Sensory experiences to invoke an environment described in a book

Child feeling warm sand.We did more than watch as early childhood educator Sarah Glassco read the book Senses at the Seashore by Shelley Rotner (Millbrook Press 2006) during her presentation on using imagination to explore science concepts. She had us feeling warm sand, holding a shell to our ears to listen, feeling and tasting clean salt water on our lips (from a spray bottle), smelling wet seaweed and imagining that we were at a place called a “beach”.

Pair the book with others, such as The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow and Wendell Minor (HarperCollins 1994), Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Mark Astrella (Charlesbridge 2001) and Beach Feet (Being in the World) by Kiyomi Konagaya and illustrated by Masamitsu Saito (Enchanted Lion Books 2012).

You can repeat the sensory activities and add a few more. Walking though dry and then wet sand, feeling the sun on your skin, hearing the crash of the surf (cymbals?), running as though we are sandpipers–what else can simulate a beach experience? For those who do not live near the ocean, seaweed can be purchased in Asian food sections of groceries and re-hydrated by putting it into water for a few hours. Although it has been washed, the wonderful smell of the sea can still be experienced.

Where else can we “go” with our imagination and some sensory experiences?

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  1. Jen
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I love this concept on sensory experiences not only for the science classroom but for all subject areas in an elementary classroom. Using the senses promotes higher order thinking by challenging young students to explore for answers to questions. Sensory experiences help students use tools that may seldom get used because they are trained to use the easiest or most common way to solve a problem. By promoting the use of one sence without using any other senses the student can bring new ideas to the experience. For example: have the students touch the sand after they have been blind folded and have ear plugs so they can’t use their sight or sense of hearing to give them clues, have the students smell something without seeing, touching or hearing about it. Using sensory experiences address several different learning styles and allows educators to differenciate instruction to meet the needs of ELL or special needs students without having them miss on out on whole group activities. I love the beach theme but really any theme or any subject area can utilize this concept – seasonal themes, science themes, social studies themes, math themes, a language arts novel or story book, hobbies or music, the ideas are endless. Using a themematic unit with the sensory experiences is most effective and engages students throughout the learning process.

  2. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Jen, you have broadened my thinking about sensory experiences and I’m planning on how to engage more senses in mathematical work. Maybe grouping and counting fuzzy pom-poms and small pinecones inside a “Feely Box”?

  3. Marie Faust Evitt
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I’m intrigued by the ideas of how to focus on only one sense at a time– using a blindfold and ear plugs to focus on the feel of sand.

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