Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Walk in the Woods

Being outdoors and observing nature has always brought me joy. Many of my childhood days were spent climbing and sitting in a beautiful old oak tree in the yard of our small house in Lincoln, Nebraska. From my secure perch, I listened to the chirping, rustling, buzzing sounds of nature's summer medley. I experienced the feel of a cooling breeze on my skin warmed by the summer heat. There was joy, security and discovery in those branches that remains with me to this day.

"Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary,
simply by doing them with the right people." - Elizabeth Green

As a parent, I have naturally leaned towards getting my family outside whenever possible. As a homeschooling mom I have found the great outdoors and being in nature an easy lesson for all ages with or without a curriculum. Within a variety of topics; general science, biology, the environment and geography, my own intuitive lesson plans for an outdoor excursion have included an emphasis on:
  • Observation
  • Questioning
  • Comparison
  • Follow up research
It's a big world.

For most of our local outdoor adventures, there hasn't even been a specific plan, just general encouragement and enjoying together, what the natural world has to offer. When we've been on more extensive family vacations, we have incorporated visits to nature centers or state parks with trail tours or fireside lectures. All lessons, whether formal and academic or spontaneous and personal, have more significance if there is an experiential basis to relate observations and new information to. Interaction with the amazing natural world is an excellent base and solid grounding for further learning in many subjects.

I have an especially fond memory of  learning in the natural world. One summer, I discovered a blue jay nest in the oak tree I climbed as a child. I was uncontrollably curious about that nest and the eggs inside of it. I enjoyed and became obsessed with watching the eventual development of the young hatch-lings. My daily visits into those branches culminated in observing the early flights of the young birds. Watching them leave the nest was a metaphorical adventure I impatiently longed for myself. The parent birds encouragement of their young was noisy and focused. It was also interrupted by their instinctive protective drive to turn aggressive attacks on me, the unwelcome intruder. My beginning skills of nature observation were being honed during those prolific summer days. A nature lesson never to be forgotten is a simple and obvious rule of wildlife observation, don't mess with concerned parents!

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