Truth be told, a lot of children aren’t that interested in nature. In my early twenties I witnessed a seven-year old girl raising her fist and telling a ranger to f**k off when he tried to get her to look at a bluebell.
Of course, this is not the reaction we would like any child to have when presented with a harmless flower by a kindly expert. So as teachers we have to create the enthusiasm in imaginative ways, which can require a little forethought and planning:
1) Children sense the open space outdoors and need to move about. Thus starting with an energetic game can be helpful. Alternatively, tell the children that you’ll meet them under a tree, 200m away and that they are free to run there.
2) When introducing plant species, have an activity the children can do. Gathering around to look at a dandelion is dull. Besides, half the class won’t be able to see and thirty children crowded around one adult tends to create a pack mentality. Asking the children to find a dandelion clock and count the time by blowing away the seeds is a lot more fun. An additional challenge can be that the children can’t pick the flowers, they have to crouch down and blow. This also prevents dandelion wars breaking out where the seedless flowers are chucked about, creating mayhem.
3) Play a short team game, to get the children moving about. There are lots out there which can be used to discuss knowledge and plant facts. I’ll blog about these in due course.
4) If you have time, try and make up a story about a plant as a way of introducing the facts. Humans in all societies have passed on knowledge in this way for thousands of years, so why break a good habit?
5) Have a calm activity which allows for reflection. For example, some children like making trails using dandelions or making danelion crowns. If you have an excitable class, which isn’t used to being outside, this can be done as part of the follow-up indoors.