NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – October 2017

Noticing Nature: Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families - October 2017

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.”
–  Nathaniel Hawthorne

This quote expresses how I feel about fall and this month in particular. It lays between the blur of September – full of transitions – and the delightful, although busy, holiday season. It is quieter, cozier, slower and full of colorful fall beauty. I hope the prompts for this month help you slow down and notice some of the splendor of the season.

Track the changing temperature

The temperature can shift quite drastically this month. From day to day and even hour to hour. Today in Maine the temperature reached near 70°F in the afternoon and is supposed to dip to the low 40s tonight. That’s a big change! Use our weather log to track the temperature and weather throughout the month and see what a difference a day can make.

Life of a log

Even after it’s life, trees continue to be a crucial element in the ecosystem. They help lessen erosion and provide shelter, food and nutrients. Examine a fallen log and you’ll see that it’s full of life. Search for signs of animal activity and fungal growth. What did you observe? Why do you think they were in, under or around the log? What role do these things play in the cycle of life?

*Note: While observing fallen logs, please be very gentle and careful. This is a living habitat.

These are some of our favorite books to accompany the exploration of fallen logs…

Go on a bark scavenger hunt

The outer bark serves the same function for all trees but there is a lot of diversity in how it looks.  So many different patterns and textures and colors to notice!  Your young naturalist will gain a greater appreciation for trees with this scavenger hunt.

bark scavenger hunt

You can take this activity further by adding some sensory elements.

  • Ask your child to feel the difference of the barks.  Do they feel rough or smooth?  Are they thick or thin?  Take some bark rubbings too.  They will aid in remembering the experience and serve as prompts for reflection and further discussion.
  • Try smelling the bark. Go ahead, don’t be shy. The bark of some trees have very distinct odors. Sandalwood, red cedar, yellow birch and ponderosa pines are some.

Notice the night sky

This month is the perfect time to get outside after dark and observe the night sky. It’s getting dark before bedtime, still warm enough to not have to bundle up too much, and the skies tend to be clear.

While time spent together simply gazing at the night sky is a wonderful thing, you can make it engaging and educational by doing a little prep work. I like this short video for generating some ideas: Stargazing with Kids.noticing the night sky

Here are some other resources you may want to have at the ready…

Happy October. Have fun exploring and noticing nature!


Hitchhiking, Flying and Other Exciting Ways Seeds Travel

Hitchhiking, Flying and Other Exciting Ways Seeds Travel: a seed dispersal study with activities and free printables.

Year after year my children are captivated by the seeds that they find, especially in the fall. There are so many interesting characteristics that grab one’s attention and stimulate the imagination. They are creatively designed packages that contain precious, life-bearing gifts. Some of them even employ quite dramatic delivery methods. As we add collected seeds and pods to our nature table once again, we are revisiting our study of the different types of seeds and how they travel. I have updated the printables we use so that I can share them with you.

Hitchhiking, Flying and Other Exciting Ways Seeds Travel: a seed dispersal study with activities and free printables.

Seed dispersal is a fascinating, fun and rich topic. With the abundance of seeds around, it’s fairly easy to find some to examine. And their diversity is sure to spark some awe and wonder. I hope after doing some exploring, your child will be curious and inspired to learn more. The resources and activity printables provided will help guide his interest into meaningful experiences.

Activities & Printables

  • Start by reading about the different types of seeds (see resources provided below) and print this chart as a quick reference.

Seed Categories

  • This activity will help your child learn the different seed classifications. Cut out the images on the second page and sort them into the appropriate category (hint: The images are arranged in the correct order. You may like to print a second copy to use as reference.)

Seed Type Sort

  • After your child has collected a variety of seeds and pods, use this printable to sort them by how they get dispersed.

Dispersal Sort

  • Animals play a huge role in helping to disperse seeds. Your child can record what they have learned about the methods animals use on this sheet.

How Animals Help Seeds Travel

Hitchhiking, Flying and Other Exciting Ways Seeds Travel: a seed dispersal study with activities and free printables.

Resources to compliment your study of seed dispersal…



On-line Resources

Hitchhiking, Flying and Other Exciting Ways Seeds Travel: a seed dispersal study with activities and free printables.

Happy exploring!



Hello Fall! Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Hello Fall! Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox (via Green Acorns)

Days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, leaves are putting on a colorful show, animals alter behaviors in preparation for what’s to come. There are so many changes happening in nature right now that it’s hard not to notice. Embrace the season, connect with nature and celebrate the approaching equinox with these resources and ideas…



Ways to celebrate the autumnal equinox




Hello Fall! Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox (via Green Acorns)

Happy fall!



