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Just as early childhood teachers are the guardians of children’s environments, they are also engaged as partners with children in providing nourishment and inspiration. As you assess your Field Experience setting for direct and indirect natural elements both indoors and out, take on the role of guardian and partner. Consider: What might I add to this environment that infuses nature, which in turn will foster emotional connectedness, engage children’s wonder and awe, and foster discovery and exploration.
Review the entire Assignment and then arrange time to talk with your Host Teacher to explain it to them. Be sure to explain that you will be adapting some aspect of the indoor or outdoor environment of the setting by introducing one or more natural elements.
You will need to make sure that you plan time in your Field Experience setting for the following:
Observe the indoor and outdoor environments in some detail and discuss your observations with the Host Teacher.
Bring in and set up the direct or indirect natural elements you plan to infuse into the environment.
Observe the reactions and responses of the children to the change(s) you have made.
Part 1: Infusing Nature Into an Early Childhood Setting
Once you have arranged a schedule with your Host Teacher, complete the following:
Spend at least an hour observing in the setting, considering the inside and outside environments. Use the Indirect and Direct Natural Elements Assessment and Budget Recommendations template to record your observations and assessment of the natural elements that may be present.
Imagine that you have been given a budget that must be used to infuse direct and/or indirect natural elements into this early childhood environment. Complete the template for all three budget levels: $0, $100, and $1,000.
Note: As you consider what you would choose for the $0-dollar (or free) level, think about what you would like to bring into the setting to share with the children for Part 3 of this Assignment.
For each level on the budget template, provide at least 3 examples of what you would “purchase,” i.e., items that you believe would be wonderful ways to infuse direct and/or indirect natural elements into the environment. Include a title, short description, whether the item is a director or indirect element, and your rationale for the inclusion of each element in your budget template.
Part 2: Introducing Natural Elements
For Part 2 of this Assignment, you will introduce at least one direct or indirect natural element to the children in the early childhood setting where you are completing your Field Experience. For example, you might set up a display of silkworms, earthworms, or an ant farm on a table that is accessible to the children along with magnifying glasses and small notebooks for children to use to record their observations. Or you might bring in a selection of leaves from a variety of trees to share during circle time, watching as the children explore the leaves with all their senses and recording children’s observations about the leaves. There are so many ways to share and infuse natural elements. As you decide what you would like to share, consider what might provoke children’s wonder, awe, and sense of discovery. Then, observe their reactions and take notes to document what they say and do. Complete the Introducing Natural Elements Template as a record of this experience.
Share your natural elements assessment and budget recommendations with your Host Teacher and discuss:
Whether the ideas you recommended related to infusing nature in your Field Experience setting would be beneficial to children and why
Your Host Teacher’s thoughts about how nature is infused in their environment and what your Host Teacher would like to do to improve this
Feedback on the natural element you chose to share with children and how children responded to the experience
Part 3: Field Experience Journal
In this Assignment, you learned about the importance of infusing nature into early childhood environments. Use the Field Experience Journal template and write a reflection on your experiences of this Assignment. Include your responses to these questions:
What is the key takeaway that I have personally learned from this Assignment?
How did the information I shared about infusing nature into early childhood settings impact my Host Teacher’s thinking?
How can nature-based environments support discovery, exploration, and learning related to the content areas?
As an early childhood professional, how would I advocate for the value of nature-based environments for young children?
Submit your completed Assignment parts:
Indirect and Direct Natural Elements Assessment and Budget Recommendations Template
Introducing Natural Elements Template
Field Experience Journal