Picture Science: Cameras and inquiry based learning

s.t.e.m.ICONChildren love nature and they love photos so why not combine the two to celebrate Nature Photography Day. Of course, the other thing kids love is asking questions so why not throw a little science inquiry into the mix?

Let some of those questions guide the group to explore a topic in nature and use the camera as part of the data collection process.



The Process of Inquiry

the process of inquiry

Why the camera?

Even though young children may not be able to read yet, they can gather a lot of information from photos. This makes digital photography a “very effective teaching tool for enriching and enhancing children’s visual learning.”

Just a few more reasons:

  • Photographs make concepts visible and can make abstract themes more concrete
  • Photography expands children’s sense of time by making a prior experience otherwise forgotten available to them again.
  • Photography supports language development by encouraging children to articulate what they are seeing.
  • Photography can support the overall curriculum and be used in any subject.
  • Skill with photography can last children a lifetime.

Here is a sample activity to get you going . . .

Source: Picture Science, Redleaf Press, 2007

Source: Picture Science, Redleaf Press, 2007

Find out more about using digital photography for science inquiry in Picture Science: Using Digital Photography to Teach Young Children

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Take the kids on an outdoor treasure hunt

It is that time of year when we are all itching to get outdoors. Spring is upon us, summer is just around the corner, and it is the perfect time to take your lessons into nature – Great Outdoors Month!

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? Here is a great activity to get hands-on with nature

Treasure Hunt

Source: Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth by Patty Born Selly, Redleaf Press, 2012

We also recommend checking out the Great Outdoors Month website and your local park district site to find other local opportunities to get outdoors for some fun and learning.

Check out our full list of outdoor exploration resources at www.redleafpress.org


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How To Make the Most of Museum Field Trips

Field trips, while being a large undertaking, are in important part of the learning process. Getting children out of the classroom and face-to-face with a topic can bring engagement to a whole new level.

field museumIn honor of International Museum Day we recently asked our Facebook fans about their favorite museums to take children to. We got some great ideas including Discovery Cube in Los Angeles, CA; City Museum in St. Louis, MO; and the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, IL. Regardless of where you favorite museum is, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the most of your visit.


  • Check if the educational staff at the museum is knowledgeable about young children. Unlike groups of older children, which they may be more familiar with, they will want to keep explanations short and keep the group moving. If they aren’t prepared to lead a young group it might be better if you lead the group yourself.


  • Visit the museum on your own ahead of time to become familiar with the layout – where are the bathrooms, snack areas, ticket booth, and other details that will make the day run smoothly.


  • If visiting a museum that specializes in a specific topic, choose curriculum activities and children’s books that will help prepare children for what they will encounter. This is also a great time to come up with a list of questions that the children will be able to ponder as you visit the museum.

Day of visit

  • Encourage children to bring paper and a pencil to record their observations and if allowed bring a camera to take visual reminders of the class’s visit.


  • Consider including one or two short video presentations when available and include hands-on experiences when possible. Many children’s museums have added interactive exhibits specifically for the youngest visitors that prefer to engage all of their senses to learn.

After the visit

  • The follow-up discussion can be an important part of the learning process. The children observed and absorbed so much during their visit that the class discussion can be a great way to answer questions that came up after they left the museum and help children learn from each other.

dino museum

  • If the children found a specific topic or exhibit interesting this is a great opportunity to find even more materials on it. Read children’s books and ask children to find out more about the topic to share with each other.

Resource: Open the Door Let’s Explore More! Field Trips of Discovery for Young Children by Rhoda Redleaf

Share your favorite museums and tips in the comments below!

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Teaching healthy habits to young children: A joint effort

Children learn healthy habits early and they pick them up by seeing adults in their lives model healthy behavior and by being encouraged to do it themselves. So who are they picking these habits up from? Those they spend the most time with — you, their teacher, and their families at home.

That is why giving families the knowledge they need for a healthy home life is an important way to ensure the healthiest start for the children in your care. It is also a great way to get involved with the families in your community.

Here are few ideas of activities and small events to offer to the families you work with in honor of Family Wellness Month and National Physical Fitness and Sports month.

