Nature Word of the Month, December 2016: HYEMATION

Nature Word of the Month, December 2016: HYEMATION

It may not say so on the calendar but winter has certainly arrived here in Maine.  The temperatures have dropped, there’s snow on the ground, and animal activity has decreased significantly.

Being a New Englander, I enjoy experiencing four seasons and the changes that come with each.  I can’t imagine my life without it.  Being someone with Raynaud’s, I don’t tolerate the cold very well (less and less as I get older).  I must admit, the last couple of years I have fantasized about wintering in Aruba.  Perhaps this is the subconscious reason I chose this month’s nature word.  I may someday join the flocks of Mainers who head to Florida for their hyemation.  Given this year’s forecast I might start now.

While this is not a common word, it is a fun one.  Can you think of how else you might apply this word to the natural world?   What or who prepares for hyemation and how?  I’ll give you one hint – think trees.

Download and print a copy here.  Hang it on your fridge, pin it to your corkboard, paste it in your nature journal or commonplace book.  Visit me on Facebook or leave a comment here about the uses you have come up with.

Have a wonder-filled weekend!

Fondly,

Monique & Family

 

 

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – December 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

December can be an extra busy month and making the time to appreciate nature’s gifts, large or small, can be just what we need to create some space and enjoy some mindful moments connecting with our children.  I hope these nature prompts will help…

Noticing Evergreens

Conifer trees aren’t the only plant that is an evergreen.  There are many shrubs and smaller plants that keep their green leaves throughout the winter.  Wintergreen is a common one here in Maine.  How many different evergreens can you spot this month?

Finding Frost

While snow crystals form in the clouds, frost crystals form on solid surfaces near the ground when it cools past the dew point.  Like snow, frost is made up of tiny ice crystals and comes in a variety of structures.

When the conditions are right, bundle up and go in search of frost.  How many different examples of frost can you find throughout the month?

Seasonal Senses

A change in season is signified by so much more than rising or dropping temperatures or the sights of the transforming nature.  Each season can have its own smells, sounds, tastes, textures and more.   I love how quiet it is during a snow and how the fallen leaves feel extra crunchy underfoot.  My family and I also enjoy noticing the patterns and textures in frost and ice.  How about you?  What special sensations mean winter to you?

As we approach the next solstice, mindfully engage your senses while you are out in nature.  Pay close attention to what you notice.  Give some thought to what you experience.  Perhaps make a list of descriptive words or write a few notes on a calendar to record your observations.

Did you know?

Brain research confirms that combining the use of one’s various senses leads to more connections made within the brain.   The result is a more thorough, meaningful experience that can be recalled more easily and with more detail.

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

Practice Stillness

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

– Mother Teresa
What is stillness?  It is basically the act of doing nothing.  It’s quieting your mind and sitting in silence.  It’s making space to connect to your essential self, to God, to nature.  It’s cultivating an inner calm and serenity.  It’s simply being.

 

In our modern, over-scheduled, media-driven world, stillness and silence are more crucial than ever for our  well-being.  Even young children need this.  For most of us, life is noisy and we are constantly processing information.  This causes fatigue, stress and tension.

 

This month, I’m requesting that you and your child follow nature’s example.  Let go of what is not serving you, send your roots deeper so that you may find connection and strength, and be still.  Try it for at least five minutes a day.  Sit in silence.  To get the most benefits, take it outside.  Dress appropriately and sit in silence with nature.

Download and print your nature prompts here.

I am also including another weather tracker this month.  I heard from so many of you that you enjoyed the simple log (found in November’s prompts) and would like to continue the routine.  You can get a December copy here and a blank version for use any time here.

Wishing you and your family a joyous, wonder-filled holiday season!

Fondly,
Monique

Nature Word of the Month: FEUILLEMORT

Nature Word of the Month: FEUILLEMORT

“The dead leaves their rich mosaics
Of olive and gold and brown
Had laid on the rain-wet pavements,
Through all the embowered town.”

-Samuel Longfellow

What colors come to mind for you when you think of the colors of dying leaves?  Olive?  Sepia?  Copper?  I love how the word for this month (from the French feuille morte) conjures up so many different hues, the visual unique for each one of us.

