We also have a very cool magnifier that was gifted to us by a preschool family. One friend brought some roly polys AKA pill-bugs to share with the other kiddos. After we observed them for awhile, we released them into the flower garden.
On another day a friend brought in a millipede. It was amazing looking at it through the viewer. With it, you have a magnified view from above and one from below. With the one from below we were able to view the movement of the many, many legs of the millipede, a rare perspective we wouldn't have been able to see without the viewer.
After doing some research, I recently purchased four pairs of binoculars for use by the kiddos. I placed them out on the picnic table as a provocation and it wasn't long before they drew a crowd.
The basket included the binoculars, field guides for insects, hummingbirds, western United States birds, bugs and slugs, and reptiles and amphibians. I also added Spring I Spy cards from spelloutloud.com. I also placed paper, clipboards, and colored pencils on the table.
The kids were eager to take off exploring and looking around to see what they could spy. They were encouraged to find something, see if they could find it in one of the guides, and sketch an image of it, if they chose to do so.
The guides were a great reference and they often would spend time browsing them looking for things they had seen before.
We recently did a unit called Eggs, Eggs Everywhere! We were able to explore a large variety of eggs and learn about all the different animals that come from eggs.
We set up a sensory bin of "fish eggs". We placed rocks and a variety of aqua balls in yellow, orange, and clear in a tub of water. We later added some plants and a few plastic fish.
We also had a "frog egg" habitat. We used rocks, aqua balls in green, clear, and blue, foam lily pads, and the frog life cycle pieces.
Lots of opportunities for exploring and learning about the world around us.