Posts tagged ‘nature rocks’

February 6, 2015

Backyard Connections: Exploring Nature in Winter

by Melissa Harding

DSC_0206

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” -William Blake.

The cold of winter can be biting and forbidding, keeping us all huddled under blankets with cups of tea in our hands. This is especially true in January, when it seems like it has been cold for ages and spring is a lifetime away. However, the cold doesn’t have to keep you in the house; winter is a great time to explore nature and have fun outside! Bare trees provide a perfect view of birds and other critters and few green plants makes them easier to identify. Whether you are going to the park, to the forest or just staying in your backyard, there are lots of great things to explore and do in the winter.

Bundle up and be prepared
Before you go out, make sure to bundle up. Little bodies can get cold quickly, so making them as comfortable as possible will keep everyone outside longer. Gloves, hats, boots and warm coats are a must on winter days. Dress yourself and your child like an onion; layers are key to staying comfortable. Avoid cotton materials if possible, as it is less able to stay as warm and dry as wool or synthetic fabrics. This is especially important for items which will most likely get wet, like socks and gloves. Finally, take some snacks along. Little bellies are likely to get hungry as they expend energy playing in the cold and a bite to eat could turn a grumpy child into a happy one.

Take a hike!
The most obvious thing to do outside is to go for a walk. Whether it is down the sidewalk or through the woods, a walk outside is always fun. There is so much to see and do while walking. Encourage your child to observe their surroundings and look for things of interest. Remember to slow down and walk at your child’s pace; he or she may find so many interesting things that you don’t get very far, but it’s about the quality of your time outside, not how far you roam. In winter, bare trees make it easier to spot birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other animals in their branches. Colorful birds like cardinals and blue jays are easy to spot amidst the brown branches, but there are many smaller, darker birds hopping around as well. While you are scanning the trees, look for nests, weirdly shaped branches and other interesting sights. Binoculars are a great tool to bring along to help you spot them.

Turning your eyes down, there are lots of things to observe on the ground. Winter is the best time of year for tracking, as the ground is either snowy or muddy; animals of all kinds leave tracks to identify and follow. There are many tracking guides, even some for children, available to help you understand who made the tracks you see. However, it can be even more fun to guess and make up stories about the track instead. As long as you are having fun, it doesn’t matter!

An additional way to enjoy a winter hike is to go on a scavenger hunt. Depending on the age of your child, it could be easy (find something red) or hard (find a cardinal). Either make a list at home of likely sights or improvise as you go along. A game of Eye-Spy is an equally fun way to encourage observation. Take a magnifying glass with you to look at snowflakes, pine needles or anything else you find.

DSC_0200

Collect Treasures
Sometimes, just looking isn’t enough – Children love to collect treasures! It may just be a rock to you, but it is an amazing find to your child. Children will collect anything; one way to encourage this is to bring a container for collecting outside with you. You can let your child pick up whatever catches his eye or direct him to a certain items such as sticks, pine cones, acorns or rocks. Make sure to monitor what sorts of items he collects; avoid delicate, rotting or otherwise undesirable items. Children should also understand that while they may want to take all of something, nature needs to keep some things for itself. At home, many of these treasures can be displayed in your child’s room or a shared space; filling recycled jars with treasures or putting them in bowls or on shelves helps to validate this sensory method of nature exploration.

Nature Art

One way to collect treasures is with a future art project in mind. Icicles on plant stems, red rose hips, and bits of evergreen have a short shelf life, but can be used to make beautiful art projects. They can be arranged in shapes outside in the snow to create winter land art or used to stamp designs on paper; the only limit is your imagination.

Here are some fun nature art ideas from around the web:
Winter land art and snow painting: The Chocolate Muffin Tree
Ice Art and Other Ice Crafts: Willow Day and Craftberry Bush
Pine Cone Birds:The Blueberry JunkieS
Winter Bird Feeders: The Crafty Crow
Winter Love Jars: Marghanita Hughes

Or, try giving your child a camera or nature journal during your time outside and see what they create!

Play and Explore
Sometimes, activities and crafts are not necessary; what a child really needs is the time to play and explore. Sled riding, building snow forts, stamping in icy puddles and generally running around connect children with nature just as well as anything you may use to guide their energies. Sometimes all you need to do is send them outside and they’ll do the rest themselves.

If you are interested in more nature activity ideas, check out Nature Rock’s Winter Activity Guide.

The above pictures were taken by Science Education staff and volunteers.

