Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nature Explorers Story Time

My April Evening Family Story Time program focused on an Earth Day-friendly theme: exploring your own backyard. This monthly evening story time is still a relatively new program for my library, so the attendance isn't consistent yet and I'm never quite sure what ages of kids will show up. I've found that I always over-prepare materials--having plenty of stories and songs that can run the gamut of ages--and that strategy has so far proved successful. It always helps, too, to have a theme that will appeal to a variety of ages. And what kids don't want to explore the nature around them?

Opening Song: "Open, Shut Them"

Story: A Walk in the Park by Jo Waters
     This is a great, simple text with clear photographs of the different sorts of creatures most anyone will find in their yard, local park, etc. Kids of all ages enjoy discovering the myriad of animals--geese, worms, ladybugs--that are often very close by when they're outside. My library has this book catalogued in picture books, but it could easily pass for early non-fiction.

Song: "Grey Squirrel"
     This song is a classic for a reason. It's simple, quick, interactive, and great for pretty much any age group.

Grey Squirrel
Grey squirrel, grey squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail.
Grey squirrel, grey squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail.

Crinkle up your funny nose,
Put a nut between your toes.
Grey squirrel, grey squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail.

Story: Tweedle Dee Dee by Charlotte Voake
     This picture book is a classic example of the cumulative story. This lyrical book explores a single tree with green leaves all around it: the birds in the nest on the branch on the tree in the hole in the ground... When I used this story, kids really enjoyed chiming in as they remembered what came next in the text. The book has lovely illustrations, too.

Song/Dance Break: "The Green Grass Grew All Around" from Phil Rosenthal and Family's The Green Grass Grew All Around: Family Folk Songs
     This song is a children's and camp classic. I like to do some motions to go along with it: standing rigid for the tree, sticking out an arm for the branch, cupping my hands for the nest, and so on. As the song goes on, it gets more and more confusing--in a fun way!--as everyone tries to remember the order of the motions. Also lots of fun: everyone gets the chance to spin around at the end, as the green grass grows all around.

Story: Birds by Kevin Henkes
     Birds was nominated for a Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award this past year, and every outreach group I read it to really engaged with the simple premise. Author/illustrator Henkes delves into everything about birds; I have found that young kids appreciate this intense focus on one subject. We look at different colors of birds, different sizes of birds, different bird behaviors... Kids really get into all of the bird information, and they enjoy the simple, beautiful artwork that accompanies the minimal text.

Story: The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
     Who knew just how bustling with life your average tree is? This book explores all of the animals who live in and interact with a single tree: owls, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, and more. The story is a great vocabulary refresher for lots of animals that even younger kids have come to know, and it has a distinctive nature explorer feel to it. Ending my story time with this book definitely allowed us to conclude with a desire to explore the busy-ness of the nature around us.

Craft: Binoculars
     What better way to be a nature explorer than to use your very own hand-crafted binoculars for spying animals and the like? Prior to the program, I had glued toilet paper tubes together to form the binoculars, and I had also tied string to each pair so they could be worn around kids' necks. Our actual crafting after the story time consisted of decorating our binoculars. I had stickers and markers available to satisfy a variety of creative urges, and several kids walked out of the library that evening with their eyes peering through their brightly-decorated binoculars.

Other books I had on hand in case they were needed:
The Growing-Up Tree by Vera Rosenberry
A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

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