Real Life… Learning in the Outdoors

16 May
brooke catching minnows

Catching minnows in a lake.

Children of all ages enjoy exploring the outdoors. When the weather is nice I like to take our learning outside. From watching clouds slowly moving across the sky to catching tadpoles or minnows. The world is always changing all around us.

Scavenger Hunt

Consider sending your children on an outdoor scavenger hunt. Give them notebooks and pencils so they can write about and/or draw what they find rather than collecting each item. (You don’t want them to collect any creatures, plus this saves your flowers and more delicate plants from being picked.)

A scavenger hunt is easily adapted to a variety of ages, just remember to keep the list of what they are looking for short for younger children and a bit longer, more time consuming for older children. For some great outdoor scavenger hunt ideas try this website: Nature Scavenger Hunt

Book Work Outdoors

Sometimes it’s nice to take the school books with you outside just to change the scenery. We’ve done lessons on our front porch (which usually involves a cat or two walking across the books or jumping into our laps). Sometimes we’ll take our books to the park and do some work at a picnic table for a while, play for a while, then do more work and repeat. Find a shady spot around town somewhere where you live. Perhaps a gazebo, picnic table or a blanket in the shade will work for your family.

schoolwork while waiting

Waiting for a local business to open. (I goofed so we were 30 minutes early.)

Another thing to consider is any downtime between doctor appointments, meeting friends, or waiting for a group class to start your children can do a little book work. All it takes is a bit of planning before hand to remember to bring the books and supplies with you. I like to choose easier subjects that my children can work on with minimal input from me. For my third grader this is usually grammar and spelling. For my first grader this only leaves spelling because most of her other work requires me reading the instructions to her.

Don’t attempt to get lower elementary children to do their work in the car. It’s difficult for them to hold the book in their lap and write at the same time. If it’s a single worksheet on a clipboard or lap desk then they can probably get it done, but if it’s a workbook or text book you’ll find they perform much better at a bench or sidewalk.

Just find a spot where your child isn’t in the full sun or near the street. Also consider the weather. If it’s too hot or too cold they may not be able to concentrate. Instead of book work I’d consider playing a game like I-Spy or having them practice reciting some things they’ve learned in the past. (Grammar jingles, 50 states song, multiplication rhymes, etc.)

Exploring Nature

butterfly and chrysalis

One Monarch drying it’s wings, another still inside the chrysalis.

In good weather go on nature hikes, visit the park, explore trails in the woods (make sure you aren’t trespassing), visit a U-pick farm. You just never know what you’ll find. Often children see things that we adults would never notice. I think partly it’s because they are lower to the ground, but also it’s because we adults are so busy focusing on where we are going next that we tend to forget about enjoying the present.

Take the time to stop and smell the flowers. Watch the butterflies, admire a roly-poly, explore mushrooms and fungi on fallen trees. There are so many things to investigate and explore outdoors.

Let children ask all the questions they want about what they find. Don’t worry about not knowing the answers, simply explain that you’ll look up the answers when you get home. You better write down or send yourself and e-mail of their questions though, because if you are anything like me you will have forgotten what they asked by the time you get home.  🙂

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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Real Life


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