Incorporating garden-based themes into your childcare educational programs is a great way to incorporate early science concepts in very down to earth way. By harnessing children's natural urge to explore and dig, you can create an engaging learning unit for them. Here is a way to incorporate insects like wriggly worms into your learning program, and explore their role in the food cycle.
Have a walk around the garden and get the children to spot insects. If your children are a little older, get them to count how many insects they are finding. On a fine day, you can set up art easels in the garden and get the kids to draw or paint some of the insects they can see.
Set up a glass box with a layer of black dirt from the garden and a layer of white play sand. After the children have finished their lunch, add their food scraps and cover them with more garden dirt. Add some compost worms and get the children to draw the box with separate layers. Take a photo on day 1. Keep the box covered with a dark cloth and bring it down every few days to uncover so that children can observe the food breaking down, and the worms mixing the play sand with the dirt.
As the worms eat the food scraps and mix the sand and dirt together, the box will become more consistent in colour, rather than having distinct layers of material. You can use this as a way to discuss how food is digested.
Growing silk worms
As an example of the other roles that insects play in the garden, purchasing some silk worms and letting them feed on mulberry leaves is a fun way to show how silk is produced. You can start the lifecycle with silkworm eggs, purchasable through many online stores, and observe as the eggs hatch into larvae, then weave a pupa (cocoon) before becoming moths. This is a good way to observe the lifecycle of an insect in approximately 4 weeks, with easy to observe and sketch lifecycle trees. Be sure to ask the children's parents if anyone has a mulberry tree in their backyard to provide some leaves, as many Australian backyards feature mulberry trees.
As you can see, the garden is a rich source of interesting insects to observe and draw. The food cycle is an interesting concept for children to explore in a concrete manner, and introduces the earliest concepts of biology for your young scientists! For more ideas, work with other childcare centres, such as Cool Bananas Childcare & Preschool.