Noticing Nature prompts – September 2017

Noticing Nature - Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families: September 2017

Are you feeling adjusted to the back-to-school routine yet? This is our second week and we have been slowly finding our way. We are settling in to a new routine and working out our homeschooling schedule. For us, nature time is a priority and like any other priority, it has become a part of our daily and weekly rhythms – from our walks after lunch or dinner to unstructured playtime outside to nature studies and nature journaling. Including it on our written schedule is a visual reminder that it is just as important as anything else we do to feed our bodies, minds, and spirits. After awhile it becomes a habit and a natural part of what we do, who we are. Even so, it still holds its place of honor on our schedule.

That’s partly why I write out monthly nature prompts. They can be printed out and serve as a reminder that taking time to intentionally notice nature is important. And sometimes we all need a spark of motivation – some fresh ideas to enliven a sense of curiosity, to incorporate more nature in your life and to find a greater appreciation of the natural world. I hope these will help you and your children do just that.

Noticing Nature prompts - September 2017

The prompts for this month were inspired by The Wander Society by Keri Smith (of Wreck This Journal fame). I have been enjoying revisiting this book since a member of Noticing Nature 2017 mentioned it a few weeks ago (that particular week’s prompt was “wander”). “Wandering is not about a specific place or destination, getting from one place to another, or movement as a means to an end. Instead, it’s about letting the soul and mind roam… It involves a complete immersion in the current situation, a willingness to be open to whatever comes up, whatever you find in front of you at the moment. It is to exist in a state of naivete in the truest sense of the word, making no assumptions about what it is you are looking at”. Sounds wonderful, right?. I also highly recommend that you check out her book How to be an Explorer of the World

Now on to the prompts…

Tracking Color

Choose a different color for either each week this month or for different outings you take and notice all the different things in nature of that color. Record what you observe to help you remember. I highly encourage you to take photos if possible. The photos can be added to your nature journal or used create a collage to display (a wonderful way to revisit the experience and share with others). It may also serve as inspiration for an art project (like mixing paint to match the different hues) or a  creative writing session.

Tracking Sound

There are two ways you could do this one…

The first is to simply take notice of all the sounds you hear while you’re out for a walk. Be mindful about tuning into your sense of hearing. If you’d like to take the activity up a notch, bring a notepad and pencil to record them during your walk. Do your best to record where precisely you are when you notice each sound (standing under the oak tree that’s two houses down, the corner of Main and Elm, etc).

The second option is to choose one sound in nature to track (the wind, water, bird calls, etc.). Listen for it during several different outings. Notice the similarities and differences of each instance.

Noticing Nature - July 2016: Nature prompts for children and their families.

Tracking Transformation

Choose one thing in nature (a tree, daily temperature, bird or bee activity, etc.) that you can observe or visit easily and regularly. Track the changes it goes through during the month. This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the use of charts (like this one for tracking weather), graphs and other recording tools.

Tracking Observations

Choose a route that you can walk several times throughout the month (your daily walk to the bus stop, a walk around your neighborhood, etc.). Begin each walk with the intention of noticing something different in nature from the time before. Be sure to walk the same exact route each time.

Before you go, download the prompts so you can print them and pin them up where they will remind you to get out and notice nature.

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.”

– Thomas Berry


Nature Word of the Month, September 2017: DENDROPHILE

Nature Word of the Month - September 2017: Dendrophile

The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hello! It has been a while since I’ve shared a nature word of the month, hasn’t it? I’ve been struggling a bit to find one that has felt right, but this one… This one felt like a perfect fit. For myself and my family and to share with you.
Why do I share nature-related vocabulary? It was sparked by a friend’s post about her cat and his “crepuscular” activities. I had never heard that word and was curious. I looked up the meaning and actually felt a little rush from learning a new word that so succinctly described an occurrence I was familiar with. Nerdy, I know. I was excited to teach my children it too.
Learning new vocabulary strengthens one’s ability to grasp ideas and think logically, to communicate clearly and understand others better. It can help improve your memory, become more perceptive of your surroundings and increase your focus. And it’s just one more way, however small, I can support my children’s love of nature.
Print off this month’s nature word, pin it up where you will see it regularly, and have some fun incorporating it into your conversations or nature journals or writing.

Wednesday Walks – The Path to Nowhere

Wednesday Walks - The Path to Nowhere

“A pleasant walk most often veritably teems with imageries, living poems, attractive objects, natural beauties, be they ever so small. The lore of nature and the lore of the country are revealed, charming and graceful, to the sense and eyes of the observant walker, who must of course walk not with downcast but with open and unclouded eyes.”

