We have gotten so used to learning about things through pictures and videos that we often forget about the natural classroom outside. There is so much to learn just by exploring the great outdoors, and exploring nature is healthy psychologically and physically.
Use these ideas to inspire as you explore the great outdoors this summer:
Research the wildlife and plants, caves and rocks, creeks and streams, and so forth in your area. Then observe what your kids seem to like learning about the most – trees? birds of prey? edible plants? – and go with that subject. Take out books and go on a field trip with binoculars, a leaf press, or other complimentary tools to enhance your child’s interests.
Bring nature in when it’s appropriate. Look for caterpillars. Gently capture one and put it in a large jar (with a screen top) along with more of the plant it was eating when you found it. Put a few sticks in the jar, too. The caterpillar may build a chrysalis or cocoon on the stick.
While you are waiting, identify the caterpillar and read up on the habitat of the butterfly or moth that you will soon have. Watch for the butterfly or moth to fly out. Then let it go in a place that fits the habitat you’ve studied.
In the fall, gathering, identifying, and preserving leaves is an educational and colorful project.
Look to the skies. Point out stars, planets, and constellations in the night sky. Find out when there is going to be a meteor shower in your area, and take your kids out to see it. Learn about upcoming celestial events and take your kids to observe the wonders in the sky.
Take sketchbooks into the outdoors and draw, sketch, or paint what you see. Portable media that would work for this project include watercolors, oil and chalk pastels, charcoal, and pencil.
Do nothing at all. Take a hike out into the woods or whatever your local wilderness is, and just let your kids go (safely, of course). Don’t have anything planned. Just enjoy the scenery, turn over rocks, play in the streams, and enjoy the natural world.
Talk to your kids about the importance of nature preservation. As they begin to enjoy the great outdoors, they need to know they are responsible for preserving it for other children and adults, too. Take the opportunity to explain why nature conservation is important to you and to our planet.