Exploring Nature In Your Own Backyard

by Jen Holmstrom

One of the most enriching parts of the world is nature. It’s filled with life. And it’s all around us. No need to make a long drive to have a fun field trip. Sometimes an educational experience is right outside your door.

Everything in nature excites our senses and expands the mind. In fact, scientific studies have shown that a nature walk increases the attention span and strengthens mental muscles. Children have also been observed to behave better and perform better academically when regularly playing and interacting with nature. Outdoor play fosters creative thinking, encourages respect for the earth, and even reduces anxiety. Nature walks or a trip to a nature center or even 20 minutes playing out in the yard will enhance your child’s learning potential.

For little ones, exploring nature comes naturally. They are enthusiasts of insects and dirt. Children often need no instruction to start studying their surroundings and literally digging into their findings. They also often engage in running or chasing games with friends. This type of outdoor free play covers several subjects: physical education, science, and socialization. But there are several ways to enhance the rest of your curriculum by exploring the outdoors.

Some online resources provide outdoor scavenger hunts. A scavenger hunt can be more academic based for older children, or they can provide easier items with pictures for younger children, like this one.

(Source: http://nowoodenspoons.blogspot.com/2013/07/photo-scavenger-hunt-for-kids-free.html)

You can also find many nature observation worksheets like the ones at The Science Spot. (Source: http://sciencespot.net/Pages/nclessons.html)

How about a series of art lessons that take place outdoors? Examine famous works of art that showcase nature. Invite your children to observe the outdoors, sketch a drawing, or paint a picture while enjoying the sun and the breeze.

An easy way to integrate nature with studies; take your assignment outside! Reading a novel on the grass beneath a tree or writing an essay on a park bench or even doing math homework in the middle of a nature center. Get creative. There are endless ways to enjoy nature while learning. I’m even typing up this article while sitting outside and watching my kids play! Another benefit to being outside is that our children will make memories that don’t consist of TVs, tablets, or cell phones. With all the modern day hustle involving the internet and media, even adults will benefit from exposure to some fresh air.

The body and mind needs to be outside and it is a rewarding environment for exploration and education. If the love for studying the outdoors is nurtured, children will be able to continue to interact with their surroundings with confidence and joy.

[Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-living/ci_25181071/does-outdoor-play-make-kids-smarter
Source: http://www.portlandfamily.com/posts/20-reasons-why-playing-outdoors-makes-children-smarter/]

More for our members on field trips:

At HECOA, we LOVE field trips!  They are a great way to enhance your academic content and they really help kids to get hands-on experiences to extend the learner to much deeper levels.  We have articles as well as recorded webinars on field trips, and we have TWO amazing field trips scheduled at the national level for 2016 - one is to Yellowstone National Park in June 2016, and the other is to Washington D.C. in September!


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