Robert Walser, The Walk

We recently visited family and one of my uncles took the kids to find a path behind the house that led to a stream. Unfortunately the path was no longer accessible and they headed back. A little while later my kids asked to go back to explore some more. Some of the adults wondered why and commented that there wasn’t much to see. My kids knew better though.

To them this forgotten area of overgrown “weeds” was a place of wonder and magic, a source for feeding the imagination and sparking curiosity. They saw fairy sized flowers, plants that warned you of danger and a plant that surely came from some exotic & far-off place, leaves that held sparkling jewels, and balloon-like flowers with crazy dos that are something Alice would have seen in Wonderland. They were so intrigued with the unfamiliar plant life and excited to recognize the familiar ones.

We didn’t go far and didn’t stay long but it was none the less a rich and stimulating experience.

When you are out for a walk with your children, engage your senses, point things out, ask “I wonder” and other open-ended questions, make connections to things your children are familiar with by making “this reminds me of…” statements. You’ll be nurturing their curiosity, skills of observation, and love of nature. You’ll also experience some wonderful quality time spent together.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats


A Complete Guide to Solar Eclipse 2017 ☀️: All the must-have resources

A Complete Guide to Solar Eclipse 2017 ☀️: All the must-have resources

Whether you are in the path of totality or not, the upcoming solar eclipse is a big deal and cause for excitement. The last time a total solar eclipse swept the whole width of the U.S. was in 1918 and this is the first solar eclipse exclusive to the U.S. since before the nation’s founding.

There’s still time to do some activities and plan where and how you are going to view the eclipse. The following resources should help. And if you won’t be able to see it, check out the interactive simulators or watch a live broadcast. We have our glasses on hand and some activities printed and prepped!

About this eclipse

Types of solar eclipses

Activity guides

Interactive Simulations

Crafts & Activities




Wednesday Walks: Staying close to home

Wednesday Walks - Close to Home

My goodness, it has been a while since I have shared one of our weekly walks! I’ve missed sharing nature with you.

On this day we headed out for an after dinner stroll through our neighborhood. We wanted to stretch our legs and enjoy the pleasant summer evening. All the lovely, interesting things we noticed in nature was an added perk.

Before I share what we noticed though, let’s talk about the benefits of this simple activity…

  • It’s good for your soul – Going for a walk will get you away from distractions so you can spend quality time with your loved ones. Or maybe some quality time with yourself.
  • It’s good for your mind – Taking an outdoor stroll reduces stress, promotes creativity and improves concentration & memory.
  • It’s good for your body – Walking helps aid digestion, lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. A walk outside helps fill your vitamin D needs, increases oxygen intake and can even improve eyesight.
  • Being outside is just plain good for you, whatever your age!

Now on to all the nature goodness!



There were so many Queen Anne’s Lace in bloom. It can be found blooming at all different stages simultaneously so you really get see what it looks like in each phase. Each one is beautiful!


This is the time of year that net-winged beetles seem to be out in multitude. We’ve been noticing them everywhere lately.



We noticed some ferns unfurling and Alder cones just developing.



There is a small area abutting some woods that had been cleared fairly recently. Nature, of course, is already filling back in. We saw lots of Spreading Dogbane taking over – a plant we haven’t noticed in this area before.



We found this Robin’s nest that had been blown out of a tree. Its base was quite large and heavy with dry mud and there were some lichen bits woven into it.


Nearing home my son stopped to listen more closely to a rustling he heard in the leaf litter. Based on it movement, we’re thinking a little vole was under there.

What we thought was going to be a simple walk turned into a rich, nature-packed experience that invigorated all of our senses. It was such a treat!

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
-John Muir

What have you been noticing on your walks lately? If you’d like one of your walks featured here on the blog, let’s chat. I’d love for us all to share our nature finds!


P.S. If you would like to join a welcoming, supportive group where you will find inspiration for deeper personal connections with nature throughout the year, join me at my private FB group – Noticing Nature 2017. I’d love to see you there!

Wednesday Walks: Cathance River Nature Preserve

Wednesday Walks: Cathance River Nature Preserve

This week we head to a nature preserve along a river less than a 10 minute drive from our house. It’s one of our favorite places to visit. Early on this sunny and very warm morning we joined the local Audubon chapter for a guided bird walk.

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

It was a fairly quiet bird morning with the highlights being a Rose-breasted Grosbeak sighting, hearing the beautiful, almost haunting songs of Hermit thrushes (we stood in silent awe for quite sometime while the rest of the group continued on) and seeing a Hermit Thrush nest. They nest on the ground and this recently constructed one had been abandoned after a hard rain matted down the ferns that were providing cover.