June 11, 2014

June is Great Outdoors Month: Celebrate by Going Outside!

by Melissa Harding

IMG_0140

“The United States is blessed with a wealth of natural diversity that remains at the heart of who we are as a people. From breathtaking seascapes to the limitless stretch of the Great Plains, our natural surroundings animate the American spirit, fuel discovery and innovation, and offer unparalleled opportunities for recreation and learning. During Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate the land entrusted to us by our forebears and resolve to pass it on safely to future generations.”
– President Barak Obama, 2013 Great Outdoors Month Presidential Proclamation

June is right on the cusp of the seasons – not yet steeped in the intense heat of July, yet more dependable for sunny days and picnics than May. Half spring and half summer, June is a great time to get outside. Perhaps that’s why we celebrate Great Outdoors Month now – there is no better time to go hiking, bike riding or just lay in the sun than June. Being outside is not just fun, but good for you as well. Nature has a positive, direct impact on human health; it enhances the ability to cope with and recover from stress and illness, reduces the risk of obesity, increases happiness and positive life outlook, increases the body’s natural immunity to diseases, increases creativity, and improves mental health.  This is especially true of children, who benefit greatly from time spent outside as well. In addition to the above benefits, playing outside also makes children kinder and more compassionate, more confident and more likely to become a successful adult. Not bad for a game of catch, eh?

Here are just a few easy ideas to help you spend more time outside with your family this month:

Outdoor Recreation: Ride a bike, take a hike, go fishing, hop in a kayak or canoe, take a jog, visit a local or state parkgo camping in your backyard, go rollerblading or skating, play miniature golf, play catch or basketball, start a pick-up game in your yard or local park

Good Garden Fun: plant some flowers or vegetables, weed the garden and harvest produce, hunt for worms, play in the hose, watch the bird feeder, feed the squirrels, stop and smell the flowers, cook together with produce from the garden, create garden markers

Playing on the Porch: read a book, work on a craft project like knitting, crochet or painting, eat dinner outside as a family, play cards or board games, throw a BBQ for your friends and family

Art Outside: draw with chalk and watercolors on the sidewalk, paint the sidewalk with water, blow some bubbles, create a nature mandala, build a fairy house, create a colorful yarn weaving, build a fort, make a bird feeder or a bird nest helper, make a butterfly feeder

IMG_0039

Even the internet wants you outside! Here are some great resources from around the web:

National Wildlife Foundation: great ideas for wildlife watching, hiking and other outdoor recreation activities
Great American Backyard Campout: June 22 – join the rest of the nation and sleep in your backyard
National Get Outdoors Day: June 8 – find a participating park or other site near you!
Let’s Move!: First Lady Michelle Obama has some great ideas for spending time outside as a family
Nature Rocks!: Learn where to go in your neighborhood for outdoor fun

Spending time in nature not just is proven to make you smarter and happier, but it’s also really enjoyable. Head outside today and have some fun!

The above picture was taken by Corey Doman.

January 16, 2014

Backyard Connections: Exploring Nature in Winter

by Melissa Harding

DSC_0206

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” -William Blake.

The cold of winter can be biting and forbidding, keeping us all huddled under blankets with cups of tea in our hands. This is especially true in January, when it seems like it has been cold for ages and spring is a lifetime away. However, the cold doesn’t have to keep you in the house; winter is a great time to explore nature and have fun outside! Bare trees provide a perfect view of birds and other critters and few green plants makes them easier to identify. Whether you are going to the park, to the forest or just staying in your backyard, there are lots of great things to explore and do in the winter.

Bundle up and be prepared
Before you go out, make sure to bundle up. Little bodies can get cold quickly, so making them as comfortable as possible will keep everyone outside longer. Gloves, hats, boots and warm coats are a must on winter days. Dress yourself and your child like an onion; layers are key to staying comfortable. Avoid cotton materials if possible, as it is less able to stay as warm and dry as wool or synthetic fabrics. This is especially important for items which will most likely get wet, like socks and gloves. Finally, take some snacks along. Little bellies are likely to get hungry as they expend energy playing in the cold and a bite to eat could turn a grumpy child into a happy one.

Take a hike!
The most obvious thing to do outside is to go for a walk. Whether it is down the sidewalk or through the woods, a walk outside is always fun. There is so much to see and do while walking. Encourage your child to observe their surroundings and look for things of interest. Remember to slow down and walk at your child’s pace; he or she may find so many interesting things that you don’t get very far, but it’s about the quality of your time outside, not how far you roam. In winter, bare trees make it easier to spot birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other animals in their branches. Colorful birds like cardinals and blue jays are easy to spot amidst the brown branches, but there are many smaller, darker birds hopping around as well. While you are scanning the trees, look for nests, weirdly shaped branches and other interesting sights. Binoculars are a great tool to bring along to help you spot them.

Turning your eyes down, there are lots of things to observe on the ground. Winter is the best time of year for tracking, as the ground is either snowy or muddy; animals of all kinds leave tracks to identify and follow. There are many tracking guides, even some for children, available to help you understand who made the tracks you see. However, it can be even more fun to guess and make up stories about the track instead. As long as you are having fun, it doesn’t matter!

An additional way to enjoy a winter hike is to go on a scavenger hunt. Depending on the age of your child, it could be easy (find something red) or hard (find a cardinal). Either make a list at home of likely sights or improvise as you go along. A game of Eye-Spy is an equally fun way to encourage observation. Take a magnifying glass with you to look at snowflakes, pine needles or anything else you find.

DSC_0200

Collect Treasures
Sometimes, just looking isn’t enough – Children love to collect treasures! It may just be a rock to you, but it is an amazing find to your child. Children will collect anything; one way to encourage this is to bring a container for collecting outside with you. You can let your child pick up whatever catches his eye or direct him to a certain items such as sticks, pine cones, acorns or rocks. Make sure to monitor what sorts of items he collects; avoid delicate, rotting or otherwise undesirable items. Children should also understand that while they may want to take all of something, nature needs to keep some things for itself. At home, many of these treasures can be displayed in your child’s room or a shared space; filling recycled jars with treasures or putting them in bowls or on shelves helps to validate this sensory method of nature exploration.

Nature Art

One way to collect treasures is with a future art project in mind. Icicles on plant stems, red rose hips, and bits of evergreen have a short shelf life, but can be used to make beautiful art projects. They can be arranged in shapes outside in the snow to create winter land art or used to stamp designs on paper; the only limit is your imagination.

Here are some fun nature art ideas from around the web:
Winter land art and snow painting: The Chocolate Muffin Tree
Ice Art and Other Ice Crafts: Willow Day and Craftberry Bush
Pine Cone Birds:The Blueberry Junkie
Winter Bird Feeders: The Crafty Crow
Winter Love Jars: Marghanita Hughes

Or, try giving your child a camera or nature journal during your time outside and see what they create!

Play and Explore
Sometimes, activities and crafts are not necessary; what a child really needs is the time to play and explore. Sled riding, building snow forts, stamping in icy puddles and generally running around connect children with nature just as well as anything you may use to guide their energies. Sometimes all you need to do is send them outside and they’ll do the rest themselves.

If you are interested in more nature activity ideas, check out Nature Rock’s Winter Activity Guide.

The above pictures were taken by Christie Lawry.

June 6, 2013

June is Great Outdoors Month: Celebrate by Going Outside!

by Melissa Harding

Phipps Science Education_parents (3)

“The United States is blessed with a wealth of natural diversity that remains at the heart of who we are as a people. From breathtaking seascapes to the limitless stretch of the Great Plains, our natural surroundings animate the American spirit, fuel discovery and innovation, and offer unparalleled opportunities for recreation and learning. During Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate the land entrusted to us by our forebears and resolve to pass it on safely to future generations.”
– President Barak Obama, 2013 Great Outdoors Month Presidential Proclamation

June is right on the cusp of the seasons – not yet steeped in the intense heat of July, yet more dependable for sunny days and picnics than May. Half spring and half summer, June is a great time to get outside. Perhaps that’s why we celebrate Great Outdoors Month now – there is no better time to go hiking, bike riding or just lay in the sun than June. Being outside is not just fun, but good for you as well. Nature has a positive, direct impact on human health; it enhances the ability to cope with and recover from stress and illness, reduces the risk of obesity, increases happiness and positive life outlook, increases the body’s natural immunity to diseases, increases creativity, and improves mental health.  This is especially true of children, who benefit greatly from time spent outside as well. In addition to the above benefits, playing outside also makes children kinder and more compassionate, more confident and more likely to become a successful adult. Not bad for a game of catch, eh?

carn plantHere are just a few easy ideas to help you spend more time outside with your family this month:

Outdoor Recreation: Ride a bike, take a hike, go fishing, hop in a kayak or canoe, take a jog, visit a local or state parkgo camping in your backyard, go rollerblading or skating, play miniature golf, play catch or basketball, start a pick-up game in your yard or local park

