Where do ideas come from? Curiosity, Wonder & Big Ideas

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in E-Course - STEAM Outdoors | 14 comments

Where do ideas come from?

Share your Discoveries & Big Ideas

Miniature Gardens, Compost Bins & Seedswaps

The Teaching in the Dirt: STEAM Outdoors e-course if filled w20151024_125010_resizedith nature based curriculum ideas. The intention of the course is to inspire teachers to create outdoor curriculum that infuses a sense of curiosity and wonder into the minds of children.

Where do ideas come from? Elizabeth Gilbert explains her theory on “How Ideas Work” in her  latest book called Big Magic.  She describes, ” Ideas are a desembodied energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us-albeit strangely. ” She explains,  It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”

I love the image of  dancing Outdoor Learning Ideas in the minds of Natural Teachers. Elizabeth Gilbert captures this image beautifully and describes,” Therefore, ideas spend enternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. When an idea thinks it has found somebody, –say, you–who might be able to bring it to the world, the idea will pay you a visit.”

Some ideas are simple, while others are more complex. Have you experienced the sensation of receiving a great idea?  Gilbert describes this as Big Magic. She explains, ” But sometimes–rarely, but magnificantly–there comes a day when you are open and relaxed enough to actually receive something.” It is the nurturing of an idea that allows it to grow into something beyond our wildest dreams. Can we make that happen with Outdoor Classrooms?

Ideas an grow like gardens. They need to be nurtured, watered and loved. If ideas are left they will die and disappear. In the Teaching in the Dirt: STEAM Outdoor e-course, we have an opportunity to invite and capture ideas for our Outdoor Classrooms. I played with this concept this week and am excited to share my results.

This week I created a miniture garden that was inspired by the book Fairy Houses!



I was inspired by the  5 Fun Composting Projects for Kids article, and explored adding a Compost bin to my Edible Garden. Step 1: Buy supplies.


Curious about the idea of adding a Seed Swap to my Little Free Library. I picked up the book Seedswap book by Josie Jeffrey.  My ideas are starting to swirl! Check out these books in the Outdoor Classrooms Book Store!

What did you discover this week? What was your favorite video? STEAM activity? What are you curious about? Is there anything that you are interested in?  What ideas are swirling around and which ones do you think you will bring to the world? Share your ideas and add a comments below.


  1. Just finished Module 2. Still have too many thoughts to process before starting Module 3. I am really excited to watch the movie you suggested “The Land” unfortunately the next show is sold out, so I will have to wait until August. The Fairy Houses are adorable, and look like a fun and easy project to try this summer with the kids.

  2. Ideas certainly grow. I am growing one from your bee game. My friend game me a bee skep shaped container for a future idea. Here it is. I will have the children make the bees from eggs, then I will hide them outside. The children will find a fun fact about bees inside with a bee related item. The bees can live in the skep until we play again. Maybe we will have toast and honey for snack too.

  3. Your bee game has inspired me to adapt it to my classroom. I have a bee skep shaped plastic container that my friend said I had to keep for a future idea. Here it is. I love the egg bees you made. The children can make them, then I will hide the bee eggs outside for them to find. I think the children would love to open one to find a fun fact and an item that relates to bees inside. They can live in their bee skep until we play again. That is what I like about ideas. They get bigger!

  4. I learned a ton watching Module 1 Design and Prepare. I definitely want to add a trellis to our playground. I figure I can have the kids help to build and plant for our new trellis.

    I really liked the idea of using pallets to grow items and then we can lean the pallets on the fence so it’s not in the way of the children and their play.

    My co-teachers and I like to do science experiments with the children and have them see what happens if we do projects so putting beans in a bag to grow and putting it on windows would be a great solution.

    • Great ideas! Take pictures of your process. It is really fun to go back and see the growth in both the kids and your Outdoor Classroom. Love the trellis idea!

  5. I love the idea of creating an indoor fairy garden with my students! My students are extremely creative and I imagine this would be something they would get incredibly excited about. We are lucky enough to have a library with a seed library directly across the street from us and it would make a great “field trip” with the kids to head over there and get some seeds and along with some books about gardening and fairies. I also like how this brings together all kinds of disciplines together including art (creating the space in way “fairies” would like), reading, science, and is hands on. The fact the kids get to use their imagination and creativity with the fairy aspects adds to the fun.

    Do you have any other book recommendations besides Fairy House that might be useful for this type of project? Any other tips? I saw some interesting looking ones planted in what appears to be bird baths on google which I liked as they can be moved in/out depending on the season but I’m not sure the practicality of using this.

    • An indoor fairy garden is perfect for the upcoming winter months. Oh my goodness…I just picked up a book about seeds. Can you tell me more about the seed library? Facinating! I have a Little Free Library and am trying to figure out how I can add a seed exchange. (it is at the end of my driveway) You are thinking like a Natural Teacher with bringing together all the disciplines. Love your questions! I will answer in our next post. Keep an eye out.

  6. There was so much info in Module 1, there are numerous ideas dancing “at the ball” in my head! You provide lots of great ideas to peak interest and captivate the imagination! I love how each section is structured, with curiosity conversations and planting seeds of inspiration. Cooking up compost stew on a small scale, engaging in vertical gardening, and creating garden signs, are a few things I can’t wait to do at our school. We are installing a greenhouse at the school, and a simple idea I have is create a cozy area for books there, similar to your little “libraries” outdoors. I am especially intrigued with taking daily images with the children to show the sequence of growth, as we have recently acquired iPads for classrooms. Can you please provide a bit more detail on the handmade scale in the beans module?

    • Thrilled to know that your ideas are dancing! Exactly what I was going for! I woke up this morning thinking of creating a greenhouse out of plastic bottles! I can’t wait to see your greenhouse project! What an incredible opportunity. Details on handmake scales coming up!

  7. I am so busy this fall that I am still on Module One. The STEAM & Beans video was inspiring as I want to do indoor gardening with the children this year. I came to the realization that growing things can be enjoyed all year and why not have indoor gardens on a small scale. We started our herb garden box after exploring with some lemon basil from my own garden. One class planted regular basil on one side of the box and the other class planted lemon basil on the other side. My plan is for them to nurture, observe and compare the two different varieties. I also have a sprouter and we watched some wheat berries sprout slowly. Yesterday we put some in a pot to see if they would continue to grow. Maybe we will get wheat grass. The other project from the Beans video that I want to try is planting the beans in a root viewer and take pictures each day to create a movie of its growth.

    • Shelley…you are doing great! You are not behind. I love that you are soaking up the material and trying new things. Thrilled to know the bean video was inspiring!Let me know if you get some wheat grass! Can’t wait to see your bean growth movie! Keep the curiousity and wonder flowing! 🙂

      • In my latest edition of NAEYC’s Teaching Young Children, there was a great idea. Take a large pumpkin, cut the top off leaving the insides as you find them, after talking about and observing what we see, fill the cavity with potting soil, water and see what happens. We are trying this experiment in my class. I hope something happens before the pumpkin rots out! I will take pictures.

        • I love when we capture ideas and hold on to them long enough to take action! Can’t wait to see pictures! Fabulous job.

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