Last week we dove into opportunities for learning through nature by exploring writing skills. Writing is a huge foundation for communication and expressing oneself through a unique voice- YOUR voice. While nature can provide inspiration and pave the way to self expression, nature also provides a bounty of offerings to see, feel, taste and touch. This week, we will appreciate learning through nature by immersing ourselves fully in all the glory of the outdoors!
For my family, an opportunity to get out of the house and off of screens is a welcome break. I love to scroll and I love to enjoy a new show while wrapped up in a fluffy blanket, of course. For the most part, I’m an indoor cat, but nothing beats fresh air and watching my kids explore and laugh while learning through nature. In fact, according to a particular study, spending even just two hours a week outdoors benefits mental health and physical well- being! See, it’s science.
Learning through nature: let’s get outside!
Begin by planning your outdoor excursion. Will you stay local or will you go big?? For me, the pressure to plan something grand can often get in the way of having any fun at all. What do I wear? Or bring? Will someone (even me) have to pee? What if we get lost?? Maybe you can relate to this, too. Since my kids are little enough at 6 and almost 3, even the backyard offers enough excitement for adventure. You don’t have to plan for an Appalachian hike for your family to have fun, time to bond and enjoy the outside while learning through nature. No matter where you go though, remember that it’s ok to get dirty! It’s apparently even good for you! Make sure to dress for it, though. Rainboots and play clothes for everyone! And obviously wash up afterwards.
Take a walk.
One of the best ways to unwind and unplug is to get outside. A nature walk, whether it is through your neighborhood or deeper into the wilderness, allows you and your family to enjoy the outside, experience and observe nature. Nature walks provide access to all hosts of living things big and small, an array of colors and textures and of course, the weather! We’ve included a weather tracker for you to document a whole month’s worth of weather! I ADORE this weather song that my son’s Kindergarten teacher played for them every morning last year during virtual learning. I still get it stuck in my head!
I think about the times my husband and I have taken our kids on a nature walk and have some wonderful memories and bonded experiences from those walks. Walking in nature is a multi-dimensional learning experience where ALL your senses are engaged. One thing I love dearly about walking through the outdoors is seeing my kids experience new things outside of a screen. Screens are great, but nothing compares to the real deal, right?? Much like if Ryan Gosling were here in person as opposed to being a picture on a Wikipedia page, I digress…
Make a plan for learning through nature!
So, let’s take a nature walk with the family! Back to the planning. Again, don’t stress about making big, elaborate, Instagram worthy plans. Instead, try our nature document included above and you’ll find plenty to search for and talk about with your whole family! Start by picking a place and a date. Document this on your Scavenger Hunt paper.
What season is it that you have chosen to venture out into? I love talking about seasons with my kids. Talking about seasons gives you an opportunity to do so much. You can brainstorm colors and holidays associated with that particular season. You can talk about your favorite foods. My son calls winter “egg nog season”. He loves it and it’s a special treat for the holiday season. I think it tastes like old, thick, spicy milk sauce, but hey, to each their own. What do you see during each season? Are there unique opportunities to see something special like the Northern Lights (I wish, but not here in Maryland!) or long nights? The possibilities are endless!
Once you’re outside, get collecting! My son would collect things whether we were on a nature walk or not. He literally has an entire container of rocks in his room that he gathered over the first few years of his life. All of them are special and beautiful and in no way am I to throw them away. So, an officially sanctioned family nature walk is a good opportunity for him to gather all the rocks, sticks and pine cones he can find.
Make sure to bring a bag with you on your walk while you’re learning through nature. Maybe even a couple little Ziploc baggies for smaller interesting things. On our scavenger hunt paper, we made a space for you to display, or for the more artistic folks, to draw, their findings. Our challenge for you is to select a leaf you find. Consider how a leaf truly demonstrates the season at hand. It might be green, newly formed, or it might be in full fall color burst or maybe even brown and dried. Leaves are an amazing part of each season!
What else can you experience while outdoors? Keep track of the colors you see. How many can you find in nature? The season can also dictate what colors are available. Talk about this beforehand. What might you expect to find, what might be absent depending on the season you are exploring? Look for things that are moving, too! Can you find something that flies? What about something that walks? How does it walk and how big is it? Look for things that grow. What is the environment like where they are growing? Is it rocky or marshy and near the water? Maybe it is dark or in direct sunlight. How might that affect the plant? For things that move, document how many legs they have. Do they have two legs (that might be you!) or 4 legs (maybe a squirrel) or no legs at all (maybe a fish)!
Reflect on learning through nature
Once your walk is over and you get home and get cleaned up, take some time to reflect on your experience. Use your writing skills from last week to complete the final section of our Nature Walk activity by writing (or drawing) about your favorite part of the walk! What did you see, hear, feel, taste and touch? What did your family enjoy the most while learning through nature? Make sure to share among yourselves your thoughts and observations. Did you collect a lot of nature loot? What is the most interesting thing you brought home? Did you learn anything new?
The outdoors- whether it is our yard or a park nearby opens a huge window to a world we don’t look at clearly every day. There is so much that we miss in our everyday lives and it makes it more special to get out together and slow down to look at the beauty around us.
Happy exploring! Make sure to share your outdoor experiences with us in the comments! We can’t wait to hear what you get into.
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.