Discovering Patterns in Nature with Children: Spheres & Circles

circles & spheres title

“The eye is the first circle, the horizon which it forms is the second: and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The circle and its 3-dimensional form, the sphere, are powerful figures in our world.  Throughout nature, art, religion, and philosophy the circle represents unity and the cyclical nature of life itself.  We began our life in a spherical shape, didn’t we?  And the planet on which we live and the sun that makes life here possible are spherical (well, approximately, but it’s close enough).

star trails

click photo for source

In mathematical, physical, and architectural terms the sphere presents maximum volume or internal space with the least amount of surface area and using the least amount of materials.  For dwellings and sleeping animals, the less surface area that is exposed, the less heat that is lost.  For animals, curling up also means protecting their delicate underside and presenting predators the smallest possible surface area.

Circles and spheres occur as the result of uniform growth from a central point.  They represent the balance between inward and outward forces.

We pass circles and spheres on a regular basis in our daily lives.  Have you noticed?  The shape (or an approximation) is there in a center of a flower or a fruit growing on a tree or in a patch of lichen.  Many plants take on this form and even some animals.

nature walk spheres

Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes we must look a little longer.  But they are there, all around, just waiting to be explored!  If your child is quite young, spend some time discussing the qualities of circles and spheres and playing with some: trace circles, draw circle pictures, roll a ball, blow bubbles.


Then grab your camera and drawing supplies and head out with your child to see how many different circles and spheres in nature you can find.  Print off our activity page for a guide or for further exploration: Finding Circles and Spheres in Nature

activity sheetHappy exploring!