The next time you head outside with children, try giving each one a bucket. Let them know you are treasure hunters and are going to take a walk and see what you can find. When children have a container for collecting, ordinary objects suddenly become more intriguing. They may have just walked over leaves before, but a collection bucket means they may now notice the color variations and webbing of veins. Rocks on the side of the path may stand out more and need to be looked at closer for bits of mica or shells. Feathers, egg shells, acorns, and pine cones become exciting items to be found and cherished.
As the hunt continues, sometimes items are found that require a stop for closer examination, but ultimately the decision is made to not put them in the bucket. Worms are fascinating to hold, but would be happier in the dirt. Flowers are beautiful and might smell good, but may belong in someone else’s garden.
When you return, have the children carefully dump out the contents of their buckets. What did you discover? You can then have them sort their finds in many different ways: animal, vegetable, and mineral; by color, by size, or by their favorites! Ask the children what they’d like to do with their materials. Treasure certainly can be hoarded, but they could also make a collage, take a picture, or draw or write about their finds in science journals. Exploring the world around them is a huge part of how children learn. It helps to have a way to guide that learning. Sometimes, all you need is a bucket.