Noticing Nature Nature Prompts – July 2016

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

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.

Nature prompts for children and their families - July 2016

Soundscape Inventory

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.

Nature prompts for children and their families - July 2016

Who’s There?

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.

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

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.

Nature prompts for children and their families - July 2016

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:

Nature prompts for children and their families - July 2016

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.

Fondly,
Monique

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Nature Word of the Month – July 2016: DIURNAL

Nature Word of the Month | July 2016: DIURNAL

Wow!  I just realized that I started sharing our ‘nature word of the month’ almost one year ago.  It was last August that we learned the new-to-us word, crepuscular.  Do you remember what it means?   It’s a word that my children have remembered because they use it quite regularly when referring to animal behavior. If you need a refresher, you may want to review it with your child when you introduce this month’s word.  We’ll be revisiting ‘crepuscular’ in the July nature prompts.

So, we’ve learned the word for being active at dawn or dusk and most children know what  word means being active at night, but what word refers to daytime activity?  This month we are learning ‘diurnal‘.

Introducing the word…
When introducing new words to your child, keep these simple tips in mind.  After defining the word give an example or two.  Spend a few moments together naming animals that are active during the day and brainstorm how that may be of benefit to them.  Do they need more light for improved vision?  Are their prey available during the day?  These books will help provide some inspiration

Reinforcing its meaning…
To help your child become more familiar with this new vocabulary word, use it as often as you can.  Set up a simple activity such as sorting animal figurines into baskets  with diurnal and nocturnal labels (or night and day pictures paired with labels for the pre-reader child).  Create a poster on which you could paste a picture on to the appropriate section.  Designate a page or two in your nature journal to keep a record of your diurnal and nocturnal related observations.

We’ll be playing with this word again as part of the July nature prompts.  Be sure to keep a lookout for them!

Fondly,
Monique

 

 

 

 

 

Noticing Nature Prompts – March 2016

Noticing Nature: Nature Prompts - March 2016

Hello!  I hope you enjoyed the weekend.  Were you able to get outside?  My family and I wandered through some trails to a pond that adjoins our neighborhood and we were out for nearly three hours.  And my kids didn’t want to go home.  It was a great way to start the day and set the tone for the week ahead.

We try to get outside every day, even if it’s only for a short walk around the neighborhood.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder to explore a little more.  Our outing started with one of us saying, “We haven’t been to the pond in a while.  I wonder what it’s like there right now”.  Even an everyday neighborhood walk can be a bit more intriguing with some prompts to consider.  I hope these will get you on your way…

Nature prompts for children and their families - March 2016

Signs of the Season

We are approaching spring and we have been noticing some early signs (Did you catch our nature words of the month?  This is a great opportunity to use one of them if it’s the spring equinox that’s approaching.)  It’s a tiny bit lighter out when we wake up (yay!) and we have noticed the male goldfinches just beginning to get their brighter mating plumage.  What have you been noticing?  Different sounds, smells?  Don’t forget to engage all of your senses when observing seasonal changes.

Nature prompts for children and their families - March 2016

Noticing Patterns

Patterns in nature is defined as “visible regularities of form found in the natural world” and can include symmetries, spirals, meanders, waves, tessellations, cracks and stripes.  They can be found everywhere, high or low, big or small.  Keep your eye out for some that interest you and peak your curiosity.

Nature prompts for children and their families - March 2016

Making Connections

“This makes me think of…”  is a great phrase to keep in mind when making observations in nature.  My daughter peered inside a dead tree riddled with woodpecker holes and said that inside one of them reminded her of a rustic cabin we stayed in recently.  Hmm.  Could some animal have used this has a home?  What kind of animal might shelter in there?  The connection led to these and other wonderful questions.  Maybe a connection will be made to some prior knowledge.  Maybe some similarities will be made to another object.  Even if it seems a little silly, state what it reminds you of.  You never know where it might lead.

This month’s nature prompts can certainly be used as a one time activity but would be best revisited throughout the month.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to come easily at first.  Curiosity and observation are skills that can be developed through practice.  Keep getting outside and keep making and effort to notice.  And remember, you are a powerful role model for your children!

Fondly,
Monique

“I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see.”

—Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

The Key to Conifers – Learning to Identify The Evergreens

The Key to Conifers - Identifying Members of the Pine Family

It all started with one of our read-aloud books about a boy who leaves home to live in nature and makes a shelter in a hemlock tree.  The more we read, the more we began to wonder about this type of tree.  What does it look like?  How big do they grow?  Where do they grow?  So began our investigation of conifer trees (don’t you love it when something sparks curiosity like that?!).

Much to my embarrassment, I soon realized that we have hemlocks right in our neighborhood.  How could I not know that?  I have always appreciated their swooping branches and mini cones.  My children felt too that they wanted to become more familiar with the trees that surround us so we set off on a mission to identify the conifers of our neighborhood.  We found that once you learn just a few characteristics, it becomes easy to distinguish pines, spruces, and fir trees.

The Key to Conifers - Learning to Identify the Evergreens

Over at Playful Learning, I’ve shared some resources and tricks to help you easily distinguish between the different trees in the pine family.  Download the flashcards to use as an easy guide for identifying pine, spruce, fir, and hemlock trees.  Laminate them and they’ll be ready to travel with you on your outings.

Especially for you here at Green Acorns, I’ve created a guide that includes more in-depth information about conifers and the the various trees in the pine family.  It also includes journal pages and “curious naturalist” questions.  I hope it will prove to be a useful tool for you and your child when exploring the conifer trees of your area (note: it provides general characteristics as a general guide, not a comprehensive field guide).

Download the guide

You may also find inspiration for further investigation in these posts:

Fondly,
Monique

Nature by the Numbers – Nature Journal Prompts: December 2015

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children and Their Families: December 2015

My children love being outdoors and even on days when they feel like they would rather stay inside, all it takes is a gentle nudge out the door and then I usually have a hard time getting them to come back in.

They also have enjoyed nature journaling since they were wee ones.  After I had spent time marveling with them over something that had caught their attention, I made the simple suggestions that we might draw it so that we can always remember it.  That was all it took.  After that they wanted to bring their journals whenever we went on a nature outing or visited the botanical gardens.  Although they still enjoy it, it does not happen as often as it use to and some months only with some gentle suggesting on my part.

I never want nature journaling to feel like a chore to them.  It should be something that they are motivated to do on their own and for their own reasons.  But we all need some encouragement from time to time.  Even for things that bring us joy or help us relax or that fill us up in the best ways.  Right?

December Nature Prompts

That what our monthly nature journal prompts are meant to be – gentle suggestions to get us out the door and noticing the nature that surrounds us everyday.  No pressure.  No right or wrong.  No deadlines.  And for this month, no numbers.  December can be a hectic month and making the time to appreciate nature’s gifts, large or small, can be refreshing in so many ways.  I hope these suggestions will help…

Nature Prompts - December 2015

I wish you all a holiday season full of love and laughter and a child-like sense of wonder!

Fondly,
Monique & family

Nature by the Numbers | June 2015

Nature by the Numbers | June 2015 - Green Acorns June 2015 – Nature Journal Prompts

This month’s nature journal prompts have been inspired by my son – a boy who loves adventures and wants to experience them to the fullest.  That’s him in the photo above.  Well, his feet anyway.  The photo was taken during a walk on a trail through a wooded area in the early spring.  The temperature was rising and the early spring plants were beginning to grow but there was still snow on the ground here and there.  When we came to a favorite stream there was no resisting.  My girls kept their boots on to explore but my son’s came off immediately. He knew intellectually that the water would be ice-cold.  But he needed to know it in his body.  He wanted to be fully engaged in the experience.  Like the time we had hurricane-strength winds this past winter and he just had to go outside.  We could hear the wind howling and see the trees swaying and the snow blowing horizontally but he had to get out there and know what it was like to be in the midst of it.  He had to be a part of it. So, this month’s prompts are all about encouraging your child to engage with nature with all of his or her senses – to be a part of it.

I hope your child has fun with it (Just click the link at the beginning to download your copy).

Have a wonder-filled week!
Fondly, Monique

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