Nature study is what we do when we step outside our four walls. It requires no tools beyond the ones your were born with; eyes, ears, nose, hands…
“As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.” ~Deb Matthews Hensley
It requires no funds and all one needs to do is simply sit, lie down or look up and around. We naturally did it as children. Back when we were free to climb trees, wade in creeks, brooks and streams. Back when daisy chains and grass stains were expected to be seen upon the brow and knees. However in this day and age it’s not safe for our children to roam or we’re too busy to be still. We’ve trained ourselves out of this intuitive peacefulness we’re graced with. And, we must get it back.
Our children deserve to know that peace. They deserve to know the joy of ladybugs, fireflies, mosquito bites, and dirty toes.
My kiddos have always been outside kids. We remove our shoes and socks at the first chance and never wear gloves. We dig our toes down into the grass each morning and joyfully dig through the dirt enjoying the dirty black line that grows beneath our fingernails. But, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. It’s hard to know how to play as we’ve been forced to bury or deny that part of ourselves and our children. A friend recently asked me what we do. I said,
“I ask them to bring or show me something they’ve never seen before.”
A simple question or request that can not be answered with a yes or no is so very important when you’re reconnecting with nature. Keep things simple and you’ll be amazed at what both you and they will discover. You’ll discover your heads are close together so you can see the small details and suddenly a memory will wash over you as your child holds honeysuckle up to your nose which prompts you to share with them the flavor of sweet honeysuckle nectar. And, magically that peace washes in upon you and lifts up your children in a way that will forever come rushing back when the smell of honeysuckle reaches them.
This can lead to discussions and exploration and may test your ick factor. We have a mini-farm…only a bit over an acre. We’re quite a ways from centers and parks. But, when I ask them to find something they’ve never seen, they always bring something. The kids have brought back bubbly chicken poop, skeletons, seeds, bugs, snakes, plants, rocks, and bag worms (shudder). It’s led to laughter and sniffles as it is always hard to discover a beautiful butterfly or dragon fly that has died or watch as I freak out over ants. Yes…I’m terrified of them. There are times when I look to start something I’ve forgotten as I’ve become busy. I have sometimes found it hard to begin anew too and appreciated when someone has pointed me in the direction I sought. If you find it hard to obtain that peacefulness maybe you can look to these examples for some inspiration.
Nature Journals or Scrapbooks
Nature Journals allow your child to record what he sees, questions and understands about his findings. It can hold pressed leaves and flowers, drawings, photos. If you can give your child a camera and see what they see. You can create a portfolio of what you’ve seen and done this way too. I liked how I could see their individual growth. I also like to encourage them to include quotes about nature, haiku’s, verses from the Bible or song and any stories they’ve written that speak to the moment or experience.
Visit a Nature Center, State Park or a Naturalist Program
Do you feel your yard doesn’t have wildlife? Then visit a Nature Center. I’ve wanted to do the Naturalist program for a while. We forage for “weeds” to make salads and such but it’d be nice to expand on that knowledge and learn to use even more things than what I was taught. Plus, I think it’d be such a neat opportunity for our family to do together.
Create a Nature Study Area in your home
We have various treasures about our home. Windowsills hold crystals, rocks shaped like hearts, acorns, chunks of wood that if you look at them will show a wee little gnome hiding within, butterfly wings, a geode or a branch twirled and corkscrewed about like ribbon. And, at each of these areas are various tools to expand the senses; a magnifying glass to look deeper, paper and pencil, or one of the microscopes. These areas are all populated by what we have found or made and have normally been brought to light because of one little request…
Show me something you’ve never seen before…
Honey Rowland blogs at Honey’s Life about homeschooling, family life and green living with a passion for self sufficiency and natural, special needs parenting. If you stop by her minifarm you’ll see her chasing the goats out of the house, cuddling with kids or chickens, building something solar with the kids for the house or the garden and making out with her lover and husband of 16 years which the girls think is cute and makes her son gag. If you stop by her blog, Honey’s Life, you see the virtual share of all that…minus the making out and the gagging.