Tag: Home Education (Page 1 of 35)
What is nature based learning? Nature based learning is a form of learning and development via the immersion in nature, which also has underlying conservation values as well. It develops a life long connection to the natural world for the children, and puts nature at the centre of their learning. I will go into the benefits of nature based learning another time, and you can find ideas for nature based learning here, but today I just want to give an overview of what nature based learning entails.
Many authors have helped increase the awareness of the fact that children should be in the outdoors as much as possible. One of my favourite reads about this topic is Richard Louv’s “Last Child In The Woods”, you can check out my other favourite outdoor reads here. In addition to this, the popularity and provision of things such as Forest Schools and Nature Preschools have also increased.
As a previously home schooling mum of three, we chose to base our learning around nature as much as possible, and I saw the benefits with their enthusiasm which then naturally lead to better and more fun learning experiences. Nature draws most children and excites them to learn. We would either learn about specific nature based topics, or we used nature as an accessory to another learning topic. However, you will find that nature topics use a range of educational skills that are needed for their learning development.
What is Nature Based Learning & Tips To Get Started:
- Get outdoors!! Take all subjects into the great outdoors. Think of the outdoors as your classroom. Be committed to getting outdoors in every season (however brief depending on your climate extremes!!), and invest in good outdoor gear to achieve this 🙂
- Nature props: If you can’t be outdoors, bring nature indoors with you, and use it as props to aid your learning, still basing your subject around the presence of nature.
- Immersive experiences: Provide experiences which can be immersive and very hands on. One of the main principles about nature based learning, and why it is so effective, is because of the interaction children are having with nature.
- Environmental activities: Taylor your learning activities with your local environment in mind, and change the types of environments you are visiting too, to broaden the experience.
- Pace setting: Let your child set the pace….don’t hurry or rush them. Allow them time to explore and ask questions, and the direction the learning takes may even change! It’s absolutely fine to have a plan, but allow for it to change and be encouraged by the learning that happens due to having the flexibility to do this.
Good Resources For Nature Based Learning:
- A Nature Curriculum: The nature curriculum we have used is, “Exploring Nature with Children. A complete, year-long curriculum”. It is a beautifully written framework, written by Raising Little Shoots, and can be found over at https://raisinglittleshoots.com/ It suggests a topic for the week, and then provides some background information and suggestions for nature journaling and outdoor exploring. It also provides a comprehensive suggested reading list (fiction and non-fiction) for each week, plus a poem and a piece of art to study. There are extension activity ideas too. We used the topic as the theme for our week, and followed the ideas for our journaling, and one fiction book.
- The Almanac: This is a yearly guide (so we are now using “The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2018” by Lia Leendertz) that connects you to the months and seasons of the year through activities such as exploring the night sky, foraging, feast days and seasonal eating, and a few other subjects too.
- Spotter books are a good place to start when exploring an environment, and can help identify what you are looking at as well.
- Forest Schools are springing up all over the place. If your child is school aged or not home schooled (so you can’t attend this on a weekly basis), they very often have weekend/holiday activity days as well.
- There are lots of books out there as well for background reading about what is nature based learning. I have already mentioned that I have written about my favourites in another blog post 🙂
What is nature based learning in terms of how much or how little? The great thing about nature based learning is that you can do it as much or as little as you want. You can either take on a few learning activities or craft ideas, or you can immersive yourselves and your little ones into it completely and base their whole learning experience on this method. You can pick and mix to find the balance that works for you, your children, and your family as a whole.
In the future I will write about the benefits of nature based learning, and nature based learning ideas, but in the meantime you can check out our Nature Based Learning Category for inspiration.
Ronneby Naturum is set inside Ronneby Brunnspark – a huge outdoor nature area, with many walks, woods, play parks, ponds, and a swimming pool. The nature centre itself literally took our breath away. It is filled with fantastic exhibitions for both young and old, but what grabbed our attention and made it so great for the trio, was that it is so interactive, hands on, and there is nothing out of bounds to little fingers that like touching everything! We have been to Ronneby Naturum a few times now, and one rainy afternoon we spent the entire time in there together with our nature journals, merrily sketching away.