Good Garden Fun: plant some flowers or vegetables, weed the garden and harvest produce, hunt for worms, play in the hose, watch the bird feeder, feed the squirrels, stop and smell the flowers, cook together with produce from the garden, create garden markers

Playing on the Porch: read a book, work on a craft project like knitting, crochet or painting, eat dinner outside as a family, play cards or board games, throw a BBQ for your friends and family

Art Outside: draw with chalk and watercolors on the sidewalk, paint the sidewalk with water, blow some bubbles, create a nature mandala, build a fairy house, create a colorful yarn weaving, build a fort, make a bird feeder or a bird nest helper, make a butterfly feeder

Even the internet wants you outside! Here are some great resources from around the web:

National Wildlife Foundation: great ideas for wildlife watching, hiking and other outdoor recreation activities
Great American Backyard Campout: June 22 – join the rest of the nation and sleep in your backyard
National Get Outdoors Day: June 8 – find a participating park or other site near you!
Let’s Move!: First Lady Michelle Obama has some great ideas for spending time outside as a family
Nature Rocks!: Learn where to go in your neighborhood for outdoor fun

Spending time in nature not just is proven to make you smarter and happier, but it’s also really enjoyable. Head outside today and have some fun!

The above pictures were taken by Christie Lawry and Molly Steinwald.

March 1, 2013

Home Connections: Exploring Nature in Winter

by Melissa Harding

Kids snow 2 Molly Steinwald

We need the tonic of wilderness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and meadow-hen lurk, and to hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls its belly close to the ground…we can never have enough of nature.” – Henry David Thoreau

The cold of winter can be biting and forbidding, keeping us all huddled under blankets with cups of tea in our hands. This is especially true in February, when it seems like it has been cold for ages and spring is a lifetime away. However, the cold doesn’t have to keep you in the house; winter is a great time to explore nature and have fun outside! Bare trees provide a perfect view of birds and other critters and few green plants makes them easier to identify. Whether you are going to the park, to the forest or just staying in your backyard, there are lots of great things to explore and do in the winter.

Bundle up and be prepared
Before you go out, make sure to bundle up. Little bodies can get cold quickly, so making them as comfortable as possible will keep everyone outside longer. Gloves, hats, boots and warm coats are a must on winter days. Dress yourself and your child like an onion; layers are key to staying comfortable. Avoid cotton materials if possible, as it is less able to stay as warm and dry as wool or synthetic fabrics. This is especially important for items which will most likely get wet, like socks and gloves. Finally, take some snacks along. Little bellies are likely to get hungry as they expend energy playing in the cold and a bite to eat could turn a grumpy child into a happy one.

Take a hike!
The most obvious thing to do outside is to go for a walk. Whether it is down the sidewalk or through the woods, a walk outside is always fun. There is so much to see and do while walking. Encourage your child to observe their surroundings and look for things of interest. Remember to slow down and walk at your child’s pace; he or she may find so many interesting things that you don’t get very far, but it’s about the quality of your time outside, not how far you roam. In winter, bare trees make it easier to spot birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other animals in their branches. Colorful birds like cardinals and blue jays are easy to spot amidst the brown branches, but there are many smaller, darker birds hopping around as well. While you are scanning the trees, look for nests, weirdly shaped branches and other interesting sights. Binoculars are a great tool to bring along to help you spot them.

Turning your eyes down, there are lots of things to observe on the ground. Winter is the best time of year for tracking, as the ground is either snowy or muddy; animals of all kinds leave tracks to identify and follow. There are many tracking guides, even some for children, available to help you understand who made the tracks you see. However, it can be even more fun to guess and make up stories about the track instead. As long as you are having fun, it doesn’t matter!

An additional way to enjoy a winter hike is to go on a scavenger hunt. Depending on the age of your child, it could be easy (find something red) or hard (find a cardinal). Either make a list at home of likely sights or improvise as you go along. A game of Eye-Spy is an equally fun way to encourage observation. Take a magnifying glass with you to look at snowflakes, pine needles or anything else you find.

Kids snow Molly Steinwald

Collect Treasures
Sometimes, just looking isn’t enough – Children love to collect treasures! It may just be a rock to you, but it is an amazing find to your child. Children will collect anything; one way to encourage this is to bring a container for collecting outside with you. You can let your child pick up whatever catches his eye or direct him to a certain items such as sticks, pine cones, acorns or rocks. Make sure to monitor what sorts of items he collects; avoid delicate, rotting or otherwise undesirable items. Children should also understand that while they may want to take all of something, nature needs to keep some things for itself. At home, many of these treasures can be displayed in your child’s room or a shared space; filling recycled jars with treasures or putting them in bowls or on shelves helps to validate this sensory method of nature exploration.

