When I first started subbing, I was amazed when a student said this to me on the playground. Student: "Mrs. Friedrich! Look what I found!" Me: "Yes, that's an acorn. It will grow into a new tree." Student: "Wow! I have never seen one before!" I couldn't believe the student had never seen an acorn before. And this was not the only encounter like this that I had. When students realized I knew what some things were, it became a routine recess activity to bring me things to identify. So when I got my first long-term job and Earth Day came around, I created an activity hoping to widen their natural horizons.
I raided my own children's nature collections and set up Nature Exploration stations with the objects and hand lenses. I used objects such as a feather, a deer antler, fossil, seashell, bird nest, leaves, acorns and other seeds, and even a snake skin. I set each one up in its own station and gave the students Nature Exploration Recording Sheets. I explained to the students what they were going to be doing, and they were so excited. I even had a boy with autism in that class who was supposed to be leaving for a doctor's appointment. The only way we could get him to leave for the appointment was if I promised I would leave everything set up so he could do the activity the following day. The students loved being able to see, touch, and explore objects that had been previously unfamiliar to them. They recorded their observations and drew a picture on the Nature Exploration Recording Sheet I provided.
After all students had been to all stations, we came back together as a class and discussed what they had seen. What things surprised them? What was their favorite? And so on.
It was such a wonderful way for the students to see a few of the special things about the Earth and why we should protect it.
And go check out the Earth Day linky party at Sunny Days in Second Grade.