As you enter Ronneby Naturum you immediately come across a very striking and visual exhibition (see the photo!) about lynx in Sweden. My three just stood their gawping! We have moved to a country with wildlife that really grabs their imaginations; bears, wolves, wild boar, älg (moose), and lynx are just some of what is here. However, these are all very hard to see in real life, especially with three young children who give the wildlife plenty of warning that they are approaching, with their noise levels 🙂 So, to walk in and see this life sized lynx was fantastic, and really brought it home to them what is lurking out there. We spent some time learning about them and looking at the areas where they live around and near us before being drawn further into the centre.
Another favourite was a transparent operational bee hive, which had an entrance/exit to the outdoors. This was so good for the children to watch the bees so close up. The emphasis is very much on being able to interact with exhibits. This may take the form of sticking your hand into a container “blind” to work out what’s in there with just a written clue, feeding the fish in the tanks, pressing buttons to hear various animal/bird sounds (twin 1 can never resist a button so he was in his element), or just picking up and handling various exhibits that are laid out.
In our county (Blekinge), we are surrounded by water, with islands everywhere making up the archipelago we live on. So, naturally there is a big exhibition about the coast and the marine life around our area. The older ones can learn more about the geology, the biodiversity, why it is such a sensitive area of nature, and how we can fish or sail whilst protecting it. Part of this exhibition is a sail boat which the children can board and pretend to sail the high seas. It has moving parts to handle, sails to move, and benches to lift, under which reside very cute and fluffy cuddly mice and seals. This was a revelation to us being allowed to climb on board such an exhibit, and when the staff saw my good old English reservation about children clambering over exhibits, they came and said the children must climb all over it!
The “lab” is another highlight of Ronneby Naturum. This is a separate little room that you can lose yourself in for a good few hours! It is full of stuffed wild animals from the forests, and exhibits you can pick up and handle. Anything from snake skins, to stag beetles, to animal bones, animal antlers, and a whole heap of samples you can examine under one of the microscopes in there. There are also a couple of aquariums in there. It is such a lovely place, with so much to see, and it is also very cosy!
I thoroughly recommend a visit to Ronneby Naturum (but check the opening times first as they alter drastically day to day, and season to season). You can easily spend a day in the park, with a visit to the naturum as part of it. You can wander the woods blueberry picking in the early autumn, have lunch on one of the fire pits, and feed the ducks also. There is also an ice cream kiosk serving delicious tasty treats too 🙂 Plus there is no charge for the park or its naturum. Ronneby Naturum is a place we will be returning to many many more times.
The last stop on our day’s adventure to Skåne, was Ales Stones. This is an acient monument that dates back to the Iron Age. Ales Stones is made up of 59 huge stones, that are placed in a 67 metre long outline of a ship. They are located in a beautiful setting, 32 metres above sea level, overlooking the Baltic Sea and Österlen’s hilly landscape. The vista is amazing once you have completed the climb up to the monument. It is Sweden’s best preserved ship tumulus and was built around 1400 years ago.
This was our last stop of a long and exciting day. The children were tired, but it still did not stop them competing against each other to get to the top. The weather was now starting to get very windy and more chilly, so I think they were spurred on by the need to keep warm! The walk up was not too long, but very steep, and the views back down to the harbour as we climbed up were nothing short of stunning. As is so often the case here in Sweden there was no charge for the privilege of seeing this wonderful piece of history, and no barriers either. This meant that once we had reached the top, the children could touch, feel, and move in amongst the large boulders, really gaining a sense of perspective of how big it all was. There are sheep and cattle grazing in amongst the monument too, adding a sense of calm and tranquillity to the area. I realise perhaps these monuments in Sweden are not as busy as some back in the UK (I think we all know of a similar one I am referring to), but to not have to pay extortionate entry fees, and to be able to wander freely amongst the monument whilst respecting it, is a very lovely thing.
So what are Ales Stones?
Some think it is a burial monument, while others think they were an astronomical clock. They are placed so that the sun sets on the northwestern stone in the summer, and the sunrises on the exact opposite stone in the winter. They are erected in a ship formation (67m long and 19m wide at the widest point), and it is believed to originate from the early Iron Age (500-1000 AD). The views from the top were also stunning, and very large!
It was such a lovely place to be, so it was a shame it felt like we were in a bit of a rush. However, the wind was really picking up, and temperatures were starting to fall quite quickly, and the children were tired after a lovely, but long day in the outdoors and fresh air (not to mention a LOT of walking/running). So we descended down with the eldest having to get a piggy back from Dadda, as a stumble made her shed tears of tiredness, and got back to the car. We strapped everyone in, and started the 2.5 hour journey back home through the Swedish countryside. It was very quiet from the trio, and Dadda and I were left to admire the Swedish landscape. Another time, it would be nice to dawdle at the top, and then enjoy the fresh fish restaurants at the bottom, but I think that is more a summer experience!!
