Getting to know our environment

Resource Info

Basic Information

Children are inquisitive by nature and enjoy investigating the world around them.  Why not use this curiosity to help them learn as they explore and observe their surroundings?

Duration: 
04 hours 00 mins
Introduction: 

Learning by exploring is something people do all through their lives. With children, this exploration becomes an adventure, and they begin to absorb concepts that will remain etched in their minds forever. A close observation of animal and plant life can impart lessons that perhaps no text book can.

Objective: 

1.      To impart observation and note-taking skills

2.      Art and craft concepts are reinforced

3.      A beginning can be made in imparting writing skills by using the visual medium

Activity Steps: 

A stroll in the garden

Take children to a garden (a botanical garden would be the ideal choice). Give them specific guidelines and let them explore and have fun.

  • Ask them to look for the different varieties of plants, trees, and bushes.
  • Let them observe the different kinds of leaves that are there.
  • Let them also observe the insects that visit the plants and trees. Instruct them to note down any or all of their observations in a notebook. After the observations, make them sit together, compare notes and discuss the following:
    1. How do plants prepare their food?
    2. Why do some plants have flowers while some do not?
    3. What is grass?
    4. How to determine the age of trees?
    5. Speak to the gardener to find out how he takes care of the garden.

As homework, ask the children to collect different kinds of leaves and paste them in a scrapbook and record any unique variety of plant, leaf, or flower that they come across.

A clear vision

Children respond better to a visual medium like the television. Learning becomes fun if it is made their favorite pastime.

  • Show them a pre-recorded video clipping of animal or plant life from the Discovery or the National Geographic Channel. Allow them to ask questions and seek answers. Divide such sessions into three halves. After each session, discuss the animals’ behaviour or their feeding habits.

Directed watching

You could decide on a particular programme and direct children to watch it at home and hold a discussion in class the following day.

Pre-viewing session

  • Decide on a programme that is relevant to the class topic and give students specific instructions.
  • Make a connection between the class lesson and the programme. For example, if the lesson is on wild animals and more specifically on lions, then they could watch a programme about lions.
  • Provide them with details like the name of the channel, the programme time and the name of the series to ensure that they do not miss it.
  • Give them guidelines on what to look for in the programme. For example, if you want them to look at the lion closely, its feeding habits, its familial consideration and the hunting game, then tell the children very clearly. And if possible, write it in their homework diaries, so that parents are aware of the activity as well.
  • Ask them to note down details in their notebooks (for later comparisons in class) as they watch the programme.

Let there not a big gap between the viewing and the discussion, lest children forget the details.

Post-viewing session

Initiate a general discussion in class by posing a simple question like, “Why is the lion called the king of the jungle?” This will start off a lively debate. Once they are warmed up, talk specifically about the programme itself.

·        Ask the children to list all the things they saw, one by one.

·        Write each of the things on the blackboard.

·        If they have missed out on something, encourage them to recollect the programme.

·        Divide the class into four groups. Let each group compile different facts on the various aspects. Group 1 could talk about lions in general or their habitat.  Group 2 could talk about the lion’s hunting habits. Group 3 could present the feeding habits of the lion. Group 4 could talk about the lion’s familial patterns. Organize the discussion meticulously, taking care not to digress too much, write down each of the points on the board. After the children have had their say, point out any of the missing facts and explain it to them. For example, you could ask them, “Does the lion hunt when it isn’t hungry?”

Back home, they could prepare a small write-up, based on the input given in class. They could also prepare a chart on the topic for posterity.

A trip to the beach

Organize an outdoor trip to wake up young minds stifled within the walls of the classroom. If there is a beach in your city, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit it. Announce in the class about the trip and make the purpose of the trip very clear to students. You could also substitute the trip with an outing to a lake or riverside and change the observations accordingly

  • Ask them to look for specific things like shells, conches, and snails on the beach.
  • Spend a good deal of time at the beach to allow children to enjoy and explore.
  • After the frolic, organize them and make them sit in a circle to discuss.  Pose questions like:
    1. Why is the water salty?
    2. How are shells and conches formed?
    3. Why is the sand soft near the water and rough at the shore?
    4. Could whales and sharks be found in beaches? Why? Why not?
    5. How are waves formed?
    6. Initiate a discussion of each of the questions and elicit responses from them. Give them sufficient time to think. They may come up with illogical conclusions. Persist with them and resist the urge to reveal the answers in a hurry. The idea is to motivate them to think, not make them gulp facts and regurgitate them.
    7. Note down any other observations that they might have and explain to them the importance of keeping the beach clean and not littering it.

As an assignment, they could submit a report on the topic, based on their observations and the discussions thereof.

Let the children learn to experiment, to make mistakes and to persist. Encourage them to question. If they ask, “Why do birds live in nests?”, say, “Let’s find out”. Always be ready to say that. Children will be a lot happier to see that learning is not drudgery. And learning is something to be enjoyed-everyday-for a lifetime!

This article first appeared in Teacher Plus, Issue No.64, January-February 2000 and has been adapted here with changes.

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