Spend some time with your child noticing the colors of the autumn leaves around you.  Bring home a collection or take some photos.  Look at the variety.  Can you arrange them from darkest to lightest?  How else might you categorize them?  How would you describe the colors?  What do the colors make you think of?

Resources to Inspire:

Investigate Further

I hope this word of the month and the resources above help heighten your appreciation for all the shades of fall’s fading leaves.

Have fun exploring!

Fondly,
Monique

P.S. If you’d to print a copy of this month’s word, you can download a PDF version.

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – November 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families - November 2016

Some people say that this time of year can be bleak.  The temperature is dropping.  Many birds have migrated.  Flowers have gone by.  Trees are bare.  The landscape is turning brown.  There doesn’t seem to be anything exciting happening.

Let this month’s nature prompts motivate you to get outside and notice what nature does have to offer.  There is still much beauty to be found if you shift your perspective a little.

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - November 2016

Seeds Uncovered

Bare stalks and branches mean that you are now more able to observe what was once hidden from view.  Take this opportunity to notice the variety of seeds and seed pods in the landscape around you.  You may be surprised at what you notice and once you start, you might not be able to stop.

Investigating Further

Visit an earlier post to learn about seed dispersal.  It includes a printable for an activity and plenty of resources.

notice-the-night-sky

Noticing the Night Sky

It’s getting darker earlier and earlier which means it’s a good time to get out at night with the kids before bedtime.  The sky also appears clearer as the temperatures drop, making the stars seems more brilliant.  Why not bundle up and take advantage of it?

Learn to identify a few constellations.  Go on a full moon walk (the next full moon is on the 14th).  Use an app to find out which stars are really planets (we use Star Chart).

This is also the perfect time to learn more about the moon start a moon journal.  I created one for my kids some time ago that we use over and over.  If you’d like to use it, you can download the cover and observation pages (print as many of these as you think you might need).  Please note the printing directions below:

  • Cover – Print the two sheets back to back on the same sheet
  • Observation pages – Printing is easiest when downloaded and printed from Adobe Reader.  Choose “multiple” with 2 pages per sheet.  Print in portrait on both front and back sides of your paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Symmetry of Leaves

Before all the leaves have dropped from the trees, take the opportunity to observe their symmetry.  Use this printable to practice bilateral symmetry and then collect some leaf samples from different types of trees to explore further.  Are they all symmetrical?  If not, what makes the two halves different?  Sort the leaves in to symmetrical and non-symmetrical groups to compare and contrast.

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Weather Tracking

The weather can change quite drastically this time of year and there is often a significant difference in temperature from the beginning of the month to the end of it.  Print off this weather log to record the daily weather and temperature throughout the month.  Review the log at the end of the month.  What do you notice?  Are there any patterns?  Did one type of weather occur more frequently than the others?  How much did the temperature change?  What predictions might you make about next month’s weather?

You can get the printable version of the November prompts here.

Pop over to the Green Acorns Facebook page and share your experiences with them throughout the month.  I’ll be sharing ours there too.  If you’d like to follow our other nature experiences, I post regularly on Instagram – like about the Ruffed Grouse that was in our yard or this epic find.

Have fun noticing November nature!

Fondly,
Monique

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – October 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families - October 2016

The nature prompts for this month are centered around a theme.  This month we’ll be focusing on trees.

In the northern hemisphere it’s the leaves that are really standing out right now and there’s an activity that will get your child noticing the rich variety.  It’s also a great time to get to know trees a little better.  You’ll find some printables designed to help your child explore the world of trees and one very special activity from a friend over seas.

Meet a Tree

This activity comes from Joseph Cornell and helps heighten our sensory awareness as we get close and personal with a special tree.  You will need a blindfold, a partner for your child (an adult is preferable if your child is quite young), and the directions found here or on the nature prompts printable.

Magic Tree Hunt

For the very first time we have a guest contributor sharing her passion for encouraging children to observe and discover nature.  Lisa Lillywhite from Smart Happy Project created this magical tree hunt that your child is sure to have fun with it.  He’ll be noticing trees like he never has before. 

