Nature Themed Kids Books
As an early childhood educator with a deep love for the natural world, I have always found joy in exploring the wonders of nature with young children and encouraging an interest in sustainability. From gardening with my parents and nature crafts with my kindy mates, to immersing myself in the beauty of the bush with family, these experiences have shaped my journey and ignited my fascination with the environment and environmental education education. Bees, in particular have played a significant role in my life, from my grandad pointing out the hives on the hill of his farm and explaining pollination, to being a collector of bee and jewellery to now having a partner who is a commercial beekeeper (not the only reason he’s lovely!). So I am particularly thrilled about my upcoming picture book, ‘The Beehive,’ set to be released in Feb 2024 through Walker Books.
Importance of Exploring the Natural World in Early Childhood Education
In early childhood education, being in the natural world provides a wealth of opportunities for children to learn, grow, and develop a deep connection with the environment. By immersing themselves in nature and issues of sustainability, children cultivate a sense of wonder, curiosity, and respect for the world around them. It is through these experiences that they develop a foundation for understanding sustainability and their role as stewards of the Earth.
The Significance of Books on Sustainability and Nature
Children’s literature serves as a powerful tool for engaging young minds in conversations about sustainability and the natural world. Books allow us to see the world from different perspectives, encouraging empathy, and expanding our knowledge. Stories that tackle themes of sustainability and nature provide a platform for discussion, enabling children to gather ideas and embark on journeys of learning and action.
Incorporating Books into Educational Programs
To effectively incorporate books on sustainability and nature into educational programs, we can take various approaches. Reading outdoors in nature obviously provides a magical setting for storytime and just reading, sitting mindfully and reading gently in nature encourages a sense of being comfortable in the leaf litter, sitting on grass and feeling a part of the outdoors. Prior to a bushwalk, introducing books about local birds or flora can act as a provocation and enhance children’s observation skills. Engaging in nature craft activities inspired by books fosters creativity and environmental awareness. Additionally, addressing topics such as composting, worm farms, and bees through literature and non-fiction texts opens avenues for hands-on experiences, fact finding and deeper understanding. Creating a parent library with titles that support sustainability education enables parents to continue the learning journey at home.
Sourcing Quality Literature on Sustainability and Nature
There are many ‘nature’ books out there that look the real deal. Sadly, many are not relevant to the Australian context or just don’t work to engage students! The Wilderness Society is the best place to start when sourcing books on nature. Their Karajia and Environment Awards for Children’s Literature is a great annual guide to books and Nature Book Week offers a range of activites across the country to celebrate books and nature. Story Box Library offers a digital platform with a vast collection of book videos, including many on sustainability and the natural world. My favourite titles for the early childhood age group are below – click on titles to read more and purchase.
Native Bees in Early Childhood Settings
Many early childhood education centres now have native bees in their outdoor areas as they are the perfect way to foster environmental awareness and a sense of responsibility for the natural world – and learn all about the vital role of pollinators. Native bees play a vital role in food security, pollination and they contribute to the preservation of local biodiversity. Further, in a busy centre, taking time out to watch the bees fly in and out on their daily search for pollen and nectar also affords a frazzled little person (or educator!) a few moments of peace, and time to appreciate the mystery and wonder of nature.
There is the opportunity to engage in a diverse array of bee-related curriculum activities such as:
1. Researching bees and their role in the ecosystem: this is of course where books shine! Having a wide range of books, fiction and non-fiction, encourages interest and allows research.
2. Growing Bee-Friendly Gardens: learning about the types of flowers and plants that attract and support bees. By creating bee-friendly gardens, they provide essential food sources for bees and contribute to the overall health of local bee populations.
3. Creating Pollinator Habitats: Students can design and establish dedicated areas that serve as habitat for pollinators, including bees. These spaces can feature a variety of native plants, nesting materials, and water sources and there is the opportunity to get creative and also design and build insect hotels with natural materials.
5. Undertaking Citizen-Science Activities: students can actively participate in citizen-science initiatives focused on recording and observing insect visitors, such as bees through initiatives like Australian Pollinators Week to help researchers and scientists with important data and for students to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviour and diversity of bees in their local environments.
5. Beekeeping: For those interested in a more immersive experience, students may have the opportunity to engage in native beekeeping. Under the guidance of experienced beekeepers or educators this hands-on experience allows them to witness the intricate workings of a hive and develop a profound respect for these remarkable pollinators.
More about books on bees here.
Podcast episode on outdoor adventuring here.
Podcast episode on books about gardens here.
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