Learning occurs best when it’s interactive. Bring hands-on, cross-curricular activities to every preschool classroom learning center. Studying different countries, cultures or habitats in your classroom? Here are hands-on science center activities. It goes without saying that every learning center should have a nice bookshelf or basket of books appropriate the unit. DK makes excellent science reference books and field guides.
Stuffed Animals: Assemble realistic stuffed animals from the different habitats, cultures and countries visited. I realize that stuffed animals aren’t exactly scientifically correct, but they at least help children understand which animals belong to what habitat and region. Play habitat bingo by sorting animals by class (mammal, reptile, fish, insect, amphibian, bird).
Plastic Animals: Set out small plastic or resin animals for children to explore. There are some very realistic toy plastic animals available from local toy stores and craft stores. Place animals in the science area. Children can sort animals by habitat, kingdom, genus, family, class and species. Click here for a simple animal classification chart. For preschooler and ECSE learning centers, students can organize animals by body covering or class (mammal, fish, bird, insect, reptile, amphibian). Click here for free printable animal classification activities based on age.
Plant Species and Samples: Collect several plant species, either living or artificial, from different regions for students to explore in the science area. Sort plants by region, biome and habitat (woodland, desert, tundra, rain forest, deciduous forest, coastal wetlands, marsh).
Collect rocks, minerals and shells from the regions you study in science, too. Rock, mineral and shell specimens look best when viewed in water. Put them in an old dishpan in the science area. Provide brushes for the children to clean the samples and provide magnifying glasses for children to explore with. It isn’t necessary for children to have expensive, high powered magnifiying glasses; cheap, plastic ones are actually better as they get lost and knocked about in classroom use.
Aguarium: Put an aquarium in the science center with specimens animals or animals body parts. Cruelty-free fur samples, exoskeletons, feathers, animals shells, bones, scales, shed snake skin; empty hives and nests, egg shells; many people collect these things and may share them.
Classroom pets: Different schools have different rules for keeping animals in the classroom. Most allow a fish tank or small rodent pet. Obviously a fresh and saltwater aquarium, as well as different species of birds, small mammals, fish, reptiles, insects and amphibians would be ideal for a science or learning center classroom. See my separate articles on choosing and caring for classroom pets.
Maps and Posters: I cover my classroom walls with educational charts, diagrams and posters. Not the cutesy posters, but the informational posters are preferred. Check my blog Free Printable Lesson Plans for gobs of links for free printable posters and charts.