I just received a school catalog in the mail and they have a “nature” kit for classrooms for a whopping $500! Granted, the kit comes with several manuals and accessories, such as flashlights and magnifying glasses, for a whole classroom. But the kit basically contains sticks, rocks, acorns, pinecones, etc.
Really? I guess we are particularly fortunate as homeschoolers because rather than purchasing a five-hundred dollar nature “kit,” we can step outside of our doors and explore the real thing!
In our 11 years of homeschooling, we have spent plenty of time at parks, doing various nature activities, so I thought I would share with you the ways that we have enjoyed nature across the curriculum:
Nature provides great manipulatives, and for free! You can use items like rocks, small twigs, acorns, little pinecones, shells, etc. to practice sorting & comparing, adding & subtracting, graphing, measuring & weighing, and making patterns.
Nature is science, science is nature, and there is so much to explore! Catch some tadpoles or caterpillars and bring them home to watch them change. Observe insects, identify birds and trees and plants. Observe the changes in nature as the seasons change. Study plant life, animal life, biomes. Observe snowflakes under the microscope. Study the lunar phases. Stargaze.
Nature is the perfect inspiration for poetry and short stories. Children can write about their experiences out in nature. We keep nature notebooks, filled with the kids’ writings about their experiences, drawing of birds and insects they see, pressed flowers, etc. You can take a backpack when you go and put the notebooks and pencils in there, as well as binoculars and a magnifying glass.
Again, seemingly endless opportunities. Go out in nature and draw or paint what strikes you. Do leaf and tree trunk rubbings. Create people or animals out of small nature findings like twigs and rocks. Paint large rocks. Draw cloud formations. Press flowers.
It is still winter, but we are starting to have warm days here and there. Take advantage of them as they come! On cold days, bundle up and go out anyway. Over the coming weeks, watch the changes in nature as the world warms up, days get longer, and spring arrives!
There are several websites dedicated to getting families outdoors, and they have fantastic ideas. Check out Nature Rocks!, Children & Nature Network, and Handbook of Nature Study, which is a blog filled with nature “challenges”, and nature studies for different age groups and seasons.
In what ways have you incorporated nature into your homeschooling?
Tanya is a homeschooling mom of a first grader, a middle schooler, and a high schooler. When she’s not outside with the kids, she can be found blogging at So Happy Together, or cooking up something new at Knoxville Food Examiner.
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Janet from Creative Writing says
I enjoyed this post immensely! One of the tragedies of our modern society is the disconnect we have between our natural environment and ourselves, as growing, living, created beings. A number of recent studies point to the experience of the natural world–directly,often,outdoors–as a factor in developing more fully on all levels, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. I taught in a classroom for over twenty years, and homeschooling families have a greater opportunity to experience and study the natural world across the curriculum, in a way that I never could, bound by red-tape and regulations.
Isn’t there a book on “nature-deficient disorder”? I totally agree! Even in cities, you can get out and explore parks. We’re fortunate that we live in the “boonies” where evergreens and broadleafs and wild plants grow aplenty…and of course we have the mountain to hike and enjoy the views. We LOVE just going out with the dog and our Audubon field guide (for our “neck of the woods”) and just walk and talk and experience!
Janet from Creative Writing says
Yes, Jessy, you’re right! For anyone who’s interested, the book is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”, by Richard Louv, published in 2008. I highly recommend it! One can’t read it without realizing that a wise, loving Creator made the Earth to truly be our home while we’re in this life and what ultimately happens to ourselves and our children when we divorce ourselves from living in and caring for the natural world.
Wow, I can’t believe they sell a kit like that! That’s really sad!