Featured Activity Kit: Nature Blocks

April showers bring May flowers and all of the insects that make your garden their home! Introduce your class to intriguing insects with Nature Blocks: specimens of real insects preserved in clear acrylic blocks that are easy for students to manipulate and examine up close, bringing the outside in.

The common species preserved in these blocks include a wasp, a housefly, an ant, and a spider. The process of seed germination is also preserved in an additional block with three specimens of seeds emerging at various stages of development. All of these specimens can be looked at with the naked eye, but they are also compatible with microscopes, making them ideal for study in science labs as a part of ecology and environmental study units. They are accompanied by a small informational booklet that includes interesting facts about each species and labeled diagrams of their body parts.

These blocks are ideal for students in the junior and middle grades, and encourage children to be curious about the natural world unafraid of its smaller inhabitants. A teaching strategy hoping to elicit this response might group students together first, to list their preconceptions of these insects, and then to examine the specimens, record what they observe and note new things that they learn. The class can then regroup to discuss what they first thought of these insects and what they think about them now, after the activity.

Each set of Nature Blocks contains three blocks with four insect specimens and three seed germination specimens. They would be paired well with the Zoomy Digital Microscope, which allows students to take magnified digital images of any specimen they choose that can then be viewed on a computer.

Nature Blocks and the Zoomy Digital Microscope are currently on display in the Display & Play area on the third floor of the OISE Library.

About Chelsea Humphries

Graduate Student Library Assistant | Master of Information (LIS) 2020, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
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