Vol. 6, No. 2



Science isn’t just for school-age students. Small children, so naturally curious about their world, are instinctive scientists. Their innate inquisitiveness means they spend a lot of time exploring and investigating. It’s a great time to begin developing children’s abilities to observe, describe, and question – fundamental science skills that they will continue to hone as they progress into more formal education.

Peggy Ashbrook is the author of Science is Simple, the Early Years columnist for NSTA’s Science and Children magazine, and writes the NSTA Blog: The Early Years. She is also a part-time preschool science teacher in Virginia, where she works with very young children from the age of two. Inspired by WNY teacher Ellen Foley, who introduced her to FHL’s field journal for primary students called The Young Observer’s Notebook, Peggy decided to incorporate nature journals into her preschool programming.

First she wrote a note introducing the notebooks to all the families:

“The notebook is like a real scientist’s notebook and is for children and their families to make real notes in, about their simple outdoor observations, made together during a close look at what is outside their door, or further afield. The family’s entries are a way to encourage enjoying the out of doors in an intentional way, rather than being a task to check off or a product to complete and compare."

"I was greatly inspired by a public preschool teacher I met at a National Science Teachers Association conference who spoke about the fun her students’ families had while making simple outdoor observations together and ‘journaling’ about them in their Young Observer’s Notebook. In ‘five or fifty’ minutes spent outside, parents and children and siblings took a close look at something in nature, and wrote their thoughts, discoveries, and wonderings to share with others at school and to refer back to throughout the year. In doing weekly observations, families found joy in their outdoor experiences, and the children practiced their oral language and beginning writing skills and were eager to share their record of their observation with classmates.”

Parents were then encouraged to pick up the notebooks on their way to or from school, and interest was increased once Peggy began reading the entries during circle time. View several children’s entries here.

Peggy has been pleased with the results so far and plans to continue using the notebook, which she calls “a wonderful resource which is useful for so many ‘parts’ of an early childhood curriculum.”

A nature journal can be a great way to reinforce young children’s natural curiosity and build key science process skills, while involving parents in their children’s learning. Do you have stories or examples of student work to share? We’d love to see them and give others the opportunity to learn from your experiences. Email us at

Possibilities for doing science abound these days in number and variety. Afterschool clubs, museum programs, television shows, citizen science projects, and environmental action committees are just a few of the informal pathways that can lead to science-rich experiences. Out-of-school-time opportunities to become engaged in science-focused activities have multiplied in recent years, and have been shown to positively impact children’s scientific literacy. The publication Education Week recently published a special report on the impact of Informal Science Education, which offers a collection of articles exploring the topic from numerous angles. Access the report here.

First Hand Learning’s NSF-funded afterschool science-mentoring program, Science Firsthand, works with urban, high-risk pre-teens in Buffalo, pairing them with mentors from local colleges to explore the world around them. What informal science activities are you involved in and how are children benefiting from them? Email us at

Now that the weather is (slowly!) getting warmer, the days longer, and the kids restless, it’s time to get outside! What better way to make science come alive! Need inspiration? Check out Nature Rocks, a great website designed to help families get out into nature and explore.

Use their nifty tool to find activities and events that suit your time frame, children’s ages, and geographical region.

Another source of inspiration to try are the fun and flexible FHL mini-journals. Download these free small-scale journals, print them off, fold them up, and go investigate!

If the mini-journals have whetted your appetite, you may be ready to expand to a full-size version. Check out First Hand Learning’s range of nature journals and science notebooks for all ages.

First Hand Learning, Inc. offers a variety of professional development workshops, including ones focused on Outdoor Inquiries.
Contact us about your individual PD needs:
The First Hand Learning Catalog offers nature journals, hands-on science kits, posters, and more. Go to
We hope you found this edition of the FIRST HAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER informative. Please contact us with any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have by emailing us at:

This e-newsletter is a product of First Hand Learning, Inc.
Subscribe for free at
Unsubscribe by sending an email to with the subject "unsubscribe."

Contact us at: (716) 831-8722 or
First Hand Learning, Inc. is committed to protecting the privacy of its colleagues and customers. FHL does not sell or rent email addresses to other organizations.

© 2011 First Hand Learning, Inc.

E-Newsletter Vol. 6 No. 1

E-Newsletter Vol. 5 No. 3

E-Newsletter Vol. 5 No. 2

E-Newsletter Vol. 5 No. 1

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 9

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 8

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 7

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 6

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 5

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 4

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 3

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 2

E-Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 1

E-Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 5

E-Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 4

E-Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 3

E-Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 2

E-Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 1

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 7

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 6

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 5

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 4

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 3

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 2

E-Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 1

E-Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 3

E-Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 2

E-Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 1