One of the things I can’t wait to do on this blog is offer concrete ideas to use while wiking and exploring the outdoors with your children or students. I’m a full-fledged experienced and licensed elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in instructional design, a nature enthusiast, and a mom, so you can expect that any idea I suggest will be a high quality learning activity or experience. That's a promise.
Here are the some of the qualities I’m looking for in any of the ideas I recommend:
Engaging. I want the activities that I recommend to you to engage your children in the natural world. When you wike, I hope your children aren’t just mindlessly walking, thinking about that ice cream you promised them later, or even (gasp!) playing a hand-held device. Instead, I hope they are interacting with the natural world around them-- playing with things, wondering things, and exploring. I hope they are building an awareness of nature, combatting plant-blindness, learning to observe, and honing their other senses.
Knowledge-building. I want the activities I recommend to teach your children nature content knowledge. This means real information about the science of the natural world, such as the life cycle of living things or animal habitats. Nature content also encompasses vocabulary to describe what they experience in the natural world-- for the youngest children, calling a fallen tree a “log” or discriminating between chipmunks and squirrels; for older children, learning that mushrooms are a type of fungus or being able to describe leaf shapes as lobed or palmate. I’m a teacher at heart, so I like activities that embed other types of literacy, mathematical, thinking, and creative skills, as well.
Fun. I want the activities that I recommend to be fun! The most important motive for getting kids outside in nature is for them to enjoy themselves and enjoy nature. You only get one childhood, so I truly believe that it should be fun and as care-free as possible. In addition, loving nature is the first step in caring about it and wanting to protect it. We desperately need to raise children who care enough about our Earth to protect it.
In educator school, we learn to start with the final goal in mind, considering what big ideas and skills we want children to learn and then using “backwards design” to map out the steps we need to teach for our students to reach those goals. When I design curricula for my students at school, every activity is carefully chosen with a purpose in mind.
That’s why it’s important to me that I don’t just toss you millions of nature activities and see which ones stick. That’s why I promise to carefully choose activities that will help you meet this end goal: raising a nature-loving, learning-inspired, intelligent, joyful kid!
I’m drawing inspiration for these ideas from everywhere—including you! What ideas do you have? What nature activities do you already do with your children? Send me your ideas! I can’t wait to recommend awesome, high quality learning activities for you to try with your children!