The children are good at deciphering between what is nature and what is not, When showing them different items, they were able to easily group them into nature/not nature. But when asked how they know which group to put something in, they had difficulty verbalizing their decisions. It seems they have an intuitive grasp on what makes something nature.
-Nature is outside
-Trees are nature
-Worms are nature
-Slugs are nature
But how do you know if something is nature?
-If you find it outside, it's nature.
Oh, so if I find a penny outside, that's nature?
-No! Someone could have dropped it there.
How do you tell if something is nature or if it got dropped there?
-It's just, you know, nature is outside. Ok, if you find something outside, bring it to school and I will tell you if it's nature.
Is there any nature inside?
-Yes, like maybe you found something outside and brought it inside.
So our first working definition of nature was "Something you find outside." I let that definition sit for a few days. Then I brought in a tennis ball and a leaf and excitedly told a group of children that I found some things outside for our nature table.
--Ok, this (pointing to the leaf) is nature, but the ball is not.
How do you know? I found them outside.
-My dad buys this same ball at the store for my dog, he died. He bought it at a store. So maybe someone dropped this ball outside, like a dog left it outside.
Ok, so maybe where something starts is important?
-Yeah, so nature starts outside.
That concept will be key in expanding our definition.
Are trains nature?
They are outside.
-No, they are metal.
Another key concept introduced that will help us form our expanding definition. Gently nudging and guiding this discussion is far more interesting, engaging, and thought provoking than having provided a definition on day one. Going through this process helps children develop important thinking and verbal communication skills. But most of all, it allows children to construct meaning in a satisfying manner--to experience those "aha" moments that make learning and discovery exciting!