Learning Outside with The Garden Classroom by Cathy James { interview & book sneak peek }

The Garden Classroom by Cathy  James

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There are a lot of educational activity books out there and being a part of the kids education and activity community I am lucky to know many of the authors. I am so proud of Cathy James whom you may already know from her blog Nurture Store. We have been friends and colleagues for years and when she asked me if I would share her book with my readers I didn’t hesitate to say of course! Cathy is a homeschooling mom and one of the areas of her blog I have long admired are all her outdoor ideas for learning, it was no surprise to me when I found out that was the subject of her new book The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art .

Cathy agreed to sit down and share some of her wisdom about teaching and inspiring learning about the outdoors with us today. We also have a sneak peek at the book down below. It’s gorgeous!

 

A lot of parents talk about having a hard time getting their kids outside to play. Do you have any tips for parents who are struggling to get their children to go outside and explore?

With any activity, I’d always start with the child themselves, and look at what they’re interested, and then involve them in finding a way to bring that interest outdoors. Favourite toys can come outside with you, and you can set up interesting play areas, such as dinosaur worlds, fairy garden, and dens, to have lots of fun outside. The pride and joy you get from picking and eating your own homegrown food is so satisfying, so having a go at growing some of your own food can be a great enticement to head outside.

 In The Garden Classroom, you cover all different subject matters but which area of learning is your favorite to tackle in your garden?

I love doing math outside. It’s not a subject either of my girls naturally gravitates towards, and both of them have found standard ‘classroom’ style math a challenge. But when we head outdoors, it’s so different, and it’s a joy to seem them smiling while they learn. The garden offers great opportunities to do practical math skills, like constructing bean frames, or dividing seeds between the number pots you have. And we also enjoy heading outdoors for structured lessons, using leaves and pebbles to work on math facts for example, and just generally being out of the traditional classroom and in the fresh air makes my learners happy.

I live in Western Washington, USA which is known for gray drizzle much like England is. Do you have any tips for dealing with the wet, cold, and dreary days in the garden? What about snow?

It’s so beneficial to keep going outdoors in less than perfect weather. As you say, we have a lot of grey days here, and if we let that stop us playing outside, we’d spend way too much time stuck indoors. Suitable clothing makes such a difference. We make sure everyone – perhaps especially me! – is wrapped up warm, and we often bring along a warm drink and a nice treat like a cookie to refuel and keep spirits up! And you can really embrace the weather – jump in puddles when you get them, try painting outdoors when it’s raining to see the effects it creates, use spray bottles filled with paint to create snow art. The story stones activity in the book is perfect to do around a warming campfire.

For beginner gardeners eager to just grow something which type of seed packet do you suggest they grab? Any foolproof options to avoid disappointed kids?

Something reliable, that germinates easily and grows quickly is a great place to start: radish, cut-and-come-again lettuce, nasturtiums. There are some really fun egg heads and tin can hair salon activities in the book which are perfect first projects, using grass or garden cress seeds. Sunflowers are my favourite though, as they amaze children with their height and grow almost before your eyes, so the children have something new to notice each day.

How can readers living in apartments or other dwellings without a garden use or learn from your book?

You can still have a really rich connection to nature even without your own garden. I live in a city and our space is tiny, so I’ve made sure to include lots of projects in the book for those of us with little or no outdoor space. You’ll find the ideas like the egg heads and the indoor meadow work just as well in an apartment. There are lots of math, science and literacy ideas which make use of natural materials: they’ll give your children that hands-on learning and connection to the outdoors, even if you’ve had to borrow materials from the park – or even relocate your learning to the park itself. Everyone can grow something, and by doing so you’re offering your children such a rich opportunity to benefit from a connection to nature.

 

Ready for the sneak peek? 

