Green Acorns

Connecting children to nature through playful experiences.


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With all the wonder of a child

the wonder of a childOn any given day a smile is brought to my face when I witness my children’s excitement over what they discovered out in nature that day.  I love how observant they are.  I love that they recognize natural rhythms.  I love that they want to experience more and learn more and share their stories with their dad and me.  I love that I can share my own appreciation for nature with them.

But the moment captured in the photo above reminded me that I have so much more to be grateful for.  This is my daughter happily running down the trail toward our destination just moments before…

the wonder of a childThis was one of those smile moments – when she arrived and paused to take it all in.  We have visited this pond many times before yet she still marveled at the sight of it.

I am grateful that she has this sense of awe and wonder.  What I am most grateful for, however, is that I get to experience nature through their eyes, not just my own.  They each have their own perspectives and ideas and each notice things that maybe the others hadn’t.  They each have their own connections and emotions.  They are each discovering their unique relationship with nature and where their place in it is.  And I get to not only watch them have their experiences but become transported into them as they share with me.

I am so appreciative to behold the wonders of nature through my children’s eyes.  It is a gift that I cherish!

Have a wonder-filled week!
Fondly,
Monique


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Creating a Bird Feeding Haven

Creating a Bird-Feeding Haven | Green AcornsDo you feed birds in your yard?  Having bird feeders nearby provides many opportunities for some close-up observations.  A simple provocation with the right tools and your children will be off on some wonderful explorations.  We’ve been feeding the birds in our yard for quite some time so my children have been able to make some long-term observations of the birds’ behaviors.  They also like watching various bird cams and have learned from those as well.  As their understanding of the types of birds that frequent our yard has grown, they have become more interested in doing what they can to take care of our feathered neighbors. So, my children decided that where our feeder is currently needs to become a bird-feeding haven.  Just having a feeder was no longer enough.  When they first brought it up to me, many ideas were excitedly shared.  The next day I took a photo of the area of our yard, printed off several copies, and left them out as a simple invitation: bird feeding sanctuary invitationMy children snatched them up as soon as they saw them and set to drawing out their ideas.  The activity also led to designing their own bird houses and feeders.  They were so excited! bird-feeding haven bird-feeding havenOver the course of a couple of days, they would revisit their designs and make adjustments.  For example, each child had included a bird house or two but realized on their own that perhaps birds would not want to nest where so many birds were feeding.  My youngest had designed a bird house with a platform feeder just outside the opening but came to the conclusion, all on her own, that perhaps that would not be best.  I just love how much consideration they put into their designs and that on their own came to some conclusions based on what they know about birds. If you would like to create your own bird-feeding haven, here are some things to consider:

  • Feeders/Food: What types of food are best for the birds in your yard?  What type of feeders are most appropriate?  Can you incorporate some plants/bushes that will provide food?  Are you able to provide food year round?  Can you easily keep the area and feeders clean?
  • Shelter/Structure: Provide a variety of places to rest and find shelter and be sure to consider various heights.  Some birds may seek ground cover, others a higher place of refuge.  Also consider nearby windows that may be a hazard as well as hiding places for predators.
  • Water:  Don’t forget water!  Do you have a space for a bird bath?  Water is just as important as food to the birds.

bird-feeding haven sketchWe’ll be incorporating several feeders (a caged tube style, a platform feeder, and a suet cage), a bird bath, a small loose brush pile, and a bush or two.  There are already trees of various types and heights in the area.  Nearby we also have some flowering bushes which the hummingbirds love and so we hang a hummingbird feeder there.  Throughout our yard we have placed bird houses, provided bird-friendly plants, and have lots of areas for shelter.  Last season we were blessed with three different types of bird nests and could watch the birds raise their young.

If you would like to create your own bird-feeding haven, encourage your child to spend some time observing the birds in your yard and research with them the types of food and shelter you can provide.  A nature journal would be a great place to record those observations!  These resources will be helpful when helping your child plan your bird-feeding area or creating a bird-friendly yard:

What would you include in your design?  If you have any helpful tips or have a successful bird-feeding area already, we would love to hear about it!

Happy bird watching!
Fondly,
Monique


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Nature Poems for Children

I really enjoy encouraging children to explore their curiosity and appreciation of nature through different modalities – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile – for rich, meaningful, personal experiences.  As their understanding and sense of connection to nature increases, so will their sense of responsibility to care for it. In honor of both National Poetry Month and the upcoming Earth Day,  I wanted to share some of our favorite books of poems about nature. You may be familiar with some and hopefully some will be new to you. Nature Poems For Children 1. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman

2. Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman

3. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

4. Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

5. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman

Can you tell that Joyce Sidman is one of our favorites?  Don’t worry there’s some other authors included… Nature Poems For Children, list 2 6. Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder

7. The Tree That Time Built, a collection selected by Winston and Hoberman

8. Outside Your Window by Nicola Davies

9. The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound by Sallie Wolf

Do you have some favorites that aren’t on the list?  I’d love to know what they are!  Feel free to share in the comments…

Happy National Poetry month.  Have a wonderful, nature-filled weekend!

Fondly, Monique


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Nature by the Numbers | April 2015

Nature by the Numbers | April 2015 Happy April 1st! Here in Maine we are just starting to come out of a long and cold winter.  We are all anxious for clear signs of spring’s arrival and so ready for some green.  With the winter-like weather lingering, some of the early signs of the seasonal change are easy to miss.  That is, unless one is curious and takes the time to notice.  Unless one is connected to nature.

Wherever you live and whatever season you are in, I hope this month’s nature journal prompts will bring your child a little closer to the nature around her and inspire her to explore deeper.  Click on the image below to download and print a copy to paste in your child’s journal:

Nature by the Numbers | April 2015

Fondly,
Monique


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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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