7 Tips for Teaching Nature and Science at Home

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April 16, 2020

With many families feeling unprepared to teach at home, the Nature Museum has stepped up to introduce a revamped daily newsletter focusing around homeschooling. Each e-blast gives parents, caregivers, and educators a day’s worth of lessons focusing around a central nature and science topic. Now we know teaching at home doesn’t come naturally to many of us, so don’t worry – we are here to help.

Every day, Nature Museum educators work side-by-side with teachers in Chicago-area classrooms, helping them gain more confidence and feel more comfortable in teaching science class. We know that empowered and supported teachers lead to more time spent on science and to higher quality learning for students.

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1. You don’t need to know all the content!

Take this opportunity to show your scientist that we are all life-long learners. Embrace the uncertainty and learn alongside your scientist. Remember: science isn’t about knowing facts – it’s a process of curiosity, wonder, and exploration. Instead of focusing on knowing facts, engage your scientist in the practices of science by encouraging them to ask questions, investigate, and share their explanations as they figure it out.

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2. Spark curiosity and foster wonder!

There are so many ways to do this, but one of our favorites is to bring natural objects inside. Have your scientist make observations and ask them what questions they have.

Unable to bring nature in? Not a problem. Watch videos, look out the window, or look at some images. Then, add questions and observations to a wonder wall so you can come back and investigate them later! Here’s a great resource for you explaining the power of asking questions to your scientist.

Try to find a way to keep track of your scientist’s inquiries, too! We’re heading into spring, so there will be plenty of change in nature to investigate.

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3. Help your scientist make connections and drive their own learning!

As scientists, we are not “learning about” but “figuring out”. Encourage and support your scientist in seeking out the answers to their own questions by asking them open-ended questions like, “What do you see that makes you say that?” “Why do you think ____ is doing _____?”

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4. Build routines for learning – and repeat them daily or weekly.

Things like nature journals, a wonder wall, and drawing for understanding are practices that your scientist can keep coming back to within the same thread of learning. Help them to continue noticing, wondering, and making connections! Check out this 2-minute video to discover why (and how!) drawing is such a powerful tool for learning.

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5. Use technology to look more closely and think more deeply about the natural world!

There are so many awesome ways to use technology to connect with the natural world–and contribute to the science community at the same time. Try using or downloading:

iNaturalist (and for younger learners, there is also Seek by iNaturalist)
Celebrate Urban Birds from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology
Project Budburst with the Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Wildlife Watch: you can actually help scientists understand the animals we share the city with by identifying the ones that have been observed in on camera.

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6. Foster social-emotional learning through local nature!

Nature is a powerful tool in our social and emotional wellbeing. Take some time outside each day–or bring nature indoors–to practice mindfulness and experience wonder, awe, creativity, connection, and feelings of joy and calm. Take some time to walk around the block, or give your scientists time for some child-led outdoor play!

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7. Don’t forget: science learning happens at all ages!

Exploring nature is appropriate and accessible for scientists of all ages. Our youngest scientists can use their senses to explore and notice what’s around them, while our older scientists may start to look for interactions/connections between living things and their habitats.

We hope these tips will come in handy as you help your young scientists learn all about nature and science while at home. We know homeschooling is a new world to navigate for many families, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have great science lessons at home.

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