Green Acorns

Connecting children to nature through playful experiences.


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Nature Jornal Experiences

Does your child keep a nature journal?  My three children do and it seems like they just always have.  It just seemed to come, well, natural to them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nature journaling recently.  I just set a date for conducting my 5th nature journaling workshop at our local library and am really looking forward to it.  I put a lot of consideration into how to nurture a sense of wonder, to teach the art of observation, to impart the importance of connecting with nature, and to hopefully to spark a life-long interest in keeping a nature journal.  I walk away from each workshop having learned more and feeling inspired by the excitement of the participants.

nature journal workshop

I love hearing directly from the children and their adults.  I hear that adults appreciate having someone provide an example of how to ask open-ended questions that guide their children through deeper explorations of what they’re observing.  I hear parents say that they aren’t good at drawing or that their children don’t like to draw so they never thought nature journaling would be something they would enjoy.  I hear children and adults say that they are amazed to notice so many details when they take the time to really observe.  I hear adults say that they forget to encourage using all of the senses when exploring (when it’s safe to do so).  I love hearing it all and apply the feedback when designing the next workshop and even to my family’s own practice of nature journaling.

encourage using all of their sensesI’d love to hear from you as well.  What do you think?  What are your challenges with nature journaling with your child?  How did you get started?  Do you want to start but aren’t sure how?  Do you have any helpful tips to share?  Do you work with a group of children that keeps nature journals?  I would love it if we could share our experiences in the comments and maybe we can all learn something.

Fondly,
Monique


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Sense of Place Heart Map Activity

Sense of Place: Favorite Places Map Hearts

Hello there!

As my family and I continue to explore sense of place, I find that I’m enjoying creating activities for my children that help highlight the unique qualities of our community and special places.

You can find one such activity that I’ve shared over at Playful Learning today.  I’ll hope you’ll swing by…
Sense of Place: Favorite Places Map Hearts

Fondly,
Monique


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Nature by the Numbers | February 2015

Nature by the Numbers | February 2015 Growing up, there was a field with a brook right behind our house.  My sister and I played there as much as in our own yard.  We caught pollywogs, went sledding, braided long pieces of grass, created imaginary worlds, laid on our backs and watched the clouds, built forts, played hide-n-seek, picked ingredients for our “soup”.  We played there in every season and because of our unstructured, extended periods of time to explore, we gained our own sense of how life there changed throughout the seasons and how we interacted with it accordingly.  We didn’t have to be taught it.  We experienced it through all of our senses and it was as much a part of our daily lives as anything else.  We felt intimate with the insects, plants, birds, and furry creatures that populated the place.  We were a part of it and it a part of us. This month, use our nature journal prompts to encourage your child to take the time to notice and connect with the surrounding nature with all of his senses, wherever you may be. Nature by the Numbers | February 2015 Fondly, Monique


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Resources for World Wetlands Day

Resources for World Wetlands Day February 2nd is World Wetlands Day.  Perhaps you are asking why there is such a day? The Wildlife Habitat Council makes this statement: “Wetlands provide vital habitat to a number of species, including (but certainly not limited to) waterfowl, wading birds, frogs and salamanders, aquatic invertebrates, turtles, and fish. They also provide a number of essential ecosystem services like purifying our water, absorbing flood waters, and protecting coastal and riparian areas against erosion. Unfortunately, 64% of the world’s wetlands have been lost since 1900.” So, what are wetlands anyway?  Wetlands are areas of standing water or areas of soil saturated with water where aquatic plants can grow.  They are covered entirely by water for at least part of the year.  They can occur inland or at the coast, in forests or prairies.  The three major types of wetland are

  • marshes
  • swamps
  • bogs

wetland lifeWe have a wide variety of wetlands here in Maine.  My family and I pass them regularly on our way to the beach, while walking through the woods, near the river, and even right in our own neighborhood.  We never tire of the abundance and diversity of life that each one supports.  Beavers, turtles, frogs, fish, aquatic insects, interesting plants, birds… making wetland observationsCornell’s Naturalist Outreach program has a wonderful video for kids (and adults) about wetlands and some keystone species on YouTube. Here are some other helpful resources to learn more about the world’s wetlands:

I hope your children enjoy a wonder-filled exploration of wetlands in your area and across the world!

Fondly, Monique


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Identifying Winter Trees: Twigs and Buds

winter trees title 2 I recently learned of the book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast and was instantly intrigued.  Jumping off from my children’s natural curiosity, last spring/summer we began a concerted effort to identify the trees of our neighborhood.  Even with the leaves it can be a tricky task.  Could one really identify trees by their bark?  Yes!  However, it is a challenge and truly a skill to be developed over time.  My family and I will definitely continue familiarizing ourselves with the characteristics of tree bark.  For right now, I was still wanting some easier way to distinguish the deciduous trees in our yard this winter.  So I set out to find a simpler way. We started with trying to identify trees by the silhouette.  That sounded simple enough.  Is the overall shape round, broad, or oval?  Do the branches reach up to the sky or droop?  Are they graceful or curly?  But there were so many variations among even the same species in our neighborhood due to outside forces (crowding, pruning, storm damage, etc.).  I felt my children might get frustrated.  So, we decided to look at a closer level: The branches themselves.

twig anatomy

source: About Education Forestry

I first educated myself on twig anatomy.  Here are some helpful resources: Books

Websites

winter twig studyOnce I felt confident enough with the basics, I collected some twig samples from around our yard.  Note: make sure that you choose a twig sample with all the anatomy features that you want to focus on.  There can be inconsistencies among branches of one tree.  I made sure that I chose both alternate and opposite branch samples with clearly visible buds.  I then set up our table with my children’s nature journals, art supplies, magnifying glasses, and twig samples.  I also had the reference books close at hand.  We started by observing and comparing samples from just two different trees (oak and maple).  My children were eager to make their sketches but first we spent some time making observations and sharing them with one another. Once they started sketching they became aware of even more details.  Some energetic and enlightening conversations followed as they shared their new observations.  They started hypothesizing about what the various markings they were noticing could be.  They asked great questions and continued discussing as they sketched.  I encouraged further exploration with “Why do you think…” and “I wonder…” questions.  Then we opened the guide books and my children labeled their sketches. At this point they still didn’t know what kinds of trees the twigs had come from.  I asked a series of questions that helped them determine what they were looking at.  Here’s what that looked like: winter twig & bud identification keyGuidebooks were used for reference but some questions may have been modified to pertain to our particular samples.  For example, some maple buds may be more elliptical in shape rather than globular and blunt. I’m really so glad that we started with tree’s twigs and buds.  Now wherever we walk we find ourselves looking up to determine a tree’s twig anatomy!  We just can’t stop… If you try this activity with your children, we’d really love to know.  Tell us about it in the comments or over on Facebook.

leaf scar OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before you go, here are a few tree books that your children may enjoy:

Fondly,
Monique


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Nature by the Numbers: January 2015

Nature by the Numbers | January 2015 - nature journal prompts for children

Hello there and Happy New Year!

Do you and your family like to start each new year new by celebrating past accomplishments and setting new goals for the months ahead?  My family and I do.  Not resolutions to change this or stop that or begin something that is truly unrealistic for us but thoughtful intentions that will bring us joy.

It is with this in mind that this month’s nature journal prompts were written.  I hope they inspire your child to thoughtfully incorporate nature into his or her daily life and to share the joys it can bring.

Journal Prompts | January 2015

Fondly,
Monique

P.S.  If you missed the December nature journal prompts, you can get them here.

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