Category Archives: Describing Using Adjectives

From Apple Flower to Apple Fruit

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On Stability and Change: The Apple

This month, we are studying the concepts of stability and change. The first of our nature-based studies involves a favorite autumn topic in New England: apples.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

The apple: a great opportunity for year-round botany study. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

Apples present an excellent opportunity to study stability and change, in both spring and fall, where we can study the transformation of the bare tree to one with leaves, the emergence of leaves and flowers from buds, the growth of apple fruits from the spent blossoms, the gradual ripening of the fruit, and the ultimate dropping of fruits and leaves as the fall winds down to winter.

This is also a nice opportunity to begin to talk about the structures of flowers and fruits, using the familiar, and accessible, apple, even during the winter months. Use the Apple a Day” notebooking pages, for these, and other, activities.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

An Apple a Day” – September Botany Journaling, 2012
20 pages, $1.95


A Year of Studies, by Season

An apple tree, all year round

Using the “Adopt-a-Plant” strategy, choose an apple tree (or, if you do not live near one, a crabapple tree will do), and observe it very early in the spring, before the leaves emerge (March or so, here in New England). Sketch the tree, or one branch on the tree in one frame, and provide a narrative to accompany each drawing. Add additional pages, as necessary. Here are some questions you might use as prompts for sketching and writing:

Winter (March)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. This frame and lines journaling page is useful for multiple sketches over time, or multiple views.

  1. Sketch a bud on a twig. How are the buds protected in the winter? Carefully dissect a bud. What do you see inside?
  2. As the bud opens, what parts of the bud remain? What happens to the other parts? Why do you think this happens?
  3. Notice the markings and scars near the buds. What do you think cause them? Explain.
  4. Count the number of nodes from the tip of a branch to the trunk. How old is the branch? Explain how you figured this out.

Spring (May)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Botanical drawings and content vocabulary for journaling, word study, vocabulary building, or penmanship.

  1. Sketch an opening bud. What parts do you see first, the flowers or the leaves? Do they come out at the same time? Do all buds produce leaves and flowers? Describe what you see.
  2. Draw an opening apple blossom. Label these parts: stem, stipules, calyx, sepals.
  3. Sketch an open apple blossom. How many petals do you see? Draw the calyx behind the petals. What shape is the apple blossom? Color your drawing. Are the petals the same color on the inside as the outside? Why do buds and the blossoms appear different colors?
  4. Draw an open apple blossom. Label these parts: petals, stamens, filament, anther, pistil, stigma.
  5. Have an adult help you cut open the base of the apple blossom. What do you see inside? What do you think these become? Use what you know about apples to help you answer.
  6. Carefully sketch the arrangement of the new leaves as they grow around the blossom. What color are they? Do they stay this color?

Summer (June)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Diagrams with labels, or boxes for labeling. Pages with and without word banks as a scaffold for labeling.

  1. Sketch a twig or blossom after the petals fall. What parts remain? What parts are missing? Why do you think some parts fall off? What part do you think becomes the apple fruit that you eat? What becomes the seeds?
  2. Use a piece of colorful tape to mark one twig with developing apples. Return to sketch one developing apple, once a week. Identify any parts of the original blossom that remain.
  3. How many apples grow from one winter bud? How many leaves? Draw a branch and show the arrangement of apples and leaves.
  4. Does the apple branch keep on growing? What part grows after the fruit forms?

Fall (September)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Woodcuts from botanical texts: useful for rendering accurate colors when observing.

  1. Sketch three apples of different varieties, making sure to render the shape accurately. Describe the differences and similarities in these areas: shape, stem, color.
  2. Observe a ripe apple on a tree. Notice the color. Is it the same color everywhere? Develop a hypothesis about the role of air temperature and sunlight in the development of apple fruit color.
  3. Carefully draw and color one apple. Is it the same color everywhere? Are they spots or streaks? Is it the same color on both sides?
  4. Draw a ripe apple (outside and inside views). Identify the flower parts that created the structures you see.
  5. Use words to describe the texture of the apple skin. What function does the skin serve? (See Experiment 1)
  6. Cut up apples of five varieties. Create a data table to compare and rate them from 1-5 based on these factors: color (1=greenest skin, 5=reddest skin), texture (1=coarsest pulp, 5=finest pulp); crispness (1=crispiest, 5=softest), juiciness (1=juiciest, 5=driest), taste (1=most sour, 5=sweetest), aroma (1=no aroma, 5=strongest aroma).
  7. Cut apples of several varieties from stem to flower end. Draw and compare the core area.

Winter (December)

science strategies apple flower botany

Sample page. A variety of lined pages, in both regular rule and primary rule, for copywork, handwriting practice, observations or thematic writing.

  1. Gather an apple, a pear, a peach, a plum and a cherry. Carefully cut each in half, starting at the stem end. Sketch what you see. What is the same about all these fruits? What is different?
  2. Cut an apple from end to end, along the core. Sketch what you see. Note the core line. Can you connect the stem to the flower end through the core? Why?
  3. Cut another apple across the core. Sketch what you see in this view. Identify the flower parts that formed what you see. Draw the seed cells. Can you see faint dots between the cells? What do you think these are? How many seeds do you find in each cell (carpel)?
  4. List all the apple varieties you know. Use other resources to find more names. Sort them by use, color, country of origin.

Want a Report Cover or Fun Word Wall?

science strategies apple flower botany

Download it here

Two Experiments

These experiments are adapted from The Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock), where you can get many other ideas for prompts for botany journaling or classroom discussion, as well as great background information for you, the teacher.

science strategies apple flower botany

Handbook of Nature Study, $23.67, Barnes & Noble (click on image for ordering information).

Experiment 1. The role of the apple peel

Take three apples of similar size, shape, and soundness. Peel one. Place the peeled apple on a desk or shelf. Place one of the unpeeled apples so that it is touching the peeled apple. Place the remaining unpeeled apple on the other side of the peeled apple, but at a distance, so it does not touch.

Which one would you predict would rot first? Which one would you predict would rot next? Where would the rot start? Why do you think this?

Develop a hypothesis to explain your thinking. Explain what you think the role  the skin serves in the life cycle of the apple tree.

Observe the apples for rot over the next several days. Evaluate your hypothesis.

science strategies apple flower botany

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Experiment 2: More on the role of the apple peel

Take the rotten apple from the first experiment. Use a safety pin or a needle to prick the flesh of the rotten fruit, then use the juice-covered pin to prick a healthy fruit. Go back and forth, pricking the rotten fruit once, then pricking the good fruit, making your initials in the good fruit. Put the inoculated apple on a desk or table. Throw away the rotten fruit or compost it.

Develop a hypothesis about where rot will begin on the inoculated fruit.

Observe the inoculated fruit over the next several days. Note where rot begins. Explain why you think this is so. Also relate your findings to how apples should be handled at the orchard, in shipping, and in the grocery store, to ensure long shelf life.

science strategies apple flower botany

See “Favorite Photo Friday” for more about this photo! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Share Your Work!

Make sure that you share your October apple work on the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Entries are due on October 26, for posting by November 1.

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Homeschoolers do some awesome things. My friend, Barbara McCoy, has a great blog at Handbook of Nature Study, with many great ideas for outdoor time. I love her “Grid Strategy” for focusing nature studies.  Read more about this method, and … Continue reading


We have been busy working on nature study projects involving wildflowers, seeds and other fall wonders. The August/September garden is just bursting with color! In a couple of short weeks, the red maples will begin to announce the shifting of … Continue reading

The “One Small Square” Strategy: Mushrooms and Other “Fun Guys”

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[Edited and re-blogged from “A Child’s Garden,” September 2011. All photographs (c)2010-11, Kim M. Bennett/Simple Science Strategies.]

We originally completed this study last fall, but are re-submitting this for the current SSS Blog Carnival, because it made good use of the “One Small Square” Strategy, the focus strategy for Week 3 of the September Newsletter, and focused on mushrooms, the topic for Week 2!

Mushrooms love the wood chips in my flower bed (Hartford, Connecticut, 2011).

We sure have had some wild weather here in New England at the end of the Summer of 2011. We have had so much rain that the crop of mushrooms sprouting up everywhere has been very interesting and incredible.

Fall, especially the Back to School time, is always a prime time to go mushroom exploring, with the warm days, cool nights and more frequent rain.  Also be on the look-out for mushroom cousins, the slime molds and actinomycetes, that you probably mistake for their more well-known family members. Here is a mushroom study that you can do for September.


Before You Go Outside:

Tiny shelf fungi on a dead tree. (Fenton-Ruby Park and Preserve, Willington, Connecticut, 2010.)


