What do you do to develop an appreciation of nature and the outdoors in your family? Are there any activities you particularly enjoy? What resources have you found most helpful? Any other tips you have for other homeschooling families?
I remember a time when on our nature walk we "collected words". We had a notebook in which we jotted down phrases that came to mind - for example, "waters sparkling like diamonds", or "ducks squawking", or... Then we went home and created a free verse poem with our words. Our efforts were collective and we were all quite happy with the result. Another time we brought home leaves and sticks and moss and used them to create a 3D collage of what we saw. I love the times we take our books to a park and hang out in the great outdoors. Of course just playing and being in nature is good and we enjoy gardening and feeding the birds in our own back yard.
We love to go for walks through forested parks. We take our time pointing out interesting plants, birds etc. along the way. Many times we bring home leaves, cones, and mushrooms to see what they are using our field guides. We also keep our bird field guide handy so whenever an unusual bird appears in our yard we can find out what it is. After we identify the bird, we use http://AllAboutBirds.org to hear the birds song, see where it lives, migration habits and similar birds. We LOVE that website. Also, http://handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com has a wealth of ideas for nature study. There is an outdoor hour challenge which you could follow along with weekly. I can't think of a more wonderful place to live then the lower mainland for nature study.
Our family loves hiking and walking along forest trails. Some hikes we have really enjoyed are at Minnekhada Park (Port Coquitlam), Buntzen Lake (Coquitlam), Golden Ears (Maple Ridge), and Lynn Canyon (North Vancouver). Local parks and trails are great if we don’t have an entire day to devote to the outdoors. Our children will play for hours in a natural park (as opposed to a playground) using rocks or fallen branches to build homes, bridges, etc. I haven’t been brave enough to bring along paints or pencils to work on nature notebooks “on location”, but our children have really enjoyed searching for one interesting natural object to bring home. At home, I’ve had them sketch their object on plain white paper and record where it was found and, if possible, what it is. I love seeing their delight in finding “the perfect object” and their growing interest in the natural world. Our nature studies have been inspired by Charlotte Mason’s approach.
We like to do many different activities to appreciate the outdoors... gardening, going for walks around the neighbourhood, going hiking, playing at the park or in our backyard, playing different sport activities in open fields, going on picnics at the beach, beachcombing, fishing, and lastly camping. Out of all the activities mentioned, I believe camping is their all time favorite. It's something we look forward to every year.
Nature studies, and in fact science in general, has a tendency to be very hit and miss in our house, yet it is something that all our kids love. Some of the things we have done that have helped expose our kids to nature, and that have been a big hit include:
- beachcombing. They especially love the mudflats at low tide at Rocky Point Park.
- raising butterflies. We did this last year and the kids found it to be a marvelous experience. We got our kit from http://www.flutterbuys.ca/
- growing their own plants in planter boxes. There was not a garden spot at our last home so the kids used planters on the balcony to create their own garden.
- pets - I can not underestimate the power of pets in teaching our children about animals and about the life cycle.
- We have not done much drawing in nature, but my eldest in particular is becoming quite a photographer, so they love to get out and watch nature and record it photographically. Last summer he got some amazing pictures of an osprey flying around its nest, and of the baby poking its head over the edge of the nest, made even more amazing as the nest was 100 feet above us on a tall pole.
I like to take the children to different parks. We have a family membership at VanDusen Gardens where my 5.5 year old really enjoys looking at different trees and flowers (all year round). We also love to feed the ducks wild bird seed at Trout Lake and Burnaby Lake. Lynn Valley Park is another great place where they not only get to witness the force of the water, but collect leaves, pine cones and other forest floor debris. The last time we went I brought two magnifying glasses and encouraged them to be forest detectives looking for movement on trunks and leaves. With the items that we've collected we will make a little 'still life' either on the front steps or somewhere in the house. I always try to encourage both my girls to not only take in the sights but also the sounds, smells and textures of the outdoors. The children's all time favourite outing is the Vancouver Aquarium where fortunately we also have a membership. At the moment they are fascinated with seals, puffer fish, bats, dolphins, belugas and turtles. More recently I have been trying to instill a greater appreciation of birds. I have shown them this website (www.birdjam.com/habitat.php?id=5) where they see and listen to birds from different environments. They become so excited when they are able to identify a bird by its sound when we are out and about.
From the April 2012 NLHS newsletter
"Clip art from PicGifs.com"