Step 7: Families
By the time they start your class, children have already had many ex-
periences and formed numerous ideas about living things. Connecting
with families as you get started will allow you to build on children’s
life experiences and use family resources. It will also help you build a
partnership with families with the goal of engaging their children in
Send a letter to families that describes the important science under-
standings children will develop as they become naturalists. There is a
sample letter to families on p. 131 in the resource section; you can
adapt it to fit your circumstances and your families.
Also, provide families with tips for exploring outdoors and indoors
with their children by sending home the “Families Discovering Nature”
handout on p. 132. Preview the suggestions described in the “Con-
nect with Families” sections at the beginning of each step of open and
focused exploration in the teacher’s guide for specific ways you can
partner with families around their children’s science learning.
• Check the children’s health records for allergies.
• Find out who might volunteer or who has skills and experience
to share with the class.
• Consider asking families to volunteer to care for short- and
long-term visiting animals and plants over weekends or during
• Make a list of ways families can help in the classroom. You might
want to post this list in the classroom so families are reminded
that their help is welcome.
• Set up a bulletin board where family members can see their
Bell, Beverley. 1981. Animal, plant, living: Notes for teachers learning in science
project. Working Paper No. 30.
Bell, Beverley, and Miles Barker. 1982. Towards a scientific concept of “Animal.”
Journal of Biological Education16 (3): 197–200.
Osborne, Roger, and Peter Freyberg. 1985. Learning in science: The implications of chil-
dren’s science. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann Educational Books.
22 Discovering Nature with Young Children
Issue:I worry that when we go outside,
my children will just want to run
around and play.
Response:Naturally, children want
to play, and some will have more diffi-
culty focusing than others. Before
each outdoor exploration, try review-
ing the difference between going out-
side to play and acting as young
naturalists. Model the young natural-
ists’ behaviors you expect children to
practice, such as looking closely and
carefully at plants. Also, bring other
adults to work alongside of you and
engage with the naturalists. Similarly,
if you can, bring out one small group
of children at a time so you can focus
Issue:I don’t have time to devote to
Response:Many teachers struggle to
find time to observe children. Some
teachers keep pads of sticky notes
andpens around the classroom so
they can quickly scribble down a few
wordsto remind them of important
happenings. Other teachers divide up
the group and observe specific chil-
dren on specific days. A periodic re-
view of your notes will provide the
information you need to guide the
Families and teachers can work to-
gether to support children’s science
learning in a variety of ways. One of
the most powerful ways to partner is
for family members to come into the
classroom for the following:
• Share experiences or expertise
• Assist with small group
• Provide guidance when children
explore outdoors, helping them
focus and observe more closely