  • Read up on mushrooms. The Handbook of Nature Study has a very thorough discussion of many of the types of fungi that you might see on an expedition, on pages 714-727. If you read a little further, you can learn about their indoor cousins, the bread molds (pp. 727-728).
  • The Handbook of Nature Study website has an Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge on Mushrooms that has excellent links to videos, notebooking pages and other resources.
  • Gather materials you might need for a mushroom study: clipboards and pencils, hand lenses, a long plant tag or flag to mark your mushroom spot, plastic food service gloves.
  • Read One Small Square: Practice Looking Closely at the World and  Outdoor Hour Challenge #9: One Small Square for descriptions of how to carry out the observation activity. 
  • Prepare observation sheets for each child. 
  • Review routines: “How to Work With a Partner.”
  • Teach safety rules about potentially poisonous plants.


Honey mushrooms in a shady flower bed. (Hartford, Connecticut, 2010).

Observing Mushrooms and Their Cousins:

A mushroom study lends itself well to a multiple-day observation, since the fruiting body of most fungi only remains for a few days, and changes considerably with time and the weather.

Step 1: Note the location of some fungi on a nature walk.

Some places to look include wood chipped areas of a school flower garden or playground, rotting logs, tree stumps, and places where a tree once stood. At this time of year, a whole crop can pop up literally overnight, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any on a particular day.

Be on the lookout for the little “buttons” of some mushrooms that look like tan bumps before they sprout up the next day.

Step 2: Use the One Small Square technique to sketch what you observe.
Step 3: Mark the location with a stick or “flag” so you can find it the next day.

Step 4: Return to sketch changes for the next few days, until the mushroom collapses.

Mushrooms change very quickly from day to day, which is exciting for kids. Note the weather each time you observe (that day’s as well as the weather from previous days). These observation forms have a place to record the weather.

Each day you observe, ask the students some questions:

  • How did your mushroom change? Why do you think this happened?
  • What was the weather like the day before? How might that have affected the mushroom?
  • What type of weather do mushrooms prefer? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
  • Where are the mushrooms growing? What is the ground like there? Are there any trees around?
  • Do you see any insects around the mushroom? What are they doing?
  • Does your mushroom have a smell? (Make sure that children don’t handle the mushrooms without wearing gloves, because some poisonous mushrooms resemble harmless ones.)

Classroom Follow-up: 

Study the Anatomy of a Mushroom —

  • Enchanted Learning has a diagram of a gilled mushroom that students can label, to learn the anatomy of one type of mushroom.
  • The Mushroom Lady has a pile of activities that will get your kids really studying mushrooms in-depth.

Learn About Mushroom Relatives —

  • Here is a handy sheet of terms that you might want to study, so that you correctly distinguish between fungi, actinomycetes, slime molds and other fungus-like organisms.

Study Edible Mushrooms (and Eat Them!) —

  • Create a mushroom study station with stereoscopes and various edible mushrooms from your grocer’s produce department: shiitake, oyster, portabella, white button, straw, crimini…

Fairy Rings, Faerie Houses and Other Literacy Connections —

  • Study the folklore surrounding fairy rings and faerie houses.
  • Build a faerie house (or two or 10…) along your school nature trail or in your backyard garden.

Faeries and other woodland creatures — literacy connection!


One Small Square: Backyard. $2.43 at Barnes & Noble.

A voyage of scientific discovery is as near as your own backyard. There you’ll find a busy hub, full of creepers and crawlers, lifters and leapers, singers, buzzers, climbers, builders, and recyclers. It’s a place where children can smell, listen, look, and get a hands-on feel for life, all in one small square of land and air. Backyard is just one of the exciting, vibrantly illustrated volumes in the critically acclaimed One Small Square series of science and nature books for children. Click on the photo (right) for information on ordering this great addition to your homeschool or classroom science library. (Helpful hint: I had multiple copies for my science center).

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Sketching for Understanding: The Sketch Journal

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Sketching to show understanding – an important skill in science.

[My apologies to readers who looked for this post last weekend — I had some surgery, and am finally up and around, and able to think!]

So Far, in September…

We have been working on the science process skill of observation this month, and are learning different ways to encourage our students to look closely at the world around them.

Last week, we took a sock walk to find hidden treasures on our nature walks, and used an observation sheet  to record the things we noticed and the things we wondered about our outdoor observations.

