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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM ON PHONE OR TABLET In addition to supporting prosocial development, nature offers children plenty of opportunities to practice perspective taking (which leads to empathy) when children are engaged in dramatic play. Pretending to be animals is a clear example of perspective taking. In doing so, children imagine the experience of another living creature. Watch young children when they are playing at being animals and you will likely observe many ways that children understand ani- mals: how they move, how they interact with one another, the sounds they make, and more. They “try on” the life of that animal, even if just for a short time, and this helps them not only to construct knowledge and understanding of animals but to feel empathy and consideration for other creatures. Play in natural settings also often leads to collaborative building projects (such as creating houses or fairy gardens together) in which children are moti- vated to work together and cooperate, anticipating one another’s needs and sharing resources. Even children who prefer to play alone can create small worlds out of treasures found on the forest floor, making homes for imaginary creatures demonstrating an innate sense of altruism and generosity. In addition to showing their concern and curiosity toward creatures both real and imagined, children also wonder about plants and have real questions about what plants experience. If one child peels bark off of a tree, there is likely at least one other child in the class who will exclaim, “Stop it! You’re hurting the tree!” Children either inherently know or have learned that trees are living things, and in crying out in the tree’s defense, they are attempting to sort out their understanding about what it means for a tree to be a living thing. If you hear children express the sentiment that the plant or tree is “dead” (and you’re sure it isn’t), instead of verbally correcting their misconception, try engaging them in investi- gation. Invite them to come up with a list of characteristics of living plants. How do they know when a plant or tree is alive? (Some suggestions: they grow, they sprout leaves, the leaves are green, they may display flowers.) Create your list together and then develop a plan for how you can observe the tree over time to see if it exhibits any characteristics as the seasons change. This engages children in reflecting on what they know and referring to their prior knowledge about plants and trees (identifying characteristics they have seen in living trees) and in predicting what might happen to the tree you’re studying over time. They will also practice observing as the tree changes in response to the temperature and amount of sunlight. You may also engage them in developing tools for measuring the plant or tree (such as a tape measure, counting links, rope, or other ways). It will be hard to see significant changes in tree growth, but herbaceous plants (plants without woody stems) will grow quickly over a growing season, and their height can be measured as change observed over time. 20 Chapter 2 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL