Tag: Nature based learning (Page 1 of 4)
Back in February, I started uploading a monthly outdoor activity list which you can access under the freebies tab. You will need to subscribe to the blog and you will be sent an email with the password to access the freebies tab. It is now time to think about the April outdoor activity list, which can be accessed under the freebies tab 🙂 If you don’t have the password, don’t worry, subscribe to the blog and you will be sent it in your confirmation email. Hopefully the weather is beginning to get a little warmer now, and you can ditch some of the layers, making getting outdoors with little ones a bit easier.
Any form of getting children into the outdoors is a good one. Whether it is a gentle potter around the back garden or a good old hike for older ones across the countryside, if it is for 5 minutes or 5 hours, the benefits can still be reaped. You don’t need to climb a mountain, a little dig in the garden is perfect too. As the author Richard Louv famously suggests, we should be using vitamin N (N for nature) as treatment for nature deficit disorder.
That is why each month, at the start of the month, I will add onto the freebies page a list of 10 activities to help inspire you to head out there for your dose of vitamin N with your little, or not so little, people. These are some of the things I do with my three to give me some direction and an aim for getting them out there, which often helps everyone’s frame of mind. So head over now to the freebies tab and check out the April outdoor activity list.
The aim behind the ideas for the April outdoor activity list for getting vitamin N is that they are all very simple, so shouldn’t put you off. And if you need a little more convincing about the ideas where mud is involved, head over and have a read as to why mud and dirt are worth all the extra effort 🙂 Vitamin N can be achieved without sitting in the middle of a forest, wild camping, and hunting for your supper!! It can be achieved by just stepping outside your front door (or back door), into whatever awaits you out there. With nature springing back into life after a sleepy winter, it is a perfect time to head into the outdoors to see what you can discover, using our April outdoor activity list to guide you.
I am hoping through these activities that you make a lot of happy memories, have fun together, and enjoy being outside. If you need more information about an activity on the list, I have blogged about doing most of them, so if you type in a few keywords in the search box, you should then be able to get some more information, or see what we have done in the past.
Let me know how you get on with the April outdoor activity list in the comments below, I will love hearing about your experiences. You can also share your experiences on social media too, it will give others ideas and I can keep up with what you are all doing. Use the #fridayoutdoorfun on your Instagram photos, and don’t forget to join in with our Friday outdoor fun thread on Facebook (every Friday). And if the children have got mucky, then join in with our Mucky Mondays thread (every Monday) over on Facebook . Go and have fun in April 🙂
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.
Nature play is the best way of helping our children to develop well physically, emotionally, and socially. It’s got all bases covered! I’ve come up with a few reasons as to why nature play is good for our children, and I hope by the end, you’ll be be grabbing your wellies and heading out into the great outdoors together 🙂
1. Nature has a very calming quality. It is known to decrease stress, and increase happiness. It is food for our minds. This is because it doesn’t place any demands on us, but it is still engaging. It is a must for our mental health and well being.
2. The natural exposure to light increases our vitamin D levels, which in turn improves our health. It’s vitally important here in Sweden, in winter, that play outdoors in nature continues as the light times of the day are so short! This means, at school, they are outdoors in almost any weather 🙂
3. Nature play is full of “loose parts”. These are things the children can play with that have no predetermined role. This allows children’s imaginations and creativity to be used and called upon. They can build, role play, make art, or use things as writing tools. There are no predefined limits. They also don’t become bored so fast, as with toys that have a predetermined role.
4. Children’s strength and muscle tone are improved as they lift, shift, climb, and move about in nature.
5. Nature play allows children to get dirty and “hands on” with nature. Research has shown that this exposure to dirt helps increase their immunity (there is more to come on this in a future blog post).
6. They are allowed to explore and investigate the environment, which leads to stimulation, awareness, and independence.
7. Playing outdoors in nature increases the physical effort used, therefore promoting a healthier way of living and physically fitter children.
8. They will use a wide range of skills, utilising both large and small motor skills – good for development again.
9. Immersing the children in nature in such a positive way, helps nuture a love of nature.
10. Being in nature so much, and developing a bond with it is also good for nature. They will grow up wanting to protect it, respect it, and nurture it more having been immersed in it. This in turn will help to conserve it more.
11. Being outdoors in nature helps teach the children to enjoy the simple things in life, and to live in the present moment. It does this whilst also instilling a sense of awe and adventure.
12. Nature play naturally lends itself to more risk taking due to the environment the children are in. We are in danger of raising a risk averse generation, and this will have further consequences when they are older. By taking risks, they are learning to manage and control risks, and learn about risk management. Otherwise they will not take risks and then will be unable to manage risks, or control them. Their development suffers when they are not allowed to take risks as children need it, crave it, and are natural risk takers.
13. Playing outdoors in nature increases communication skills and negotiating skills. They are able to work together better, enhancing these skills which are another important part of their development.
