Experiential Learning Developing Relationships with Nature

With a heavy emphasis on getting the kids outdoors and having an integral component of the developmental curriculum being learning through inquiry, the University of Wisconsin Preschool Lab found a great partner in the department of Horticulture.  This time, taking advantage of Christy Stewart’s expertise in bee identification, we coordinated an activity with a group of 3 and 4 years old.

With a combination of active listening, group discussion, Q&A, and hands-on explorations, Christy masterfully engaged the preschoolers into an embodied experience that challenged the sight, the touch, and the smell.  Active learning for preschoolers, pure and simple, right there!

  • Where do bees live?
  • Do they all live in hives?  In large groups?
  • Are there solitary bees?
  • What do they feed on?
  • Where are you most likely to find them?
  • How many types of bees are there in the world?  In Wisconsin?

Christy was able to keep her audience captive.  The kids were very good at taking turns to ask her the most interesting questions.  Interspersed in her talk, Christy passed a sample of a leaf cutter bee’s nest, a bumblebee nest, as well as a little box containing specimens of bees, wasps and flies.

And then, the icing on the cake: searching for bees in the green space in front of the School of Human Ecology.  Armed with a lot of energy, curiosity, magnifier lenses, and bug observation boxes, the kids followed Christy with her net to see what they could find.  She centered her swing, and in the blink of the eye, she had caught a small metallic green sweat bee, flipped the net to ensure it wouldn’t escape and transferred efficiently to a small container for the kids to watch.

It is never too late to start talking about the diversity of plants and animals and their roles in our ecosystems.  The activity concluded with the kids receiving a Bee Identification Guide to further their explorations at home.

This activity was organized by Claudia Calderon of the Department of Horticulture.