Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Natural Science Projects
Nature Bulletin No. 724   September 21, 1963
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor

Natural science projects have a dual purpose. One is based upon the principle that people learn by doing. The other, based upon the innate curiosity of children, is to channel that curiosity toward what they see in the out-of-doors. The objective is to make them friends of things that grow and become friends of the land upon which they and we depend.

In any class the interests and aptitudes of the pupils vary considerably. A teacher should not assign but should submit a variety of projects from which, if so inclined, they may choose. However, then and later, pupils may be stimulated or guided by suggestions from an inspiring teacher.

Our nature bulletins No. 609 and No. 610 suggest several "classroom projects" -- such as Tree Diaries (discussed more fully in No. 406), Vegetable Dyes, Hitchhikers, and Life in the Soil -- that appeal to youngsters and have been proven educational.

Soil life and other projects designed to acquaint them with the soil, its vital importance, how it is being depleted and lost, and how it may be conserved, are discussed and programmed in "Soil and Water Conservation Activities", an illustrated pamphlet (PA-391) issued by the Soil Conservation Service of the USDA and obtainable from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

Our bulletin No. 465 (Field Trips in Autumn) suggests numerous projects utilizing insects, cocoons, spiders, leaves, fruits, nuts and seeds that may be collected at this time of year. It recommends several earlier bulletins valuable as reference material. Some of those concerned with color changes and the losses of foliage on trees, shrubs and vines, become more meaningful if correlated with daily observations of temperatures, occurrence of frost, hours of sunlight, rainfall and humidity.

In spring, such data is equally valuable in projects investigating the activities of amphibians, the leafing and flowering of trees, the blooming of wildflowers, and the arrival of birds.

Projects utilizing root vegetables and the seeds of other vegetables or the seeds of fruits that can be grown in a classroom, are suggested in our bulletin No. 684 (Kitchen Botany), which is taken from an article by Blair Coursen in the August, 1961, issue of Turtox News published by the General Biological Supply House in Chicago.

Some youngsters become interested in rocks end minerals. For their use we recommend "Collecting Rocks and Minerals" (Hart Book Co. ) and "How to Know Minerals and Rocks", by Richard M. Pearl, (McGraw-Hill). Since Illinois is among the leading producers of oil, coal, limestone, clay, silica sand, and that unique mineral -- fluorspar - - we recommend our bulletins about them, "Teaching Mineral Conservation" (published by the Illinois Superintendent of Public Instruction), and "Mineral Resources" (published by the Illinois Dept. of Registration and Education).

Several autumn projects -- such as Hitchhikers and others involving seed dispersal -- are described in two books we recommend to all teachers: "Natural Science Through The Seasons", by J. A. Partridge (published by the Macmillan Company Ltd. of Canada), and Wm. Hillcourt's "Field Book of Nature Activities" (published by G. B. Putnam's Sons).

The Popular Science Series and the Story of Illinois Series, published by the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, furnish ideas and reference material for many other science projects. As a little tad said, "Every place you look there's somep'n to see."

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