Nature Art

One way to collect treasures is with a future art project in mind. Icicles on plant stems, red rose hips, and bits of evergreen have a short shelf life, but can be used to make beautiful art projects. They can be arranged in shapes outside in the snow to create winter land art or used to stamp designs on paper; the only limit is your imagination.

Here are some fun nature art ideas from around the web:
Winter land art and snow painting: The Chocolate Muffin Tree
Ice Art and Other Ice Crafts: Willow Day and Craftberry Bush
Pine Cone Birds:The Blueberry Junkie
Winter Bird Feeders: The Crafty Crow
Winter Love Jars: Marghanita Hughes

Or, try giving your child a camera or nature journal during your time outside and see what they create!

Play and Explore
Sometimes, activities and crafts are not necessary; what a child really needs is the time to play and explore. Sled riding, building snow forts, stamping in icy puddles and generally running around connect children with nature just as well as anything you may use to guide their energies. Sometimes all you need to do is give them a pocketful of crackers and send them outside; they’ll do the rest themselves.

If you are interested in more nature activity ideas, check out Nature Rock’s Winter Activity Guide.

The above pictures were taken and copyrighted by Molly Steinwald.

October 30, 2012

Creating a Naturalist

by Melissa Harding

Do you have fond, childhood memories of being outside – perhaps going hiking on family vacation, riding bikes in the driveway with friends or fishing with a grandparent? If you are an adult with a strong environmental ethic, than you probably do; most adults who hold pro-environmental attitudes can often trace the origin of these beliefs back to childhood experiences. Studies investigating the source of adult attitudes towards the environment have found that having positive outdoor experiences with a trusted caregiver – a family member, a teacher or a parent – play the most important role in the formation of a conservation mindset (Chawla, 2009).

Not only are these outdoor memories important, but so is the aspect of mentoring that goes along with them. When adults identify critical figures in their childhood that influenced their current environmental values, they mention family members most often. They also cite that these values were conveyed indirectly rather than through direct teaching, such as through showing appreciation for nature, demonstrating acts of environmental stewardship and expressing delight in simply being outside. Some specific examples from participants include raising frogs, identifying plants and animals, fishing and berry-picking with parents and caregivers (Chawla, 2007). There is also evidence that outdoor experiences with friends, as well as teachers, are highly influential (Chawla, 2009). Overall, a child’s environmental values are formed by the child’s character, his response to the natural world and the influence of others.

For parents and other caregivers, this is another affirmation of the influence that you wield in the formation of your child’s attitudes. While this is a large responsibility, it doesn’t need to be scary. There are many different ways to give your child positive, memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. In fact, you are probably already doing it. Camping trips, bike riding in the park and pulling weeds in the garden all count.

If this is new to you, start simply; a trip to the park, putting up a bird feeder or caring for a houseplant are easy ways to share the natural world with your child. As mentioned here, going outside is a great first step; there is no need to go further than your backyard to observe nature at work. Don’t know much about plants or animals? Learning together with your child is a powerful experience to share rather than a deficit you need to overcome.

Here are some resources and ideas to help you make the most of your time outside:

Nature Rocks: Find local natural areas, get ideas for fun outdoor activities and connect to other nature lovers
Children and Nature Natural Families Network: Learn how to start a nature club for kids and connect to other parents
Richard Louv’s Resource Supplement to Last Child in the Woods: Outdoor activities, book suggestions and helpful links
Simple Kids: Simple activity ideas to help your child explore the natural world
Home Connections: Try some of our ideas to combine outdoor exploration with fun activities

This blog wants to help you get excited about shaping a new generation of conservationists. Not only will going outside together create an adult who loves the natural world, but it will also increase the already awesome bond that you share with your child.

Don’t wait; head outside today!

For further reading, here are the sources used in this post:
Chawla, L. (2009). Participation  as capacity-building for active citizenship. Les Ateliers de l’ Ethique, Spring issue.
Chawla, L. (2009). Growing up Green: Becoming an agent of care for the natural world. Journal of Developmental Processes. (4)1
Chawla, L. (2007). Childhood experiences associated with care for the natural world. Children, Youth and Environments, 17(4), 144-170.

What is you and your child’s favorite activity to do together? Share it in the comments below!

The above images were taken by Christie Lawry, Amanda Joy and Melissa Harding.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: