Apr 16

We are moving right along with our fantastic guest bloggers this week in honor of Environmental Education (EE) Week in the USA. EE Week is hosted by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), an orgnisation dedicated to connecting people to the environment through education. In honor of this year’s theme of ‘Taking Technology Outdoors’, we’ve invited teachers, parents and environmental educators to share how they’ve used ARKive to connects kids to nature.

Today, we meet Hannah who is going to share how she and her son, D, explored their local natural enviornment using ARKive.

Adding technology and nature learning to toddler play time

As a mother of a non-stop three year old, I am always looking for simple but interesting lessons to incorporate into our play. A friend recently told me about ARKive. I decided to poke around the site and, as anyone with children knows, it wasn’t long before I had company. Together, using some of ARKive’s search options, my son D and I went through each of the six animal groups. Keeping it three-year-old-simple I explained the six animal groups. Mammals drink milk, birds have feathers, fish swim, reptiles have scales… and the other two (invertebrates and amphibians) are a little confusing even to me! There are so many photos on ARKive, we spent a full afternoon exploring.

The following day, armed with six species photos I printed from ARKive, we headed outside for our morning adventure. My goal was to talk about the similarities and differences of the six animal groups and compare the ARKive photos to living things in our own little neighborhood. Would you believe that just 10 feet from our front door we stumbled onto a perfect teachable moment- the circle of life? There, next to a large electrical box, a stunning hawk pecked at a mound of feathers. “He’s eating feathers” D exclaimed. “Yes, yes, he is. Where do you think those feathers came from?” I asked. We talked about big birds eating smaller birds, some birds eating mice and fish, and even smaller birds eating insects and seeds. We compared the hawk to the emperor penguin photo I had printed.

Photo of emperor penguin on ARKive

D practiced spotting similarities between a local hawk and an emperor penguin.

They both had feathers (and so did the poor little bird that met his demise.) These birds also had beaks and large claws, and the penguin had webbed feet for swimming. Unlike our usual haphazard exploring, with this exercise we moved through the neighborhood with direction and intent. We noticed dog footprints in the mud and compared the type of feet and number of legs to our ARKive photos. Later, seeing a squirrel sparked a conversation about camouflage. Three of our photographed animals, the Darwin’s frog, the coconut crab, and the Figi banded iguana, were clearly using camouflage just like the squirrel.

D discovers wildlife in less than 10 feet from his front door!

D discovers wildlife in less than 10 feet from his front door!

D loved looking through the photos online, learning about animal groups, and picking out his favorite animals. Blending ARKive with an adventure in our own backyard was even better. Though I believe open play is of the utmost importance, this loosely structured activity led us through some new discussions. Today’s adventure helped to establish a sense of appreciation for new creatures and I’m hopeful it heartened his respect for the environment, near and far.

Hannah, Stay-At-Home Super Mom

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