I grew up in western New York, right on Lake Erie, in a rural area with plenty of fields, forests, beaches, and streams to explore. I so loved every different part of our region and the wildlife it had to offer. Catching crayfish was one of my favorite pastimes as a seven-year-old. Nature study happened naturally, it was part of our play.
Unfortunately, because we now live in a city, I must be more intentional with nature study for my children. Yes, we have a backyard, but it does not offer the same vastness as an open field. Our wildflower selection is nearly non-existent compared with the many varieties I remember adorning the dinner table with when I was a kid.
We also now live in the South. Many of the native species of plants and animals are just as strange to me as they are to my children. A turtle is a turtle, but what kind? Oh and the snakes! Eeek! The snakes down here are not something I care to go looking for in my nature study.
I have been through several nature study approaches. I tried simple nature walks in our back yard, but with my limited knowledge of native species, we quickly surpassed what I could share. I tried walking through the park with nature guides, but I was inconsistent with our trips.
I needed something to help me share my love of nature with my children but wouldn’t be hard to use. I wanted something that would help me stay consistent but wouldn’t make me feel like a failure if I skipped a week or even a month.
I needed something that would not overwhelm me with too much information for a Morning Time activity. I wanted something that would help me teach nature study in a way that was restful, beautiful, and engaging.
This is why I was hesitatingly hopeful when I came across Exploring Nature With Children by Lynn Seddon. It looked almost too good to be true. Simple, well laid out plans with plenty of ideas for extras.
Not wanting to make a huge commitment, I printed only one month, April. I also printed the lovely cover in color. I used a simple three prong folder to hold the plans with the cover pasted on the front.
As you will read below, we continued with this program, but I found the format of organizing the plans by month to be very helpful. I only have one month of plans in front of me at a time. They can be easily transported to the park, library, or back yard without being cumbersome. I also store useful worksheets and any other informational brochures I may have come across pertaining to the various topics in the pockets, making them available next time we go through this study.
The plans are divided into four weeks per month. Most months it is easy to pick and choose which topics to do and/or leave out. For May, when three out of four weeks are caterpillars, you probably need to complete all of the weeks. However, the plans are very easy to modify. They are a do-what-you-can-and-move-on marvel!
In addition to the fantastic nature walk ideas and book suggestions, Exploring Nature with Children adds a poem, a piece of art and extension activities. The addition of art and poetry really make these plans a power punch in my Morning Time.
From the very beginning, I wanted to use these plans in my Morning Time. Here’s how we do it:
Introduce the topic: This can be done with the suggested nature walk, or simply talking about the topic. There are weeks we don’t get to do the walk, but instead look at pictures in books and talk about what we know. There are also a good amount of suggested books to choose from.
Add to Nature Notebook: Here is our chance to draw what we saw on our nature walk, copy a diagram from a book, or copy the artwork for the week.
Extras: These are the fun things! I have enjoyed several new poems and pieces of artwork with my children in our Morning Time because of these plans. We use the poems as copy work, and imitate the artists’ methods or subject matter.
At the end of last year, I spread this out over several days. This year I am trying a loop where on the days we do nature study, it is all we do.
I do not feel pressure to do everything listed because we can do it again another year. I have even begun telling myself that it is good to save some things so that it will be different next time through. As someone who usually wants to complete every page of every book, and every activity suggested, I find these plans to be very easy to use as an à la carte curriculum.
If you want to add nature study to your Morning Time, but find yourself overwhelmed by the options and the vastness of nature, Exploring Nature With Children is a good option.
I received a copy of Exploring Nature With Children free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to give a positive review.
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