Ways to Bring Nature Indoors Into the Classroom

The field of eco-psychology has developed to understand the aspect of what Edward Wilson called biophilia -- man's innate emotional affinity toward all other life forms on Earth. It means that we all have as humans, a deep connection and love for the outdoors and nature.

It is difficult in some parts of the country to have space to take children outdoors into a play yard or even on an extended walk in a nature area. Bringing nature into the classroom is one way of bonding with life. Here are a few suggestions for welcoming the natural world into our classrooms.

Stones, Rocks & Pebbles -- Children are drawn the natural beauty of rocks and pebbles. Place smaller stones that can be examined into bowls for children to investigate. Incorporate smoother stones into children's play areas. Stones can be used to build walls, stir into play soup, given out as tokens on a bus ride or counted out as money.

Stumps -- Another gift from nature that is quite versatile is a tree stump. Children can help peel off the bark and sand down the edges. Larger pieces of bark can be used for roofs for little buildings, as boats with leaf sails and even as loaves in the "bakery". Stumps can become walls, seats on buses or trains, or even stools and chairs in the dramatic play area.

Plants -- Potted plants can actually clean the air in your classroom and add green energy to the room. Be sure to check the toxicity of any plant before placing it indoors.

Sunlight -- Sunlight is needed for the human body, mind and spirit. Open up those curtains and shades and let it stream in.

Gifts from Animals -- You can often find treasures when we walk in nature, a feather or a cast-off skin. Consider bringing these inside to honor the animals. Insert feather.jpg to right of copy.

Seasonal Reminders -- We teach children about the change of seasons yet few centers have plant material where children can actually view the change of seasons. We can bring in blooming branches in the spring. Arrange flowers in the summer. Bring in nuts and colorful leaves to remind us of fall. Use pinecones and evergreens to remind us of winter.

Tabletop Garden -- Fill a pretty non-breakable container with soil and use it to create a miniature garden for your classroom.

Nature-themed Artwork -- Plants can provide interesting parts and props for arts and crafts activities.

Flowers -- Flowers are an instant reminder of the beauty of the natural world. Maybe you have a parent who grows flowers in their garden who will supply you with some fresh ones every week.

Surrounding children with nature indoors brings beauty and warmth to the classroom, nourishes children's senses and fosters their appreciation of all that the Earth offers us.