Notes from the Naturalist Week 5: Nature Preschool at HCMA

Autumn and all its accoutrements are settling in around us. From falling leaves, crunchy acorns beneath our feet, and crisp morning air, we are embracing earth’s annual changes.  There are so many items to search for, gather and collect for the long winter ahead. Items for sorting, crafting or just for simple play. All important and all natural. Out for a walk we went and with the help of beautifully crafted “gathering bags” handmade by Gram, we collected up a storm.  The children loved having their own bag to gather items. The bags helped each child select items that were important or meaningful and it gave us a glimpse into each child’s interest

Gathering and sorting is such an important task and skill at any age level or degree. Sorting puts order to our world and is an important first step in understanding math concepts. “Getting practice with sorting at an early age is important for numerical concepts and grouping numbers and sets when they're older. This type of thinking starts them on the path of applying logical thinking to objects, mathematical concepts and everyday life in general. Studies have even been shown that kids who are used to comparing and contrasting do better in mathematics later on”. –Peaceful Parenting

The world of science and investigative research is beholden to gathering and collecting and provides us with important information. It first starts out as a puzzle piece and it soon leads to a picture. With this type of thinking, our young naturalists are learning the basic art of putting a critical eye to the ground or sky to figure out important information such as: who, what, when, where, why, how, of our natural environment. Each of our gathering bags today differed according to the interests of each child. It was a beautiful surprise to open each bag and see into the mind of our tiny scientists / naturalists.  Some bags were filled with singular items such as acorns, pine cones and leaves. Some had a mix of sticks or stones. Some were filled to the top and others with almost nothing. If we put our puzzle pieces together, one might gather information regarding the location of our walk-about today. 

We have been talking a lot about the trees around us on our walks and around the lodge. Today we started the conversation about Deciduous or broad-leaf trees and Coniferous or cone-bearing trees. This will eventually help us in understanding how trees adapt to the changing weather. Soon our children will ask why some trees drop their leaves and some still have needles on them.  The beauty of our place and this space is that our “Outdoor Classroom” will illustrate each change around us, before our very eyes.  Each day we stretch our children’s vocabulary, knowing it might not stick, it might not make sense in that moment, but it’s so very important to give our naturalists the tools to sort and order that which is happening around them. And it all starts with the words; a simple tool, to start the investigation.

For more information on Gathering and Sorting:

For more information on Deciduous and Coniferous trees: