We want children to take in the natural world around them by exploring outside freely, taking in the natural world uses all of their senses. This idea of "hands-on" works well for seed studies or lessons about wildflowers or fungi. It doesn't seem to fit great with learning about snakes. This is decidedly a 'hands-off" lesson unless you have a pet snake!
How I Use Printed Resources
1. Inviting Decoration for a Nature Table Area
There is something so inviting about a nature poster on display in the home or school room! I typically hang up a relevant nature poster to what we are learning either in the kids room with some on-theme resources or in our school room area. Ashley at Growing Brave has a wide variety of nature-themed posters that can easily be printed and displayed at home.
2. Montessori 3-Part Cards
In all of Ashley's Nature Guides, she provide 3-Part Cards. If you are not familiar with these, they are a great Montessori-based educational tool. These cards can be used with a variety of ages, even children who cannot yet read.
My Kindergartener used the Snakes 3-Part Cards from the Growing Brave Snakes Nature Guide by matching Word-only cards to Picture-only cards, using the Whole Card on display as a control. He is in the early stages of reading and could sound out most of these words, or at least use the control cards as a key.
For an easier version of this you can have the child match Picture-only card to Picture-only card. For more of a challenge to an older elementary school child, you could have them match Word-only card to Picture-only card without the use of a control card.
For further reading, I have a blog post over at The Silvan Reverie on How We Use 3-Part Cards.
3. Info Learning Through Fact Cards
In every Nature Guide, Ashley includes small Fact Cards for additional learning. These cards are great for expanding the topic. For kids that can read you could keep these available on a themed nature table. For my children I usually pull these out at meal time and ask them which card they would like me to read from. I do not sit and read through every one, since they would not have the attention span for that. We do just a little at a time, as the interest is held.
4. Mini Nature Guides
My oldest in particular absolutely loves little cards. I create mini guides for him depending on what is seasonal, and he likes to flip through them on his own or carry them with him on an outdoor adventure. For the Snakes lesson, I took the whole version of the cards, laminated them, then used a hole punch and binder ring to create a mini Snake Nature Guide.
Additional Resources for a Snakes Nature Study
Snakes by Gail Gibbons
Slither & Crawl by Jim Arnosky
Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman (Snakes, page 142)
Song of the Wild by Nicola Daviess (Snake poem, page 100)
Book of Bones by Gabrielle Balkan (Reticulated Python)
Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern & Central)
The Snake Life Cycle (Montessori Print Shop)
Parts of a Snake cards (The Natural Homeschool)