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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

Nature Bottles

As part of an outdoor play and learning workshop we created bottles of nature. Since I had a focus on bringing magic, imagination and creativity into play and learning the International Fairy Tea Party has been a great base for exploring these.

The idea was that the educators (I have also done this with children) should create their own magic potion, using what nature has to offer. I had 10 bottles of water... each filled to the brim, the purpose of this was so that water displacement could be experienced... as they put something into the bottle some water came out... some educators decided to empty a little water to create space... others just placed materials in carefully, and others enjoyed the splash of water coming out as they shoved more nature into their bottle... these are all different strategies and are worth while to observe as a teacher... do the children (or in this case educators) react as you thought they would... do the observations give you more ideas about experimenting with water displacement?

No tools were given, so they had to find their own in nature to help get it down the narrow neck of the bottle... again this was with purpose to get children/educators thinking about problem solving.

In the forest there are things that should not be picked because they are endangered... this activity is a great way to share this information with children (and adults) in a meaningful way - to let them know that some leaves and flowers should not be in the bottle and explaining why. It can also be an opportune time to reflect on nature itself. How much should we take for our own bottles? How much should we leave for the animals for food and shelter or for the nutrients to be returned to the soil. How do we ensure that not one person takes so much of one thing that there is nothing left for others or nature... is this a problem?

As children/adults look for materials in the forest (or in any outdoor location of your choosing) the children get to see the small details, colours, textures, size, smells that maybe they would have missed. They make their own discoveries in nature.

When the children are satisfied with their bottle there is time to watch the sinking and floating, how the water and nature moves in the bottle if you put it upside down, or shake it... a chance to compare with others... how many have chosen the same things... why was that, what enticed them to putting that nature material in their bottles... this allows the children to see that sometimes the same material is chosen for very different reasons.

Then imagination can be brought back into the activity... what does their potion do... (reminding them that this is pretend) - is the potion meant to be bathed in, wiped on the skin like a lotion, used on plants, on humans, as a medicine, to change things from one things to another... etc etc - there are so many possibilities, really only the imagination can limit them... if you write down their words you have, as an educator, the chance to observe their language and communication skills. There is also the opportunity to take this further... to write stories about their magic potions (either together with the children if they are pre-writers - or let them write themselves if they are already writers and capable of creating their own stories on paper - drawing the story can also be an option). OR, the children could create a story together - thinking about what characters are in the story, what the potions do, For philosophical dialogues you could ask the children... are the potions for good or for bad., why are bad potions made.. how can the potions help people/animals/nature, which of the potions would be the most useful if they had to choose just one and why would it be the most useful...

The bottles I used were made of glass... of course plastic bottles can be used to... there could be an experiment with different size bottles, different shape bottles, different colour bottles... also the liquid used... one bottle could be oil, another water and a third vinegar etc so that over time the different processes could be observed - how do these liquids affect the nature inside them... if doing this maybe there is a need to have a more controlled content... ie the same number of berries, the same number of certain leaves etc...

The bottles can also be explored with light. We had painted on a sheet and when it was still wet we held it up with the sun shining through... we experimented with different materials to create shadows... including the bottles...

Other light sources can be used to explore the bottles - if you see in the film we did this... but think about doing this in the dark as well... or how about using UV light and giving the children the opportunity to experience the difference in colours... thus brining the nature bottles inside and connecting learning in and out.

Over time the bottles will change colour, the water quality will change, the contents will also change... many things the children can observe and ask questions about... or you as an educator can ask why the children think this is happening... thus children are given the chance to learn more about nature and science.

At the end of this post you can see a film I made about these bottles... including film footage of the bottles in action.

Of course there is the sensory value of these bottles too... to watch and be mesmerised with the finished bottles, using them as a calm down feeling. And during the collection process there is the smells and textures as well as the sounds and sights of the nature around them.


Magic potions with preschoolers as part of an outdoor celebration of International Fairy Tea Party


Magic potion making as part of an indoor celebration of International Fairy Tea Party ... indoors because of the fairy wings did not like rain... outdoor play came later when we took our wings off!!

Now for a few after photos... as I have kept these bottles for a year, and every now and again taken photos of them using different techniques... from sunlight, to torches and coloured light and also UV light...

sunlight - but why red? None of the other bottles went red despite containing the same berries... is it the mix of materials that has helped the red leach into the water...?

sunlight shadows

the mould growing is beautiful... this ONLY happened in one of the bottles

fairy lights to illuminate

fairy lights in front... behind and above and below... what difference does this make?

UV light... nothing in any of the bottles glowed... some just ended up VERY dark... if you want a contrast, make a nature bottle with tonic water... as that DOES glow with UV light.

more details . to watch how the colours change with timeAlso interesting to watch how SOME of the bottle developed lots of particles at the bottom while others only a bit... so many differences and yet so many similarities to observe and compare and discuss.

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