Nutrition Education

Have you considered hosting a potluck where every family brings their favorite healthy dish and you share information on nutrition for young children? Or perhaps have families come together to prepare a meal. Below are a few recipe ideas that you can use for this or simply share with families to enjoy at home:

zucchini oatmeal cookies

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Fruit Burritos 

Zucchini-Tomato Casserole 

Hawaiian Pops


We share lots of other healthy recipes on our blog so be sure to search the Redleaf Kitchen category for more ideas!

Not sure what to teach about nutrition? Here are a few resource that might help

Rethinking Nutrition

5 minute Nutrition Activities for Preschoolers

American Academy of Pediatrics healthychildren.org

USDA choosemyplate.gov

Physical Fitness Education

Do you have a gym or large outdoor space? Perhaps you can host active family nights where you invite families to come enjoy activities one night a month. This would get the families active and give them an opportunity to build relationships with staff and other families.

Some of our favorites for getting families moving:


Simon Says

Check out two more activities with 3 fun ways to get moving with children

Other resources for ideas and information on getting physically active:

Move Bingo for Kids

The Moving and Learning series

American Academy of Pediatrics healthychildren.org

USDA Encouraging Active Play 

There are so many fun ways to help children and families get active and healthy. What will you be doing? We would love to hear your ideas!


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Sneak Peek: Individualized Child-Focused Curriculum: A Differentiated Approach

You sit in a room full of ten children wondering how to get each child engaged in the next activity. It is appropriate for the age group and where they are at developmentally, but that doesn’t mean each child will fully engage and benefit from the exercise.

Amelia is interested in bears, Cora loves trains, and Jeremy talks only about dinosaurs these days. Is there a way to work each of these interests into the activity so each child fully engages and learns the skills presented?

Well, you are on the right track by knowing what each child is interested in and capable of. Now you just need a little help taking the next few steps of making your curriculum individualized and child focused.

Bringing together the information you have about each child, as well as knowing where to dig a little deeper, is all part of what early childhood consultant Gaye Gronlund calls Developmental Studies. This new tool has already received fantastic feedback from the pilot group that field tested it and will go on to benefit teachers and children who use the program for years to come.

We invite you to check out an excerpt from Gaye’s new book, Individualized Child-Focused Curriculum: A Differentiated Approach to get an idea of how this can be implemented in your own program and how you can support children’s learning in a positive way and reconnect with the joy that brought you into teaching to begin with.

Individualized Child-Focused Curriculum

Excerpt: Individualized Child-Focused Curriculum: A Differentiated Approach

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Women’s History Month: Inspiring Educators

Women and girls have not always (and still do not in some places) received equal opportunities for education. Yet, somehow females continue to shape the world through what they learn and whom they teach. Here are just a few examples of words of wisdom from female educators and education advocates in honor of National Women’s History Month.

Le Shan quote

Benedict quote

Lightfoot quote

Montessori quote

Rollins quote

Colorose quote

Plato quote


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It’s Spring! Gardening with infants and toddlers

As the weather becomes warm you begin thinking about all of the learning possibilities that outdoor activities present. One of the activities that provides the most opportunity for learning is gardening.

We all know being outdoors is good for children, but the act of gardening is often overlooked when it comes to infants and toddlers. Their connection to nature is just as important as for older children and the things they can learn are just as endless. They are sensory learners after all, and the garden is full of sights, sounds, smells, and textures.

So here are a few tips for gardening with infants and toddlers.


  • Let them freely move around the outdoor space instead of being in a stroller or carrier.
  • Cut a few pieces of the plants off and let them play with them and really touch, smell, and see them.
  • Take your time. Let them explore and experience the space without rushing them or talking too much.

herb smelling


  • Let them help. Toddlers can help plant seedlings, move and carry things such as buckets of dirt or mulch, and can water plants.
  • Talk to them about what they see in nature and how to respect it. Look under rocks and logs to see what is living there. Teach toddlers to stay still and be careful when holding another living thing.

Gardening with Young Children is a great resource for everything you need to know to get started with a garden, how to engage children in gardening, and thinking about how it will be integrated into the curriculum beyond science. It also has some great activities for kids of all ages to learn more about nature, gardening, and interacting with the world around them.

What's That Smell


Source: Gardening with Young Children: Second Edition of Hollyhocks and Honeybees, Redleaf Press, 2014


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