Give Lisa’s notes about the activity a glance before getting started then download the printable and let the fun begin!

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.

You can add a sensory element by asking 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.

Tree bark scavenger hunt printable / Noticing Nature Nature Prompts: October 2016 via Green Acorns

Colors of Autumn Leaves

There is such an array of color to be found in the fall leaves.  Shades of red, yellow, green and even purple.  Collect leaves of different colors with your child and point out the rich variety.  Group them by color and notice the nuances.  Use the color wheel and find matching shades.  If you have collected leaves they can be pinned to the color wheel or torn into smaller bits and glued on (a great fine motor activity for wee ones).

Lisa has also provided us with a blank color wheel that she suggests filling in with paint chips.  This will allow you to customize based on the colors in the surrounding landscape.  You can see some examples of how she has used it here.

Resources to Inspire

Spark excitement and further learning with any of these lovely books;

Don’t forget to print off this month’s prompts and keep them in a handy spot.
Have fun enjoying the world of trees with your child!

Fondly,
Monique

NaturePlay Film: Bringing Back Childhood

NaturePlay: A film review @Green Acorns

I recently had the privilege of viewing the film NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back which was created by Daniel and Aimie Stilling with the goal of inspiring a cultural and educational shift in the U.S. and around the world in regards to the values placed on childhood and the importance of whole-child education.

The film begins with captivating images of children playing outside – free and happy, exploring and connecting with nature – underscored by Richard Louv reading a passage from his book, Last Child in the Woods.  We are then presented with the serious issue that this film addresses: The increase in high-stakes testing in our schools and the loss of unstructured play time outside (in and out of school) are negatively impacting our children.  Childhood is being taken away, our children are suffering, and the consequences are long-lasting.

The film then offers a source of hope and remedy as it leads us on a journey to Denmark where we learn about the Udeskole model of education and the cultural attitude of Friluftsliv and then to Norway where they share these same values.

Udeskole is defined as a method that “…gives the pupils the opportunity to use their bodies and senses in learning activities in the real world in order to obtain personal and concrete experiences.  Uteskole allows room for academic activities, communication, social interaction, experience, spontaneity, play, curiosity and fantasy”.  (sourceIn other words, Udeskole takes learning out to nature and relevant community settings for meaningful, hands-on experiences that can be applied to the classroom lessons across all academic subjects.

NaturePlay Film

The Udeskole pedagogy is implemented in all grades from kindergarten through high school and the impacts are inspiring.  Learning experiences are not standardized as they tend to be here in the U.S.  This pedagogy makes it possible for children to take away their own lessons, develop their own unique skills, broaden their own perspective of the world.  The experiences go from hand to mind to heart, empowering all children to unlock their full potential.

This model of education and the governmental policies that support it would not be successful if it weren’t for the cultural value of Friluftsliv – “free air life”.  In Nordic and Scandinavian cultures, direct experience in nature is a part of everyday life.  Children spend extended periods of time immersed in nature.  They experience life outside in all kinds of weather.  They are allowed to take risks – climbing trees and boulders, learning how to use knives and make fires, using construction materials and tools to build forts and rafts. It is understood and accepted that children need time away from adult monitoring and influence.  Even the public parks and adventure playgrounds are designed to support and encourage these philosophies.

It is believed that children have an innate sense of belonging in nature and that it is crucial to maintain that connection for a high quality of life.  It is believed that children and nature and education belong together and that working to make it so is an investment in the health of society.

NaturePlay film

After highlighting many positive and encouraging examples of “Udeskole” successes, the film brings us back around to the struggles we face and the price our children are paying.  We are raising a generation of disconnected humans – disconnected from each other, disconnected from nature, disconnected from life.  We have created false constructs of achievement and what is important in life.  We have lost touch with the fact that life-long personal success, health, and overall well-being are rooted in childhood.  This film challenges us to take an honest look at our current mindsets and to take up the challenge of doing better for our children.  After all,  “What parent wants their kids to be less alive?  What teacher wants their students to be less alive?  Who among us as adults wants to be less alive?”  The solution lies in a more nature-rich existence.

