When Otis was younger he collected sticks and stones. We had a pile of sticks just inside our front door where Otis would meticulously place each new find. When he would find something extra special perhaps a pinecone or seedpod he would carefully put them in a nature basket.
Nature baskets some times over-flow. Some times we have specimens we want to set up in a display, a nature discovery area, a nature table!
My boys love the beach and our nature table is now consumed with items from the ocean. A large conch shell, some star fish and a variety of other interesting finds (I would love to find some coral to add to our collection).
A Montessori nature table is different from something like a Waldorf nature table. Both would include items from nature. A Waldorf nature table might contain seasonal coloured play silks, wooden carved creatures from nature and possibly a seasonal story book.
A Montessori nature table is a little more scientific, likely to include items from nature, a magnifying glass, a field guide or non-fiction explanatory book. It really is a little zoology or biology nook!
A nature table (or nature tray/basket) allows and encourages us to bring nature inside. To take some time to explore nature slowly and in detail. And nature tables are always so beautiful!
Over time we have collected a good, solid range of educational books. We can always find a book in our existing home library that suits our nature table. We mainly use field guides (flora and fauna), Nature Anatomy and First Discovery Books. I find the First Discovery Books have the perfect amount of information for four year olds.
We always have a hand held magnifying glass available. Our Bug Viewer is almost always at our nature table too, it's large and really easy for Otis to use. Because both children use this table I've recently added some labels so they (and I) can identify the shells and use the correct language. And one of the things I love most about this nature table is the really beautiful Discovery Windows. They are even nicer sitting on the window ledge with light streaming through them. They allow us to create a really beautiful and unique display. Our Bug Viewer and Discovery Windows are c/o child.com.au.
Everyday our nature table looks different. Our nature table is to be used not just looked at. The specimens are to be held and to be explored. To be poked and prodded. To be touched and felt. To be held to the ear and listened to. To be used as a way for the child to connect with nature. Below Otis is exploring the shapes and designs the shells and star fish make in a sand tray. In our home playing at the nature table is encouraged (always supervise younger children).
Our Discovery Windows and Bug Viewer (5x magnification) are c/o child.com.au (however they are available in the US here and similar here). Some paper and pencils would be a nice addition to a nature table. Perhaps some photographs of natural environments too!