Our little lady has a fascination with all things sparkly, crystal like, and remotely scientific. So, one day she came to me with a picture and asked if we could grow our own stalactite. Here is our step by step guide of how to do it.
Step By Step Guide To Grow A Stalactite:
First of all you will need: 2 jam jars/glasses about the same size, baking soda, string, warm tap water, ruler, 2 weighted objects (we used random screws we had), and a small dish. You can also use some food colouring, but this is optional. We used red.
2. Fill both jars 75% full of very warm water.
3. Add one teaspoon of baking soda to a jar and stir until it is dissolved. Add again and keep repeating until the stirring does not dissolve the soda anymore. Make sure you count how many teaspoons you used, and add the same to the other jar. Stir until dissolved.
4. At this point we added food colouring into the mixture.
5. Multiply the height of the jar by 2, and add 20cm onto that. Then measure a piece of string to this length and cut. Tie the screws onto each end.
6. Wet the string with clean very warm water and place into the water, one end in each jar.
7. Place a small dish between the jars and place somewhere where they won’t be disturbed. It is important not to touch the stalactite crystals while they are growing or you might disturb their growth and break them.
Stalactites are found in caves. Ground water carrying dissolved calcium carbonate and other minerals seeps through rock cracks and into the underground caves. As the water travels over the ceiling to the cave, it reaches a low point where it drips. As it drips the minerals and calcium carbonate are deposited onto the ceiling. These build up and harden over time, creating the spike like structure hanging down called the stalactite.
As with any true science experiment, it doesn’t always go to plan!! Our crystals grew along our string but didn’t do any significant growing downwards. However, when we pulled the string out of the jars, we had beautiful crystals that had developed around the ends!! This little experiment is very simple to do, so perfect for little people wanting to make and watch the formation of their own stalactites, or in our case just some sort of crystals!!!
Flower pounding is a very effective way of doing art with nature. My trio love doing this because it so easy and very effective. We also love seeing how our results change over the course of the four seasons.
So what supplies are required for flower pounding?
Very few?! Any shape or size of cotton based material…plain is better as your results will be more visible. You need to bear in mind that whatever you choose, the material needs to be large enough to place the flowers on one side and then fold in half. You then need to pick a good selection of flowers and leaves. When we pick our leaves for flower pounding we look for ones that would make good patterns. For example, bracken with their fronds are good, or something similar. With the flowers anything with a good solid colour will work well. Then you just need a hammer.
Instructions For Flower Pounding:
Place your material flat, and start laying your leaves and flowers onto one half of the material. You can either do this randomly, or think about the end result you would like and put more thought it into it. My trio are all about the colours and patterns at the moment, so lay them out randomly. You then need to fold the other half of the material over the top so the foliage is covered by the material.
Now you tap, tap, tap very gently with your hammer. Too hard or fast and the hammer will shred the material. Make sure you are firm enough though to see the colour coming through the material. Go over all the edges of the leaves and flowers to get the best definition results. You also need to do this on a firm surface. As you can see we have chosen our garage floor, rather than the lawn (too squishy with all the moss!), or the decking (didn’t want hammer shaped dents all over it!!). Once you think you have finished, open the material up and brush off the “crumbs” of the foliage, and you will be left with a lovely colourful pattern. One of ours turned out very much like a butterfly but this was completely accidental!! Nevertheless the children were very happy it did 🙂
On our recent trip to Kivik, we decided to visit Kiviksgraven. This is a large Bronze Age grave monument, and one of the most remarkable bronze age monuments in Sweden. There is a very large cairn on the top of the ground, marking the grave’s location, that is 75m across. Underneath there is a burial chamber, with a passage leading into it. In the centre of this burial chamber are 8 slabs. It had always been thought that an important person or king was buried in there. In the early 1930’s there was archaeological work done inside the grave, and although they thought they had found the king’s remains, it turned out they were probably several teenagers buried in there throughout a period of 600 years.
The Kiviksgraven is situated where people had lived 6,000 years ago, living off what the forest and sea gave them. Then 3,500 years ago, the place took on some sort of spiritual significance and the Kiviksgraven was built. The stone slabs inside the grave are adorned with bronze age drawings of ships, horses, and people. There are now a lot of other burial mounds and standing stones too in the area. The Kiviksgraven was discovered when back in the 18th century workers started using the stones for construction purposes. Whilst doing this 2 men fell down into the chamber and the grave was discovered.
