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Humane Education Activity: Wonder Box

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | 1 Comment | Published on September 10, 2015 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2015/09/10/humane-education-activity-box/
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Image of natural objects such as shells, feathers, rocks, etc.

Image via Chlot’s Run/Flickr.

Start nurturing reverence for nature and a sense of wonder from the first day of school.

The Wonder Box is used to hold a collection of various natural found objects (shells, leaves, feathers, rocks, etc.). Students can interact with the objects, inspecting them, using their five senses, drawing/sketching, painting, writing a poem, listing describing words, creating a story, etc.

The Wonder Box makes a great activity center or visiting area of the classroom for grades PreK-5 and is especially relevant for language arts, art, and/or science.

Students can:

  • use curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking to develop reverence for the natural world.
  • cultivate observational skills.
  • develop literacy and fluency skills via art and writing.
  • learn to identify items from nature and describe their attributes.

Here’s how to get it started.


  • a shoe box or tray (painted/decorated if desired)
  • magnifying glasses
  • sketch paper, journal paper, pencils, crayons, watercolors, etc.,
  • natural items
  • chart paper for directions


1.    Show students the empty box or tray.

2.    Explain that throughout the school year, you will be placing items in it that you have found in nature (make sure that all the items adhere to local, state, and federal laws and weren’t collected in a way that causes harm).

3.    Show the students a magnifying glass and model how to use it to “zoom in” and see close-up details of objects.

4.    Explain that there will be sketch paper, journal paper, and pencils/crayons/watercolors, etc., available by the box so that the students can draw pictures of the item(s), create poems, write stories, ask questions, etc. These creations can then be compiled in a class book, displayed on a bulletin board, taken home, etc.

5.    Model steps 3-5 with the students using “think aloud” and detailed language.

6.    Add natural objects daily, weekly, etc., reminding the students to check out the Wonder Box for new additions.


Download the complete Wonder Box activity.