This week, we will explore another way to help students of all ages to make detailed observations about the natural world: the sketch journal.

Why Sketching?

A literacy coach friend of mine reminds teachers that speaking is a rehearsal for writing. As an early childhood educator, I also know that, when little ones draw, the story is in the drawing process, and that you really only know the whole story when you sit side by side the child as he draws and narrates. So speaking, drawing and writing are interwoven as alternative ways of expressive language.

This connection is clear when we look at this writing skill trace in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.3 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.3 Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.2.3 Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

As you can see, there is a shift from the details being provided in the narration and illustrations, to an increasing level of detail being provided in the written text.

For more information on the connections between drawing, writing and understanding in infants and toddlers, see Marks and Mind, by Dr. Susan Rich Sheridan. If you are torn between a science journal and a science notebook, read “Nature Journal or Nature Notebook?” (Barbara McCoy, Handbook of Nature Study) for some insight. To see how researchers believe that doodling may help unlock scientific thinking in high school and college students, read “Doodling May Draw Students into Science,” at LiveScience.

Success for All…

Another reason to include drawings as an method for collecting detailed observations is that drawing offers a built-in scaffold for students who need more support in writing:

  • English Language Learners
  • Students with disabilities
  • Younger students and other “pre-readers”
  • Students who need another “pre-writing” step

Even for students from whom you would expect a well-written narrative, starting with even a quick sketch helps them focus on the most important details, and can provide a helpful way to focus on a new concept (such as mood), without being encumbered by working with printed words.

The Role of Sketching in Science

This month, we have been focusing on the science standards around Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information, in which conveying observations through detailed illustrations would be an important subskill. In our current month’s studies (wildflowers and their seeds, mushrooms and lichens, ant colonies, and feeder birds), sketching can play an important role in developing models of living things: cross-sections of dicot and monocot seeds, diagrams showing the fruiting bodies of different types of fungi, illustrations of typical termite colonies, labeled photographs of the types of feathers on a bird. As previously stated, a well-developed sketch conveys detailed information about the item being observed.

Nature and science sketch books can include open-ended assignments, or have a specific focus (see “The Nature Corner: An Invitation to Observe” for some ideas on ways to create specific assignments for sketch books).

Creating Sketch Books

Sketch books are totally customizable. Here are some (very general) guidelines for creating sketch books for science:


  • If you use prebound notebooks (such as spiral or composition notebooks), allow students one class session to customize the cover, using magazine illustrations, scrapbooking supplies, and personal effects to personalize the notebooks. My experience with educators through high school level is that students are less likely to lose a notebook that they have “created” for themselves.
  • If you make a notebook using a 3-ring binder, get 1-inch binders that have the clear pocket for a cover insert. There are many templates available for creating front, back and spine covers for 3-ring notebooks of many sizes. has generic (but editable) ones. The Notebooking Treasury includes notebook cover art and spine covers for many of its notebooking sets.


When I create notebooks with kids, I tend to print out many different types of pages, because I find that different pages “ask” to be used for different purposes.

  • Framed Pages… Full page frames lead students to create full illustrations of the item they are studying. When a page contains smaller frames, or smaller frames and lined sections, students include captions or labels for the illustrations. Numbering the frames draws students to sequence illustrations.
  • Blank Pages… These are useful when students are using art materials such as watercolors or pastels, to respond. Some students need help when faced with a totally blank page, so be prepared to model how you would “attack” a blank piece of paper.
  • Graph Paper… Two of my own children, and many of my elementary students, struggled when faced with paper without lines. Graph paper helps students with perspective, and proportion, two concepts that are challenging for budding “sketchers.” Depending on the size of the grid, graph paper can also help students focus on details more.
  • Lined Paper… Of course you will want a ready supply of lined paper to add pages for writing in between sketches.
  • Novelty Pages… Including scrapbooking or themed notebooking pages (e.g., these interesting elements pages for high school chemistry notebookers) helps to spark ideas for science sketch books, and can help students organize their work. Many commercial notebooking page sites offer notebook section pages such as this.
  • Novelty Paper… One of my kindergarten teachers finds that just introducing a new writing page into her writing center creates increased interest in writing and journaling.

Art materials

I had one of those three-basket, colorful, wire carts on wheels, that you can get for a few dollars at most department stores. I stored all of my everyday art materials here, and parked the cart in the middle of the room for ready use.  What did I include on the cart?