We paid our 25 sek (£2.50) for each adult to enter (children were free) and headed on in. We thought this was a bargain considering the expense going anywhere with all 5 of us usually entails. Plus you could get right up to the stones, and look at them properly. This is a lot nicer for children who are not much good at looking at stones from a distance! The drawings were in really good condition and the whole tomb was a little surreal to be inside. After visiting inside the tomb, we walked round the whole of the outside. We had some difficulty trying to keep the trio off the cairn as it resembled one giant fun play area in their eyes, but eventually they understood.
These monuments don’t take that long to visit, and after a 2 hour drive to get to it, we needed a little refreshment before we continued on our tour, so we headed inside to the very Swedish and very lovely wooden hut cafe. The children also had a little play in the garden area.
This was such an amazing piece of history to see, and really well preserved. It was lovely to be able to get so close to it as well 🙂
So, it is Wednesday morning in our home, our little lady has trotted up the road to school, and it’s me and the boys home alone. Usually, after I have sorted the washing (I swear there are people living in secret with us, the amount of socks that come out!), and done some housework, it is time for a little more formal literacy and maths with the mini men. However, by the time I got to them this morning, there was a mountain climbing, chicken healing, spider man requiring mission in full swing! It took me all of 1 second to decide to ditch the workbooks in favour of this imaginative play game. Why? Am I being lazy? Am I shirking my responsibilities to keep up their English language skills living in a foreign country? No, I am letting them learn the best way possible, their own way. But as an added bonus, what mummy won’t take the opportunity of calm to get things done ;-). One of the many reasons we uprooted the family to Sweden was to embrace and be part of their culture of letting children be children, and the importance they place on child’s play.
There was a great deal of planning involved in this game, which in itself is an important life skill to learn. Outfits had to be chosen, and today it was necessary to be wearing football shin pads and ballet shoes. Food and drink were required, so paper sausages and drinks bottles made from paper and old bottle tops. Torches (push up ice cream bases), light sabres (toy screwdriver handles), rope (old string), and homemade telephones were all packed, and they headed off into the wilderness (our upstairs!). The baddies were in our room, whilst the nursing and feeding of a poorly chicken took place in the spare room. Extra superhero powers were required in the form of spider man. For three hours this game was played, changed, and progressed, and the whole time they were busy learning some very important things.
So what has this session, like any other of imaginative play, been teaching them apart from planning? It has taught them a variety of skills, the first one today being dressing themselves (not necessarily to my taste!!). They have sorted their own outfits as were required, they have done their own undressing and dressing to accommodate the story line. They have made hundreds of decisions throughout the morning, developing their decision making skills, but this has also had a big impact on increasing their social skills at the same time. There has been A LOT of co-operation (trust me we are not the perfect family, they hit and kick each other out of frustration at times too and scream at each other, but today they learnt the benefit of staying calm and using words to communicate so the game was enjoyed…it was just a really good morning for them today). There has also been sharing, negotiations that would be fit for running a country, taking turns, and a lot of self restraint from the pair of them. Very often they can be quick to lose their self restraint, and it’s hard being a twin in each others pockets all the time, but when they can hold it, and see the benefits, it reinforces that it is a beneficial way to behave. Imaginative play, by nature, is role play or acting out some sort of experience. This is the way little people are able to make sense of the big bad world around them.
During imaginative play there is a lot of emotional development occurring, as it is a very safe place and time to express their feelings, and try and sort them out. Their thoughts, feelings, wishes, and fears can all be processed through their play. As was shown in today’s game, they can learn about empathy and caring too. Their self esteem can increase because they can be ANYTHING they want to be, there is nothing holding them back, anything goes 🙂 I might have given the formal literacy a miss but they have been busy developing their communication skills, both verbally and non verbally. During imaginative play they can experiment and mistakes don’t matter, but are there to still be learnt from.
So next time you feel guilty about leaving your little ones to play while you sneak a peaceful 5 minutes, or more realistically work through your “to do” list, DON’T! They don’t need our grown up interaction all of the time. Their own imaginative play without us is just as important to their development. Sometimes, their games may require you as part of them, but be careful you leave all your grown up ideas at the door to the room…this is their game and it is played their way!