Growing Up Wild Exploring Nature with Young Children

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Connect Young Learners to Nature and to Learning—Growing Up Wild

Nov 1, 2009 (Updated Nov 1, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Format and spiral binding, Integration of disciplines, Alignments, Music/Math/Literacy connections, Books, Creativity

Cons:The size is cumbersome

The Bottom Line: Growing Up Wild will establish a positive education trend and raise the bar for wildlife education in young children.  I've witnessed, first hand, enthusiastic responses from ECE teachers.


Project Wild has been providing environmental education programs indirectly to children (by training their teachers) since 1983.  This has grown into a highly respected international program with an extensive network of educators that covers kindergarten through high school with interdisciplinary supplemental resources. Project Wild's educational material is generally free but only available after attending a facilitated workshop.  It's worth the six to eight hours and definitely worth the cost (free in most states). Project Wild now has an exciting brand new program, Growing Up Wild, which is specifically designed for Early Childhood Educators (ECE) use in classrooms, private schools, daycare, and Head Start. 

"Growing Up WILD is an early childhood education program that builds on children's sense of wonder about nature and invites them to explore wildlife and the world around them." Project Wild, and now Growing Up Wild, are offered through the Council for Environmental Education (CEE) and unlike Project Wild, this program does not require participation in a workshop to receive their educational guide although it's highly recommended. 

I only know of two places where this can currently be purchased, at CEE's website and through the Acorn Naturalists online store.  The current cost is less than $25 but if you locate a workshop through your state's Project Wild coordinator the cost of the book is free as is the workshop. The resource is terrific for early childhood teachers who want to teach science but lack the background, and it's tremendous for early childhood teachers who have the science background but want to know more about integrating it into other topics with optimal results.

The Book-Growing Up Wild Exploring Nature With Young Children Ages 3-7
This is a large, colorful book with a coated cover that is intended for frequent use. This 17 by 11 ½ inch book was well thought out including the spiral binding. Some of the amazing features include:

• 27 teaching units (Fishing Fun!, Hiding in Plain Sight, Tracks!, Owl Pellets, Seed Need, Field Study Fun, Wildlife as Symbols, Less is More, Wildlife is Everywhere, Wiggling Worms, Looking at Leaves, and Spider Web Wonders - these are only some of the units)
• Connections to NAEYC Standards and Head Start Domains (Many states are working on aligning these lessons to their Kindergarten and First Grade standards.)
• Children's Book Lists (each book identified has the title, author, brief description, and ISBN)
• Glossary of all the Wild Wonderful Words
• Tips for Teachers
• Copy Me Pages (also available online)
• Home Connections Cards (for families)

Using this is easy and straightforward. These flexible teaching units are designed for use over a week or extended out through several weeks or throughout multiple seasons-teachers will decide what works best for their needs. Each teaching unit spreads over two full pages-you definitely need room to spread this book out to study.  Fully opened this is 34 inches wide.  The lesson components are all found in the same places and within the same colors and graphic presentations from page-to-page.  Lesson components include:

• Standards/Correlations/Recommended age levels (always on the blue side bar)
• Lists of readable non-fiction and fiction books for the particular topic (always associated with the standards/correlations)
• Lesson title and brief description of the activity (Ants on Parade: Children go outside to observe ant behavior and learn insect characteristics)
• Wild Wonderful Words (vocabulary appropriate for topic and ages: in activity Who Lives in a Tree words are tree, bark, leaf, trunk, root, canopy, branch, & nest)
• Quick Facts (this background information is selected for non-science teachers and for the intended audience)
• Materials and Prep (includes any copy pages intended for the lesson as well as teaching materials)
• Warm Up and Wrap Up (provides creative assessment for determining pre-knowledge and the learning)
• Procedure (Steps that include a variety of activities; these step-by-step instructions break up this somewhat extensive teaching unit into usable portions and these can overlap some of the unit's other activities.)
• Take Me Outside guides the teacher in conducting outdoor schoolyard activities (or at a nearby park or green space) but also at the zoo, nature centers, and along sidewalks.

-----This is just the first page. The second page includes:
 
• Healthy Me, Helping Hands and Mighty Math (in lavender block near spiral binder)
• Home Connections (Take-home activities, "fun things parents, guardians, and children can do together to extend the learning at home." These can be copied from the book, or from their online PDF, and they are all in English and Spanish.)
• Art Projects (Art Projects encourage creativity while Craft Projects provide opportunities to follow instructions.  Both are designed to help children express their ideas and to practice fine motor skills.)
• Music and Movement always includes a song or rhyme possibly with a fingerplay and some movement activity. The music "jump-starts vocabulary skills by providing lyrics related to each activity's topic and set to common childhood tunes."  (Spider Web Wonders' song, Little Spider Weaves a Web, is built around the tune Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Spider Web Wonders also has a Spider Wrap Relay with a spider race chant that is just too cute.)
• Centers & Extensions appropriate to each topic. These encourage individual self-discovery or small group work (always found on the green side bar).
• Snack (along with the Healthy Me!) is part of Growing Up Wild's focus on integrating nutrition and healthy lifestyles into this project. (The activity, In a Grasshopper's World's, recommends snacks that encourage crunching and munching on nutritious leaves and vegetables.)

This entire book is designed to connect children to nature with developmentally appropriate practices and nature play.  It integrates math and literacy components into each lesson and combines these along with art, music, and movement to spark creativity. This builds upon the natural curiosity of young learners and guides teachers through scientific inquiry and open-ended questioning.

Final Thoughts

CEE developed this book through a lengthy process that involved many of the nation's leading early childhood experts and researchers working in concert with highly experienced wildlife educators.  This reflects current thoughts regarding the many positive benefits associated with children learning outside.  Growing Up Wild will, like it's older relative Project Wild, foster a trend in education and it has already raised the bar for wildlife education in the young child.  I've seen, first hand, the response from ECE and Head Start teachers. They are overwhelmingly thrilled with this resource and that it makes this challenging topic so much easier to address and justify in their classrooms.

You can buy an individual copy; a bulk discount (50 or more) makes this even more affordable for school districts. Not all states are currently offering Growing Up Wild through their Project Wild State Coordinators and in these states the workshops are not available. I'm confident that will change as this capably addresses several national ECE initiatives. I recommend GUW to anyone teaching three-to-seven year old students, but where possible, I strongly recommend attending a facilitated workshop. My review doesn't begin to address all that this book offers.  Not only is the book free at these workshops, but you will leave with an enhanced confidence in using this resource and most important - the workshops are so much fun!


Image for book's cover - www.projectwild.org/images/GUW-cover-web_000_000_000.jpg

(Most of the images of projects in this book were created by children during the development of this book and lessons.)


Recommend this product? Yes


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