  1. a class set of watercolors (8 colors), numbered with student numbers
  2. skinny brushes (more than enough for the class)
  3. medium brushes (ditto)
  4. table sets of skinny markers, in pencil boxes (24 colors or so)
  5. a class set of crayons (16 colors), numbered with student numbers
  6. a class set of scissors (I liked Fiskars), numbered with student numbers
  7. table sets of #2 pencils, in pencil boxes
  8. a stash of pencil grips
  9. a stash of cap erasers
  10. more than enough glue sticks for the class

Other materials would be placed in centers or at tables, as needed: magazines, construction paper, scrapbooking or wrapping paper, poster paints, etc.

Teaching strategies

My eldest son loved to create journals, and used skinny markers and invented spelling from an early age, to chronicle all types of outdoor explorations, and could spend hours coloring. My middle son preferred graph paper and elaborate diagrams, usually of inventions, labeled and created in #2 pencil. Coloring and writing bored him, but drawing did not. My youngest son preferred NOT to sketch, at all, but was quite adept at creating diagrams, preferring graph paper to other types, and wrote detailed narratives to accompany them.

So, if I use my three guys as a representative sample of kids, I know that, as in other areas of teaching, strategies for sketching need to be included as part of the process of creating a sketch book. In the next section are some that I’ve learned over the years.

Sketching Strategies

  • The 10-minute Quick Sketch. This is a useful strategy for helping students organize their thoughts before asking them to write about an observation. It’s a good strategy to teach important vs. interesting details, and for focusing on a particular idea (e.g., a quick sketch to show the feeding behavior of a robin). YOU WILL HAVE TO PRACTICE THIS ONE WITH KIDS! They want to spend a hundred years.

A Quick-Sketch of the parts of a feather, as part of a “Fill in the Page” Study — two strategies in one! Notice how the student used sketching, scrapbooking and feather specimens as part of the study.

  • Fill the Page. This strategy (and the next two) come from my friend, Barbara McCoy, blogger, nature study-er and homeschooler, who has a flair for art and how to incorporate it into nature study – see her blogs at Handbook of Nature Study and Harmony Art Mom. The “Fill the Page” strategy is useful for encouraging stamina in sketching/writing. The goal is to fill the page, with artifacts (e.g., found feathers), notes and drawings. The ONLY rule is the page is filled. This really helped my reluctant nature student!

The “Fill the Page” Strategy used in a study of shark teeth. The student included actual objects, drawings, diagrams and written narration on the same page.

  • Fill in the Circle.  A variation of “Fill the Page,” which uses a smaller area for the illustration. Barbara McCoy shows how she uses the “Fill in the Circle” strategy with her homeschoolers at Handbook of Nature Study.

The “Fill in the Circle” Strategy (and a mini-book) used in a Spanish language study of dandelions. We began by coloring a line drawing within the circle, then progressed to providing the complete illustration.

  • Fill in With Words. This is a variation on “Fill the Page,” with the goal to use words, only, to fill in the page. This is a good next step for students who are having trouble moving from sketching to using words, because the goal, as in the previous, is to just fill the page.

We varied the amount of area to fill in, when using the “Fill in With Words” Strategy, as my son’s stamina for journaling increased.

  • Draw What You See. Kids want to draw what they think they see, instead of what they really see. Good practice for this, before using real objects, is to include black and white drawings, and grid paper, and have students copy the drawing exactly. Donna Young has some simple art exercises that focus on copying increasingly complex designs — a helpful step when working with students on accurate rendering of their observations.

We used the “Draw What You See” Strategy for this sketch of Queen Anne’s Lace — notice that my son even included his pencil in the sketch!

  • Focus on… Labels, Titles, Captions, Scale (etc). Connect the science sketch book to other content areas by focusing the written part on a particular concept, such as labels (part-to-whole relationships), titles (main idea or theme), captions (summarizing), or scale (proportions), just to name a few. Practice for this strategy could include pre-made drawings for which students provide the focus. This is a great connection to the use of non-fiction text features in language arts.

An independent work showing a labeled design for a bigger, better bird feeding station, showing a focus on labels.

Houghton-Mifflin has some interesting tasks that can be used to help students reflect on and refine their skills at science drawing.

See the “Apple a Day” set of September notebooking pages for a study of the apple fruit and flower, and the September promotion of my new e-Book, The Gentle Art of Observation, for more ideas on observation for homeschool and classroom.