 

Get your copy here —>The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art

Play Dough with Popsicle Stick Flowers

easy popsicle stick flowers I made these flowers for a fun addition to our play dough area at preschool. My four-year-old saw them sitting out before we went to school and had to play. Still in her PJs ( but that’s normal around here right?) she tested this activity out before I took it into my class. The way she played interested me because she turned each color for flower into a family and matched them all up, giving some names and even creating stories about them. I love seeing how sensory play boosts language and literacy!

play dough activity for kids

Gather your materials. My friends at craftprojectideas.com sent me these mini popsicle sticks and foam flower stickers you can use theirs like I did or make your own with adhesive foam sheets. You will also need some play dough.

 

You need two matching stickers for each flower. Peel the backing off one.easy diy toys for play dough

Press the stick into it.flowers for play dough

Peel the backing off the matching sticker and sandwich the two together.

Told you it was easy.

play dough play for kids

PLAY

matching up flowers

I love her little stories. flower playdough activityThe yellow family was off to the Nutcracker with an auntie  grandma, and a good buddy. By encouraging these stories, you are encouraging storytelling which is an important building block for strong literacy later on.

Play dough activity for spring

Books About Flowers

Click over to our books about flowers book list. Click here or the image.

books about flowers for kids

 

Seed Sorting Activity Tray

seed sorting in preschool My class is learning about gardens right now and this week we are focusing on seeds and how they grow into plants. This seed sorting activity tray will be used during free choice and I will be withins arms reach since these seeds can easily be placed places we don’t want them to be like in mouths, nostrils…ears…  I would never introduce an activity that I didn’t think my students could do successfully but children are unpredictable so being close by is always a great idea.

Gather your materials. You will need a divided tray, some seed packets, tweezers, scissors, and tape. You may also want some ziplocs and a sharpie for storing extra seeds.seed tray activity for kids

I chose seeds that would likelybe familiar to my group of 3 year olds. With older children throw in a few less recognizable ones for a challenge. seed matching game for kids

Start by cutting the package carefully on the bottom.  Pop a few seeds in the center section of your tray and put the rest in a labeled bag for later use.seed tray for kids science

Tape the empty seed envelope to the tray. I have regular tape shown in the picture above but I ended up using packing tape. seed matching activity for preschool

For really little guys you will probably want to place one seed of each plant in the proper section as a guide if you can’t introduce the activity yourself. If you can I would ask them if each seed looks like any of the vegetables pictured or of they have ever seen seeds like these before. seed tray for preschoolThen see if they can match them to the pictures. In a free choice scenario where you may be attending to many children in a short amount of time you have a few choices. My favorite is to observe during free choice and then bringing the tray back out later at circle time to talk about the seeds adding to the students previous experience with the seeds during free choice. Then the tray will be brought out for free choice again in the coming days.

tweezing seedsI added tweezers to this activity for some novelty but little fingers are perfectly acceptable too!

seed matching

My daughter tested out my activity before I packed it away into my school bag.

Have you explored seeds with your child or classroom? What is your favorite seed activity? Tell me all about it here in comments or on my Facebook Page. 

23 Garden Crafts & Activities For Kids

garden crafts and activities for kidsIt’s time to get ready for spring ! These 23 garden themed crafts and activities will get your child ready for a fun spring even if the weather still seems to think it’s winter. I can’t wait to get outside and play and learn in our garden more now that it’s getting warmer ( and drier) . These crafts and activities include ones to do inside and others that take you out in the fresh air. Something for everyone!

Gardening For Letters
Spring Garden Sensory Tub
Dirt Dessert Cups
Painting With Bugs
Ladybug Craft
Mud Soup
Garden Sensory Tub
Alphabet Garden
Newspaper & Button Flowers
Milk Carton Bird Feeder
Backyard Photo Scavenger Hunt
Giant Sunflower
Learning About Veggies
sunflower craft
Daisy Math
Find & Count Bug Hunt
Painting with Nature
Super Simple Bird Feeder
Family Flower Garden
Garden Vegetable Printing
Painting with veggies
Nature Color Hunt
Yarn Nest
Kid Friendly Family Garden
Venus Fly Trap Craft
Easy Cereal Bird Feeders