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.