Find Almost Free Art Supplies, with the help of this handy little book. $3.99 at Barnes and Noble (click the image for ordering information).

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Taking a Sock Walk: a Strategy for Nature Study

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Take a sock walk to get a closer look at the seeds in your area. (Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012)

[This article is the first in a series to accompany the September Simple Science Newsletter. Click on the link for more information, and the other nature studies in the series for the month.]

Getting Kids’ Attention…

When it comes to things to observe in the environment, seeds are one of the toughest items to draw a child’s attention.

  • They are small (often very small…)…
  • They are often hidden…
  • They are brown…
  • They aren’t very flashy…

In the birding world, birders refer to the plethora of sparrows, inconspicuous warblers and other tiny brown birds as “LBJs,” or “little brown jobs.” Like our seeds, they don’t stand out, and tend to blend into the backdrop, as well as into each other.

Seeds might be the “little brown jobs” of the plant world. In short, if we struggle to get kids to notice things around them, anyway, we have to nearly bend over backwards to get them to pay attention to things like seeds. So, we develop engaging ways to get them to interact with their surroundings. Such as a “sock walk.”

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The Nature Corner: An Invitation to Observe

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Invitations are hands on, rich learning opportunities that are designed to connect with students’ background knowledge and interest and deepen their knowledge about a topic.

By carefully selecting the materials to put in the invitation, a teacher can guide a student to coming to an important conclusion, lead the student toward a skill goal, or create a burning question that compels a student to want to learn more.

When designing an invitation, remember that the root word of “invitation” is invite. That means, the materials engage and draw in the students, to lead them to the big learning that you desire. However, because invitations are open-ended, we also must be prepared for divergent responses to the materials in the center — there is not a “right” answer to the work. You might place a bucket of seashells in the sensory table, and sorting buckets, but one little guy might create a story about the little creature who lived in one whelk shell.

Safariology: My Bug Box (with four magnifying/sorting compartments, tweezers and activity book). $10.98 at HearthSong.

Designing Your Invitation

Here are the considerations when designing the invitation in your nature center:

  • What’s my learning goal?
  • What do I want my students to focus on?
  • What materials will lead them to this focus?
  • How will the students show what they know?

So, what do you put in a nature center that invites students to observe? Read below for ideas for a botany nature corner:

Focus on… Color and Details

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Flowers with lots of color and details, such as bugleweed, butterfly weed or lantana
  • Art materials that create fine details: pencils (regular and colored), fine-tip markers, skinny paint brushes and watercolors
  • Sketch journals

Focus on… Looking Closely

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Flowers or plant material with fine details, such as lichens, Queen Anne’s lace, or goldenrod
  • Hand lenses, viewing boxes, stereoscopes and magnifying glasses
  • Very sharp pencils
  • Notebooking pages with frames and lined areas for journaling

Focus on… Looking Inside

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Seed pods or structures that can be cut or pried open, such as milkweed pods, black locust or honeylocust pods, or insect galls
  • Plastic, disposable knives and child scissors, tweezers
  • Plastic trays or small cutting boards
  • Pencils and blank copy paper, folded in half (labeled “Outside” and “Inside”)

Focus on… Order and Sequence

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Plant material with flowers and seed heads in various stages of maturation, such as red clover, dandelions, or wild roses
  • Art supplies: colored pencils, fine-tip black markers
  • Notebooking pages with multiple frames to show sequence, or Flow Maps

Focus on… Describing with Adjectives

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Any interesting natural objects, such as wildflowers, seashells, mosses or other items
  • Writing tools: pencils, erasers
  • Copies of paper for making Bubble Maps, concept webs, or an Observation Page (“I Notice… I Wonder…”)

Focus on… Similarities and Differences

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Plant materials that are very similar, such as several types of grass seed heads, flowers from different goldenrod species, or acorns from different species of oak
  • Writing tools: pencils, erasers
  • Blank paper for making Double Bubble Maps or  Venn diagrams

Focus on… Whole and Parts

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Kim M. Bennett

  • Large flower/seed heads that can be dissected with hands, such as sunflower heads or small ears of ornamental corn
  • Tweezers and sorting containers
  • Copies of Brace Maps or blank paper to create them


For more examples and information on invitations and nature centers:

For more ideas on observations and nature study:


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