Hello again. Happy July! I hope you are enjoying the season so far. We’re loving the summer weather and enjoying every moment. You can check out some of what we’ve been getting up to on Instagram.
Some of this month’s prompts are related to a couple of global citizen science events – National Moth Week and World Listening Day. All of the following prompts are meant to encourage your children to notice the often unnoticed – the variety of sounds in our surroundings, how sounds effect the way we experience our environment, and the variety of life that exists right in our yards. Whether noticing nature is a part of your everyday life or you seek to get started, these simple nature prompts will provide some fresh inspiration.
Our experiences in nature are greatly enhanced when we tune in with all of our senses and there is growing research on the health benefits of listening to natural sounds. But perhaps listening is becoming a dying art.
Kurt Fristrup, a senior scientist at the US National Park Service reports that “There is a real danger, both of loss of auditory acuity, where we are exposed to noise for so long that we stop listening, but also a loss of listening habits, where we lose the ability to engage with the environment the way we were built to.” (ref)
Help your child practice listening skills and deepen experiences in nature by tuning in to the sounds of nature and creating a soundscape inventory. It’s as simple as finding a comfortable place outside to sit quietly and paying attention to what you hear. I found that sitting with eyes closed can be very helpful for focusing auditory attention. This takes only a few minutes and can be done in your yard, during a hike, or while visiting a park.
The other day I went to the backyard to photograph some feathers (more on that soon!). I lay down a white poster board and before I could pick up the feathers at least four different little critters had hopped or crawled aboard. A couple were so tiny that I don’t think I ever would have noticed their existence in the lawn. You may have experienced something similar if you hang your laundry out to dry. I have brought in many accidental hitchhikers this way.
Head outside, lay down a white poster board or large piece of paper, and see who shows up. Notice how many different critters appear and how long they stay. What if you used a different color paper – say blue or black? Try it and note any differences.
Silent Sharing Nature Walk
This activity is adapted from Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell. Walk silently with your child through an area surrounded by nature. When one of you notices something of interest, find a non-verbal way to share it with the other. Continue for as long as your child is engaged, staying silent the whole time. Walking and noticing in silence will promote a sense of calm and allow you and your child to be fully present in the moment.
Meet Some Moths
National Moth Week takes place July 23rd through the 31st and it’s the perfect opportunity to gain a better appreciation for this cousin of butterflies.
I grew up thinking that all moths were brown and nothing but a nuisance at night when trying to get in the door. But since having children and spending time noticing nature with them, I have discovered so much more about them.
For this prompt, you’ll be attracting moths with moth bait. You can find a recipe and tips here. The most important thing to keep in mind with the bait is that it should be paste-like and not runny. Try painting the bait on trees in your yard during the day to observe any diurnal (there’s that nature word of the month!) moths that may want a free snack. Head out just before it gets dark to see crepuscular moths and again once it’s dark to see the nocturnal variety.
Resources to spark interest:
- A Luna Moth’s Life by John Himmelman
- DK Eyewitness Books: Butterfly and Moth by DK Publishing
- Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths by Jim Arnosky
- Moths and Butterflies of North America (website)
Don’t forget to download and the July nature prompts before you go. Print and hang them up so they’ll be easy to find whenever you need a little inspiration for noticing nature.