April 24, 2015

Nature Studies, Nature Notebooks: A Parent Child Journey

Do you feel intimidated by science? Are you one of the many in our culture that has had distasteful experiences in school, turning you off to natural science? If you are homeschooling, have your friends asked the invariable "What about science" question? Many people suppose that science can only be taught and learned in the classroom, with textbooks, using expensive equipment, and taught by an college trained and certified licensed science teacher. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The pathway to a solid foundation in science is as close as your own front door.

The methods we use are not difficult to learn or implement, and are really quite natural:

* Spend lots of time outside and take nature walks.

* Directly observe of nature on those walks.

* Garden if you can. Those who garden learn a lot about the laws of God from gardening. I am talking about laws, such as, "the law of the harvest," "reaping what you sow," "there is a time and a season,"sweat of our brow," and they can learn about different kinds of sins by observing the weeds they pull.

* Keep and maintain nature notebooks or nature journals.

* Learn the art of collecting and displaying collections.

* Read quality nature stories to our children.

All this is magnified when parents lead the way. So, what can parents do to lead the way?

* Cultivate a love for God's creations.

* Be an example.

* Stimulate curiosity.

We stimulate curiosity in our children as we take them for walks, explore, and notice things.

As a young mother, about 33 years ago, living in an apartment building in Littleton, Colorado, I met a new neighbor, Vera, who had just arrived from Germany. She didn't know anyone and was expecting a baby in a foreign land. Having already had two boys of my own and several years of German in high school, I was able to communicate with her and help her adjust in America.

Soon after Vera had her baby, every day she would put her in a big old-fashioned stroller and take walks. She invited me to bring my two boys and walk with them. My boys were two and four at the time. The walks were always long, but the boys soon adapted. As the weeks turned into months, our boys started to notice how things along the paths changed with the seasons. Soon after the birth of our third child, we moved into a house about five miles away. We had miles of walking/biking paths that wound through parks, wetlands, greenbelts, and bridged streams. Continuing the walking tradition that started with Vera, I put the baby in a baby carrier and with the two boys, we walked everywhere. As a side benefit, I lost weight and my children got very healthy. My children began noticing lots of detailed things around them on the walks. They asked questions about the things they saw and brought home little treasures they found. Thus, being directly exposed to their surrounding environment stimulated their natural curiosity.

My children and I searched through all sorts of books together to find answers to what kind of plant or bug we had seen. The children loved to "collect" things as they walked along. Rocks, flowers, bugs, and pine cones were their favorites. You soon learn that all the treasures of the world start looking like junk and clutter unless you organize, label, and display things properly. These skills take time, but when done right, they provide collections worth keeping.

We moved to Loveland, Colorado. This time our subdivision did not have any formal bike and walking paths for us to enjoy. However, after all those years of walking with our kids, the habit was strong, so we regularly walked all the streets in our subdivision. We had two more children while living there, and as soon as they could walk, they were joining the rest of us on our walks.

When we moved to Utah, in 1993, we again did not have any walking paths. However, it didn't take long before our children knew every nook, cranny, and flower in our neighborhood. Soon after settling in, we took the three youngest children (then age ten, four, and two) up into the mountains for a hike. We hiked clear up to the snow line before heading back. During mid-winter we have taken the entire family on the walking/bike path that goes along the Provo River. Why do I share these things? I want you to know that walking is good for all ages, any size family, no matter where you live, and in all seasons of the year. The walks need not be long. Some of our walks have been as short as once around the block. We are born naturalists, eager when young to discover and learn about our environment. So open your door and start walking today!

Here are some links on Nature Notebooks and a Nature Notebook DIY:

Newsletter~ Nature Notebooks: Where Science, Art, and Literature Meet



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