14. This environment also helps their problem solving skills more, due to the diversity of obstacles and options.
15. Nature play is much healthier for our children, making them happier, which in turn, naturally leads to happier parents too 🙂
Do you need inspiration for things to do out there with your little people? Or maybe just a bit of background information on why it is so important we have more outdoor families? Here are my favourite 7 books to inspire and get us out there in the great outdoors more, especially with our little people 🙂
1. How to Raise a Wild Child – Scott Sampson
In this book you will find information as to why children need to be encouraged and supported in making a connection with nature. He also provides tips and ideas on how to do this in today’s world that is both busy and high tech.
2. Vitamin N – Richard Louv
This is described as a “practical handbook” which will help families enjoy the natural world and the outdoors. It works through ideas from babies to teens, and provides many ideas to help us get out there with children of all ages.
3. A Natural Sense of Wonder – Rick Van Roy
The author takes us along with him on his adventures with his own children. As we go on the journey with him, he teaches us what nature has to teach us and why this is so important.
4. Unplugged – Jason Runkel Sperling
This book is all about families getting together and building nature clubs. “15 steps to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, yourself, friends, and family”. There are tips, tools, and tales all in these pages.
5. Last Child in the Woods – Richard Louv
This book describes “saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. It goes through in depth why our children are suffering and missing out on what nature has to offer, and what the implications to both children and nature are because of this.
6. Balanced and Barefoot – Angela Hanscom
The author is a paediatric occupational therapist, and in her book she explains why natural and free play is essential for our children’s bodies and minds, and general development. This is a very thought provoking read. It also provides ideas as to how we can help them thrive.
7. A Little Bit of Dirt – Asia Citro
A fantastic book that has over 55 science and art activities to help children connect with nature. They are simple, fun, and my trio adore doing them. They are perfect for all ages (my three are 9 and 5), and prompt discovery and imagination.
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.
Today was a gorgeous warm (ish), but sunny autumnal day, so we decided to chill out in the garden doing some nature art. We had some air dry clay left over from a previous crafting project, so we decided to use that up and do something with it, before it completely air dried itself out in the crafting drawers! Nature clay figures it was to be.
The only supplies you need are air dry clay and things from around the garden. I sent my trio off to collect various items. They headed back with leaves, grass, twigs, sticks, sloe berries, various red berries, and anything else they could lay their hands on. I was intrigued to see twin 2 really involved in this activity, as in the past he has not been so keen. He and our little lady spent a good hour modelling their figures, while twin 1 bashed his lump into a pancake shape, and then headed off to cause mischief while the rest of us were distracted!!!
Any art and craft activity is good for their little brains (and I find it quite restorative too!). It helps their mental, social, and emotional development. Whatever they have chosen to do will usually involve honing their fine motor skills. They use their imaginations to create with their resources, and when they enjoy and like what they have made, it in turn increases their self confidence.
Some of the best supplies are outdoors in nature (and they are free too). Doing nature art gets everyone outside in the fresh air. Their attention to detail within nature is increased as they look and discuss what they are using, which can then lead onto other discussions about its role in nature, and open a whole new learning topic. Nature’s supplies are often a lot more interesting with regard to colour, smell, and texture too, making it more fun.
The finished nature art products we ended up with from today’s session were 2 hedgehogs, a snowman, and a scary rabbit….oh, and a flat pancake thingy!!
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 🙂
Heading to a farm for a spring day out, a few days before Easter, is always such a lovely thing to do with the family. On a recent trip back to the UK, we were staying with my parents who were keen to treat their children and grandchildren to a day out at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park. His father first started the farm back in the 1970’s to try and help some rare breeds, and since then he has taken over this rather famous place. It is growing all the time and has become very successful. We headed off to enjoy a slightly cooler, but still dry, spring day on the farm.
There is a lot to do there, and if you are a local, it is worth a few visits there to make sure you have seen everything. We started the day with a tractor safari around the farm. This was a good way to get our bearings and see what things there were to do, and where it all was. It was a very informative ride, as the driver told us about the history of the farm and the breeds they have as we went round.
As you can imagine, there were babies everywhere!!! They have a large lambing barn, and they are keen for you to be able to experience as much as possible, so if are lucky you can see a live birth. My father was, and he watched some triplets being born. One didn’t make it sadly, but he was able to see mum settle in with her other 2, and by the time we got there, they were only 20 minutes old. The trio were slightly confused by the pink tinge of the newborn lambs, but after a brief biology lesson, they’d learnt something else. It was so lovely being able to get so close and to see so much going on.
The trio were very involved; stroking lambs, kids, holding bunnies and chicks, admiring piglets, tickling guinea pigs, and bottle feeding the lambs and kids too. They loved being so hands on. We’d also bought 4 bags of animal feed, and there was a very good walk around the fields of the farm, allowing us to stop and feed the animals along the way. The majority were hand fed, but the cows had a little chute that you poured the feed down into their trough. All the animals were so docile and very friendly. The most laid back farm animals I have ever seen.
It was a really lovely day out, very hands on, and the trio learnt a lot too. We could easily go back though and enjoy it again!!