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topics. Furthermore, the parents involved with your program may appreciate your consistent approach to dealing with environmental topics. They may see that you’re making changes to your program or operations to be more environmentally sustainable and under- stand that including environmental activities for chil- dren makes sense. Finally, your coworkers and staff may appreciate the connection between system-wide improvements and new activities for children. That’s where this book comes in. About the Activities As I’ve said, the activities are the heart of this book. They offer ways for children to explore nature, find their own meaning from their experience, and make connections to their own lives. They are designed to promote enjoyment with the natural world simply for its own sake. Often, children engaged in nature explo- ration may seem to be playing, and—as you know— valuable learning does happen through play. Play can be filled with rich, rewarding, and meaningful expe- riences, especially if you support children in asking questions, making observations, and pursuing their curiosity. The activities in this book are designed to be playful and enjoyable for children and, at the same time, offer rich learning and stimulation. These learn- ing opportunities develop children’s scientific- and critical-thinking skills, which are vital building blocks for academic success. Although the approach and phi- losophy I outline in this book are not outcome-based or heavily academic in focus, the reality is that most educational settings—even in early childhood—are expected to address academic growth. With that in mind, careful review was made of the National Sci- ence Education Standards in developing these ac- tivities (National Research Council 1996). Although these standards target kindergarten through fourth grade, they are relevant and helpful guidelines for learners even at the preschool levels. I’ve tried to encompass as many standards as possible and have noted correlations to specific standards in the in- dividual activities. Seeing the correlation between the activities and the National Science Education 6  Chapter 1 Standards can help you see that even these playful, fun activities promote very real learning and think- ing skills that will benefit children throughout their school years. You’ll also find suggestions for mak- ing connections across disciplines, thereby further enriching educational opportunities. For example, an activity on recycling might also have applications with art, literacy, or math. How the Activities Are Structured Each activity follows the same basic format. Please note that while I urge you to get outside with chil- dren as much and as often as possible, some of the activities are specifically designed and well-suited for the outdoors. These are designated with the sunshine symbol. In the interest of brevity, and to avoid the awkward “he/she” constructions, I’ve elected to use the pro- nouns “he” and “she” interchangeably throughout this book to refer to children. Some Tips for Using This Book First, remember to be positive. When doing an activity that promotes reuse, for example, be posi- tive and upbeat. Mention how happy you are to have found a use for materials instead of throwing them away. Resist the temptation to preach or lec- ture. The value of a positive, joyful experience can- not be understated when it comes to environmental education! Read through all the activities in a section. Choose activities that work well in conjunction with other topics of interest to your class and projects you may currently be doing. Look for activities you can connect to the interests of the children. For example, if you’ve been studying bugs and butterflies, it might be a great idea to plant a butterfly garden, or it could be a perfect jumping-off point to discover the insects that pollinate fruits and vegetables (see the Playing with Pollen activity on page 162).