Junior Kindergarten: Learn Outdoors

tree exploration

If you want to continue your child’s education even when schools are closed, keep reading. You can help your Junior Kindergarten student learn science by going outdoors and learning. JK kids can directly observe plants and animals outside—in their own neighborhood, in a nearby park, or in a larger open space.

Part of what Junior Kindergarten students learn in local public schools in Cambridge, Mass., is listed here:

Student naturalists explore plants and animals in the classroom and outside. They ask questions and gather information about:

where animals live and why,

the parts of plants and animals, and what they do, and

the needs of living things.

An adult can continue or begin to keep a nature journal with a child. Let your child know that drawings of what they see outdoors don’t need to be beautiful. Praise them instead for noticing details in what they see.

Try this :

Take a short walk and ask your child to describe three (or five, or seven) plants or trees on the walk. You can ask your child to draw them, or instead, just remember them. Together with your child, make up your own name for each plant or tree, if you want. You can use your own language, or English, for the name, whichever you prefer. You can write the names down if you want to, but that’s not necessary. If your child likes to draw, you can ask them to draw each plant.

Example of making up a name for a tree: “big tree with feather branches in front of the library.” (If your child enjoys learning and remembering new words and you know that a tree is called, for example, a willow, go ahead and use that word, which refers to a family of trees).

Ask your child to use as many ways of describing each plant or tree as they can think of.

Examples: “It is taller than our home, ” “I could fit three of me in the trunk,” “the tree’s bark feels rough.”

Take the same walk on a regular schedule. It could be Mondays and Thursdays, or just once a week, or at the same time every day.

TIP: Children are comforted by a regular routine, even if they don’t say so. School routines and schedules help them stay calmer and more focused and ready to learn. You can set up your own routines for home learning, if possible, but don’t worry if you can’t. Going outdoors for this activity will still benefit your child.

Each time you take this same walk during spring, ask your child, “What is different about this plant (or tree) since we saw it before? Let your child have time to think about shape, size, smell, color, or parts of the plant, and tell you about it. You can suggest some descriptive words, but let your child take the lead.

Observing seasonal changes in the environment is a great way to build vocabulary, and to build a set of observations that will naturally lead you and your child to form questions: why and how do plants grow? what do they need to grow and live? What is a flower, and what does it do?

EXTRA: If you want, take pictures (or draw) the plant weekly. You can go back and look at them arranged in time over the next few months, and use them to start a discussion with other family members. Learning words to describe the environment and seasonal change is an important part of science learning for a child at this age, and they can benefit from telling other adults what they saw (just like a scientist communicates to others!).

SCIENTIST: Adults and older children in the family may enjoy this interview with Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General of the  International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.

Cambridge Outdoors is working to expand our existing library of resources for outdoor learning with this post and future posts. We hope these posts will address some of the needs of parents during school closures in March/April/May 2020. Come on over to our Facebook Page, and tell us what you like about it, and what kind of other posts you’d like to see here. And tell us about your outdoor explorations, too!

This post was written by Julie Croston. If you use Instagram and Twitter, check out and use our hashtag #CambMAOutdoorLearning.

%d bloggers like this: