Here is a summary of the materials mentioned throughout the posts on observation. Click on individual items to link to sites for more information, or for direct ordering from the supplier.
I use a variety of magnifiers in the classroom, including tiny, inexpensive magnifying glasses that you buy by the box load, large wooden-handled hand lenses for making things REALLY BIG (great for little hands), and viewing containers with built-in magnifiers, great for observing critters that kids find outside during nature walks. Here are some that are available for purchase.
- class set of mini hand lenses (number them and place them in students’ individual toolboxes)
- 5 large, hand-held lenses to place in a center
- class set of viewing containers (store on shelf near science center)
- 1-2 other larger viewers (e.g., bug zoos with built-in magnifiers), for novelty
- 1 Stereoscope (optional, for elementary grades)
NOTE: I have not personally used the Eco Explorer or Talking Microscopes. For the microscope, I opted for a low-end stereoscope from Carolina Biologicals, but it was an outgrown gift for one of my own children, and might be beyond what the typical classroom teacher would spend for a classroom item. Here is a link if you’re interested in a similar item.
The Bug Box was purchased for my eldest son at a church tag sale, and lasted through my two oldest kids, then 7 years of third graders. For the price listed here and the durability, you could get one for each student.
Art Response materials
I almost always purchased these at a local dollar store or at Wal-Mart. I purchased a colorful cart of bent tubing, with plastic-coated shelves, and placed baskets of art materials in the cart — our “art cart.” This art cart could be rolled around the room at will, but usually “rested” in the center of the room, for community access.
Alternatively, you could place specific items at the center, in a basket with a handle. I would purchase at least 5 of each item (to stock a center). Some items I had class sets of (paint sets). I numbered them and stored them, but each student had his own assigned set. Bear in mind that I accumulated these items over a long period of time, so you might have to purchase them a little each year.
NOTE: I have had a subscription to the Notebooking Treasury for years. You simply cannot find another source for so many pages to use for journaling and notebooking, in all subjects. A bonus for subscribers is a free tool to create your own notebooking pages, using templates and components provided by the Notebooking Treasury. See their nature study notebooking pages bundle, 292-pages for $10.95.
I also have purchased a subscription to Enchanted Learning, since I first became an elementary teacher. The subscription pays for itself quickly.
You probably have many of these items already, but, in case you’re just starting out stocking a new classroom, here is my list for this topic (links point to Dollar Days for quick purchase):
Drawing & Writing Tools
- fine line markers (colored, black) – washable and permanent (at least 5 sets – class sets would be great)
- fine paintbrushes (buy a bunch – they wear out quickly)
- colored pencils (see note for markers)
- watercolors (class set is best)
- pencils #2
- charcoal pencils of other hardness (optional) (1-2 kits, for special lessons)
- sketch pad paper (useful for marker, charcoal and watercolor work – tear off pages and create your own student sketch journals)
- newsprint paper (for pencil sketches) – tear off pages as needed
- copy paper (for creating individual sketch journals – good for marker, colored pencil and sketch work)
- Notebooking Treasury – a subscription service for downloading zillions of notebooking pages on any topic
- Enchanted Learning – a subscription service for dowloading research, worksheets, organizers, notebooking and journaling pages on many topics
- Child safety scissors (class set) [NOTE: I preferred Fiskars, which are much more expensive, but they don’t ever break]
- Plastic knives (a box from the grocery store will do)
- Tweezers (five, or enough for partners, or class set – the link here is a lot of 48, at $0.83/each)
- Plastic trays or placemats (5 – I used to buy 4 sets, to go with each season, and rotate them)
- Small cutting boards (5 – I bought them up at tag sales. An alternative: wash and save the styrofoam trays from produce and meat, and replace them as needed)
- Erasers (class set)
- Mini-baskets (one per group of 4 students, or one per table) – various sizes, for pencils, for small tools, and for paperwork)
Books for Your Library
Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock)
Although it is available online for free, you will want to purchase a copy of Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock (for Cornellians out there, you will recognize this author as the namesake of Comstock Hall, which was the entomology building when I was there).
There are illustrations, important scientific points, and lots and lots of questions that you can use when conducting nature studies with kids of all ages. Our copy lives on the coffee table in the living room.
Peterson’s Field Guides
There are many field guides available. We have a National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which is organized taxonomically. This works for us, because we have been birders for many years, and can usually tell if we’re looking at a warbler, a sparrow or a finch.
However, if you are really stumped about a sighting, and need to flip through until you see a photo of the plant or animal you are observing, that’s a lot of flipping. The Peterson’s Guides come in handy for this (especially for wildflowers), because they are organized by color. Although not at all a botanically correct way to group plants, for the untrained eye, it helps you at least narrow down the choices.
One Small Square Series (Don Silver)
For this study, I focused on “Backyard,” as anyone can use that volume, anywhere. See the section on “Teaching Using the One Small Square Series” for additional titles. I had several of them in my classroom library – they were class favorites. For this unit, purchase 5 or more copies of Backyard, if using as part of a center or small reading group, or purchase a class set if used as a shared reading. Here are some other volumes in the series (as of this writing):
- Cactus Desert
- Night Sky
- African Savanna
- Arctic Tundra
- Coral Reef