Preschoolers learn best when the material presented to them is relevant to their own lives and interests. This can be a challenge when creating meaningful science lesson plans. One subject that can be adapted no matter what your geographic location is ecosystems. Preschool lesson plans can focus on the ecosystems in your area, and can be expanded for a broader scope if children show an interest in learning more. An ecosystem lesson plan can easily fit in with a thematic unit on habitat or Earth Day activities. Simple walking field trips can be taken in the neighborhood where your school is located in order to observe the nearby ecosystems.
Neighborhood Ecosystems Lesson Plan
- Digital Camera
- Small buckets for each child in the class
- Plastic sandwich bags
- Magnifying glasses
- True Books – Ecosystems Series by Darlene R. Stille (Includes Tropical Rain Forests, Wetlands, Deserts, Oceans, Glaciers, Mountains, Grasslands)
Allow children to explore the ecosystems books at their own pace. Choose the book that closely resembles the ecosystem you live in and explore it with the children. Allow the children to ask questions about the pictures and draw parallels between what they see in the book and the environment near your school. Read several passages of interest from the book series, especially those noting the animals that may live in a particular ecosystem and what their habitats may look like.
Tell the children that you are going to be "ecosystem explorers" and go on an observation hike around the school, but first they must prepare their specimen collecting gear. Give each child a small plastic sand pail to decorate with their name and any other science or ecosystem related artwork using paint or markers. Each child will also get a few plastic sandwich bags to collect dirt, leaves, flowers or any other materials they find in abundance during the observation hike. Be sure to label the plastic sandwich bags with each child's name. Each child will also have the opportunity to use a magnifying glass to observe small insects while hiking.
Explain to children that they are free to put dirt, leaves, grass and other objects in their buckets, but small animals and insects will stay in the ecosystem. Instead, you will take pictures of any animals or insects while on the hike. Employ the help of other adults if necessary before the walk.
While walking, be sure to take pictures of each child observing the environment. Be sure to observe and document any conversations children have about ecosystems, the environment, animal habitats or scientific observation. Ask children to tell you what they have collected in their buckets and bags and write down the answers the children give.
Once you are back in the classroom, give each child a large piece of posterboard. Print all the pictures of your observation hike and distribute them to the children. With teacher help, have children use glue to attach the materials they found while hiking to their piece of posterboard along with the pictures. You will write the story of the ecosystem observation hike, making note of children's conversations, descriptions of what the children collected, and any other anecdotes you gathered while on the hike.
When the children have finished their posters, laminate each page and create a big book titled "Our Neighborhood Ecosystem". Place the book in your science center along with the other books about ecosystems.
Preschool lesson plans for science do not have to include Bunsen burners and safety goggles. Children enjoy learning about the world around them and exploring new environments. As an extension activity, discover other ecosystems and compare and contrast the similarities and differences between your ecosystem and an ecosystem in another part of the world, such as the tropical rain forest.
Photo Credit: JDurham https://morguefile.com/archive/display/643330
Source: Author's classroom experience