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

It’s always a thrill to get to the river and witness its energy and power and beauty. On the walk in a Snowshoe Hare crossed our path and sat long enough for us to snap a photo. On the way out a young member of the group spied a Red-spotted Newt in a puddle on the trail. Very fun sightings!

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

During this walk we also noticed and took time to appreciate the variety of wild flowers in bloom. There are still plenty of star flowers and bunch berries blooming and so many lovely ferns adding to the lush atmosphere of the late spring woods. We also saw a Pink Lady Slipper in its white form for the very first time. We had read about this phenomenon just the day before so it was quite the coincidence!

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)


We also noticed two new-to-us flowers that I’m sure we have passed many many times. The first is Clintonia, a shade loving member of the lily family. Later in the summer they will develop brilliant blue berries which is where the common name of Blue Bead lily comes from.  I have read that the leaves were used by the Algonquin and Chippewa as an antiseptic poultice applied to wounds, infections, and burns and that Chippewa children liked to make designs in the leaves with their teeth.  These plants take about twelve years  for these lilies to flower so I know these have been here for a while.

The second is a Painted Trillium.  These flowers have a wavy margin and reddish splotches at the base of each petal which serves as a pollinator guide.  These flowers look so delicate and indeed in some areas they truly are.  Know your state conservation laws.  In some areas these plants are protected as they are in decline due to habitat destruction.

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

It was a gorgeous morning and we left with our hearts and minds full of appreciation for the amazing nature that surround us. 💚

Thanks for coming along!

P.S.  I did not do a blog post about last week’s walk but you can find it on my Instagram account.


Noticing Nature – Nature Prompts: June 2017

Noticing Nature - Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families_ June 2017

Each month here at Green Acorns you can find simple prompts to encourage you and your child to find your unique connection with nature.  They could be done while on a hike, right in your backyard, and even amidst the busyness of everyday life.
Taking the time to notice nature builds on your child’s natural curiosity and nurtures a sense of awe and wonder.  It provides unlimited opportunities for further exploration and cultivates an attitude of inquiry.  Personal connections with nature get woven in to one’s sense of place and can lead to stewardship of the natural world.  The list of benefits goes on an on…  And this all can be accomplished in little time with only a little effort.
You’ll find the link to download this month’s prompts at the end of the post.

Nature prompts for children and their families - July 2016


The variety of sounds in the environment and how sounds effect the way we experience natural settings often go unnoticed. Take time to slow down and tune in to your sense of hearing.

Find a comfortable sit spot in nature, have a seat and close your eyes. Listen carefully. Notice all the sounds around you. Record at least five in your journal. Don’t forget to include where you were sitting, the time of day, and the weather.



Although we are primarily visual creatures, smell is quite a powerful sense for us.  Some scientists estimate that we can detect at least 1 trillion different smells and that our connection to certain scents begins in utero.  Because of our brain anatomy, sense of smell is strongly linked to emotions and memory.  It can also help us navigate the physical environment.

Strengthen your sense of smell by taking some mindful breaks to notice the scents around you.  Whether you stop to smell some flowers, notice the briny scent of low tide while at the beach, or while out for a walk get a sudden whiff of a new scent carried by the breeze, pause and take it in.



So much information about the outside world can be learned through our sense of touch, which most children are naturally compelled to do.  We’re putting a fun twist on this prompt and going bareFoot!

There has been much research in recent years about the benefits of letting children go barefoot and there’s even a book about it.  Our goal is to focus on the sense of freedom and the sensory stimulation it provides.  It’s also one more way to feel more closely connected to nature.  So go for it… Free your feet and explore at least three natural surfaces (sand, grass, smooth rocks, puddles, etc). How does it feel? Soft? Prickly? Tickly? Warm? Rough? Record everything you felt and noticed in your nature journal.

P.S. International mud day  is June 29th.  Try stomping in mud puddles barefoot to celebrate.


Observe & Move

With this prompt, children can imagine taking on the qualities of animals in the natural environment and in doing so, deepen their connection to it.

Spend some time observing a few different animals (bee, frog, squirrel, bird, etc). How do they move? Are they fast or slow? What parts of their body moves when they make a sound? How do they position their bodies at rest? What are they busy doing?

Now use your whole body to move like each animal. Record what you noticed in your journal.

Download a printable version of the prompts here.  Enjoy!


P.S. If you’d like to join an friendly, supportive group where you will find weekly inspiration for deeper personal connections with nature throughout the year, join me over at Noticing Nature 2017. And feel free to invite some friends.