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Nature's 'loose parts'
October 4, 2019
Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can't be done.
-Bo Bennett

In the book, Growing With Nature: Supporting Whole-Child Learning in Outdoor Classrooms, Johanna Booth-Miner, Director of Live and Learn Early Learning Center in Lee, New Hampshire, shared this story:

“In the outdoor classroom our preschool children are able to use ‘natural loose parts’ to explore connections and concepts such as physics, fulcrums, bridges, balance and others. When allowed to manipulate boards, sticks and wooden tree cookies, children can bridge ideas and hypothesize to discover answers. One day children discovered they could move water from one place to another safely across a mud hole.” And the book’s editors added these insights to Johanna’s story: “It’s hard for children to develop visual/spatial understandings without the chance to manipulate and transform objects. Nature’s ‘loose parts’ provide the ideal objects to explore in this way. This is just one more example of the holistic learning that can happen so well in nature-based outdoor classrooms.”

In the book, Bringing the Outside In, Sandra Duncan and Jody Martin give suggestions for adding nature’s loose parts to the indoor classroom:

“Gradually add natural elements to your block center so children are not overwhelmed with excitement, end up dumping more than they build, or use materials in inappropriate ways. Add one or two new natural items each week so children are given the chance to incorporate these new elements into their building…

Children’s vocabulary increases with the addition of new and unique construction materials, cognitive problem-solving skills as well as gross motor skills are also challenged.”

Bringing the Outside In

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Bringing the Outside In offers nature-based experiences to encourage educators and young children to bring the natural world into the early childhood classroom. Each hands-on, open-ended, and sensory oriented experience is designed to spark discovery and imagination; encourage conversations and collaborations; and allow young children to develop a sense of wonder and get to know the natural world.

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