Nature spy

Uncover clues in the wild to get kids thinking like scientists. 

Learning Stages

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

Young children learn best through self discovery and exploration. Take advantage of spring by heading outside and allowing your child explore the great outdoors. You and your youngster will be amazed at what can be discovered if you just stop and take a closer look.  

My students learned how to become a nature spy from the book, Nature Spy, by Shelley Rotner and Ken Kreisler. Encourage your child to use his imagination and become a nature spy too! When you become a nature spy pretending to act like a detective is key. Teach your child that a detective looks for clues that were left behind, so in this case you and your child will be looking for clues left by nature. Becoming a nature spy will allow children to begin to think like a real scientist!

Here are some suggestions that every good nature spy should do/have while hunting for clues on his nature exploration.

Things to do:

  • Take a close look at things you may otherwise just pass by. For example: What things do you see inside the middle of a flower?
  • Look for animal clues. Get close to the ground to look for animal tracks in the mud. Look up high and try to find nests up in a tree. What lives in the nest? Birds? Squirrels?
  • Use more than just your sense of sight. Listen, smell, and touch too!
  • Stand perfectly still and talk about all the different nature sounds you can hear.
  • Look for different animal homes (habitats) and see what living things you find there. For example, roll back an old log on the ground and discover all the things lurking under it.
  • Ask questions and make guesses! For instance, some questions that you may ask are,"What things might you find living in the ocean? Why does a crab have a shell? Who eats those seeds? What animal left those marks on the bark of that tree?"  Allow your child to guess and lead them to the answers if necessary.

Things you may want to bring with you outdoors:

  • Handheld lens or magnifying glass
  • Binoculars
  • Pad of paper and a writing/drawing utensil
  • Garden gloves
  • Small garden shovel
  • Small jar or pale to temporarily inspect little creatures 

There is so much to learn from the world around us, so step outside your door and see what your child will discover. There's always something to find when you're a nature spy!