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What kinds of books do you read for fun? Where do you feel most comfortable? Are you a better listener, or talker? These and other questions speak to your learning style–the way you learn best. Learn about one of these styles: naturalistic learning.

What Is a Naturalistic Learner?

All people are different and therefore learn in unique ways. A learning style referrers to an individual’s approach to learning based on three things: their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.

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Although Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has received much attention since its publication in 1983, the idea of differing learning styles has been around for centuries. Very early scholars noticed children have specific skills and talents. Fast forward to today and Gardner’s eight multiple intelligences, the most recent being the naturalistic.

It’s important to note a nuanced yet important distinction when using the terms learning style and multiple intelligence. Since Howard Gardner published his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence in 1983, the two concepts have been often confused and used interchangeably. However, as Gardner staunchly advocates, multiple intelligences are NOT learning styles, but rather a model of human intelligences that work together.

The naturalistic learner has the ability to make unique distinctions in the world of nature. For example, a naturalistic learner can easily distinguish between one plant and another or recognize similarities and differences in cloud formations. Much like the kinesthetic learner, naturalistic learners love to be able to touch and hold things. They thrive in environments where they’re allowed to feel things and be active participants in activities. They love the outdoors and prefer hands-on experiences.

How Do They Learn?

Naturalistic learners are instinctively interested in and aware of their surroundings. They are nature smart! They learn very easily outdoors and are drawn to working with nature. They enjoy opportunities to learn about living things, like plants, animals, and other biology-related subjects, and natural events, such as weather or geology. Many naturalistic students do extremely well in science and are often aware of, and are active members on, issues related to the environment.

Teaching the Naturalistic Student

Just because the naturalistic child prefers the outdoors doesn’t mean they can’t learn in a classroom environment. Once a teacher is aware of the learning style, she can provide many rich, valuable experiences geared towards naturalistic learning.

Units on zoology, which emphasize science, are a particular favorite. Students also love learning about gardening, which incorporates science, math, and history. Objects from the outside can be brought into the classroom. When studying geology, bring in samples of rocks and allow the naturalistic student to hold, explore, and examine. Collect insect or soil samples from around the school, and take a closer look using hand lenses and microscopes.Naturalistic learners love to hold and touch but are equally eager to report their findings. To link the naturalistic learner to language arts, encourage him to develop lab write-ups or keep a log on his findings.

Find books on topics related to nature and natural events. Non-fiction books are of particular interest, but many fiction stories can capture their eager imaginations as well. Current events from newspapers and magazines about the environment, including weather, geological events, and other earth-related activities, will spark his interest.Naturalistic learners love the concrete, so abstract ideas in math are often a challenge.

One way to combat confusion is to provide manipulatives. Using an object to represent a mathematical concept gives the naturalistic learner a method of making sense of ideas. You can also connect math to the naturalistic learner by giving examples in a language he’ll understand. Instead of measuring angles drawn on a piece of paper, have him measure them on a tree, or building. Use real life examples to make math more practical and applicable to the naturalistic learner’s brain.

Naturalistic Learners of the Future

There’s no guarantee a naturalistic learner will grow up and work with nature, but the chances are good.

Naturalistic learners include Charles Darwin, Lewis and Clark, and Jacques Cousteau. Careers for naturalistic learners are often those that work directly with the earth, like landscapers, gardeners, or farmers. They may also interact with science and the earth in the field of archeology. Naturalistics often focus on biology fields, such as zoologists or zookeepers, veterinarians, or fishermen.

Because naturalistic learners view the world in a unique way, they may pursue careers as nature photographers, chefs, or landscape architects.It’s important to realize, however, that no person embodies just one learning style. In fact, we all have several that work together to make us unique learners. Usually, one learning style is more prevalent than others. Teachers and parents should understand the subtle differences in learning styles and recognize that if a child isn’t learning, there are many different approaches that may make more sense to his learning style.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Learning styles are as unique and specific as fingerprints.

No one person has just one learning style, but rather a fantastic blend that dictates how they view their world. Like the name implies, naturalistic learners love nature and the outdoors. They learn best when outside and are easily able to connect with concepts focused on plants, animals, or just about any idea found naturally. Support naturalistic learners by allowing plenty of time to explore. Notice their unique approach to understanding their world.

Differentiate instruction for them by supplying as many hands-on materials, experiments, and opportunities to apply their curiosity and analytical skills.

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