Gain more insight to the film with these wonderful reviews and by watching the official trailer:

So, who should see this film?

  • Parents who want to enrich their children’s lives;
  • Educators who want to unlock their students full potential;
  • Community leaders who want to promote a creative, independent, empowered generation;
  • Organizations who want to spark a love of outdoors in children and nurture future stewards of the environment;
  • Anyone who wants to improve the lives of our children and the future of us all.

Who could you approach about hosting a viewing?

  • School board of directors, administrators, teachers, and parent groups;
  • Local nature clubs and environmental centers;
  • Universities;
  • Public libraries;
  • Parents and family members.

Make a passionate plea to get this film shown in your community.  Whether you write a letter or arrange a personal meeting, make an undeniable case by sharing research findings, giving anecdotal examples of experiential learning and the impacts of unstructured time in nature, and asking your audience to recall their own experiences.

All the information for hosting a screening can be found here.  Together we can help take back childhood.

Fondly,
Monique

P.S. I asked Aimie a few follow-up questions after viewing the full film.  I’ll share our conversation and some related resources in an upcoming post.

Touchscape: A Nature Mapping Activity

Touchscape: A Nature Mapping Activity (via Green Acorns)

Map skills and nature study are two things that I like to incorporate regularly in our home-educating activities and I especially like it when I can combine the two. Nature study is a wonderful enrichment to any education. It expands awareness and understanding of the natural world, strengthens skills of observation, cultivates curiosity and a love of investigation, and lays a foundation for scientific study. But why incorporate maps? Is it really important for children to develop map skills? One might think that in this digital age, where information can be found right at our fingertips within seconds, that map skills are obsolete. Having these skills are unnecessary, right? Not at all! Reading maps and map making incorporate skills from across many areas of learning:

  • Maps convey information that help us understand our world.
  • Map making deepens that understanding.
  • Maps are a way of sharing ideas and experiences.
  • Making maps allow us to express our sense of place.
  • Interpreting maps involves reading and math skills, builds spatial awareness, visual literacy and higher-order thinking.

Children as young as preschool-age can be introduced to the concept of maps. One way to do that is through books.  There’s sure to be one here that will interest your child:

Once children have had some exposure to map concepts they can be introduced to map-making. The elementary years are a great time to get started.

If you would like to learn more about introducing maps and map-making to your child, I highly recommend the book MapMaking With Children by David Sobel.

Now on to the nature mapping activity…

Touchscape - Nature Mapping Activity

Touchscapes

In this activity, you and your child will go on a texture hunt around your yard and then add samples of those textures to a hand-drawn map. You will need a copy of the “texture words” printable, a large sheet of paper or piece of poster-board/cardboard, a pencil, a basket or other container to hold nature artifacts, and glue (optional).

1. Review texture words
Explain that you are going on a texture hunt and look over the texture words printable with your child. Can he imagine what each one feels like? Does he have any to add?
2. Create a map
Find a spot outside from which you can view your house and yard. Take a few moments with your child to look around and talk about what nature you see and where things are in relation to one another. Draw a map of the area on a large sheet of paper or posterboard. It’s easiest for children to draw the house first. Do not worry about being perfect – this map is meant to act as a general guide and does not need to be exact or very detailed. If your child is very young, draw a map ahead of time and review it with him.
3. Go on a texture walk
With map in hand, take a walk around your yard. Pay close attention to the various textures of the nature you see. Is there a soft mossy patch? Do you have trees with rough bark? Smooth bark? Maybe there are some fuzzy dandelion puffs or prickly bushes. Stop to touch with your child and talk about how each thing feels. Encourage your child to use descriptive words and make comparisons (ie. rough like sandpaper, soft and squishy like a sponge, etc.).
4. Collect samples & add them to map
If appropriate, collect samples of the nature that you find on your texture walk. When you have finished your walk, ask your child to recall where each collected item was found. He can then place it on the map (and glue it on if desired) at the appropriate location.

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Extending the activity

Here are some ideas for using your collected nature bits once you are done with the mapping activity…

Create a sensory bin

Make Mandalas

Play with clay

Sort, Match & Classify

Have fun!

Fondly,
Monique