Nature in Our Backyard

Children will explore nature.

Lesson Objective

Children will explore the natural plants and animals found outside the school, collect naturally found objects, and create nature squares.


What You'll Need

  • Blanket(s) or other mats for sitting outside
  • Outdoor space to explore
  • Paper or plastic bags – 1 per child
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Clear contact paper – 2 sheets (about 6" x 6") per child (available in rolls at office supply and discount stores)
  • Yarn – 12" length per child

What To Do

  1. Tell the children that they will be going outside to explore nature.
  2. Take the children outside, and have them sit on the blankets that you have spread on the ground.
  3. Have the children use their senses to find signs of nature (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  4. Distribute bags, and tell the children that they will be collecting items from nature to examine (see Lesson Tips).
  5. Tell the children that some things in nature are easy to see, such as a tree, leaf, or flower. Some things are very small, such as a seed or insect, and students will need to look closely to find them.
  6. Allow time for the children to explore and to choose a variety of items to put in their bags.
  7. Go back inside, distribute magnifying glasses, and have the children examine and share their findings.
  8. Have the children carefully arrange their items in a display.
  9. Distribute 1 contact paper square per child, peel the backing off the paper, and lay it on the table so the sticky side is up.
  10. Tell the children to place the items on the sticky side of the paper (see Lesson Tips).
  11. Tie a length of yarn in a loop, and attach it to the top of the contact paper.
  12. Peel the backing off a second sheet of contact paper, and match the sticky side of this second sheet to the sticky side of the first sheet, making a “sandwich” with the nature items in between.
  13. Hang the nature square artwork in the classroom. 

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the things in nature that you see.
  • Describe some of the natural sounds that you hear.
  • Describe the smells of nature.
  • Describe what you found.
  • Explain where you found your items.
  • Tell me how we can display the nature items that we found.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place any leftover materials in the science area for further investigation.
  • Leftover materials can be classified according to their characteristics. Children can sort them by color, size, shape, or like items. For instance, all leaves can be placed on one plate; rocks, seeds, or twigs can each be placed on separate plates. Allow the children to sort as they wish, and have them explain how they sorted the items when they are finished.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children use their senses to describe things from nature?
  • Could children find natural items?
  • Could children explain where they found their items?


Did You Know?

Exposure to nature promotes curiosity and encourages exploration. Nature provides many opportunities for children to use their senses to describe the things that they discover. Allowing children to explore nature and investigate the environment gives them varied opportunities to make thrilling discoveries and supports their natural sense of wonder.

The natural world includes both living and nonliving things. The plants, animals, ground, rocks, air, water, and sky that are found outside are all parts of nature. Teachers can help the children explore why they found the things that they found and where those items came from. As they spend time exploring nature, children begin to notice that living things depend on other living and nonliving things to live and grow.  

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • explore – to discover or search for something.
  • nature – the physical world.
  • sense – one of the five ways to experience things. The five senses are sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.
  • sign – something that shows a fact or information about something else.
  • arrange – to put things in an order.
  • contact paper – a thin material that sticks to other things.

Lesson Tips

  • Inform families several days in advance that the children will be going outside. Children should be properly dressed for outdoor activity, including wearing proper footwear.
  • Remind the children to collect only those items from nature that are not living or that are not attached to a living thing (e.g., avoid collecting a live insect or picking a leaf from a tree).
  • Tell the children that once they place an item on the sticky paper, they will not be able to move it.
  • After the children have finished handling the natural items, instruct them to thoroughly wash their hands.


  • Two Tiny Mice: A Mouse-Eye Exploration of Nature by Alan Baker
  • Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root
  • Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman
  • Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking by Elin Kelsey

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS