Monday, September 14, 2015

Simple Entertainment

Our summer with our granddaughter was exhausting....but entertaining..  What I recall are the simple ways to entertain her.  In nature.  And free!

One day, we saw a Mud Dauber creating her nest of mud on our porch ceiling.  We observed that the fresh mud was darker in color.  The wasp made quick trips (we didn’t know where), came back with a little dollop of mud, and packed the new mud next to the older, lighter colored mud. This behavior was fun and fascinating to watch.  The “show” was constant all afternoon.  And so we sat and watched.  Even more amazing is that a four year old would sit attentively that long!

 Another engaging activity was  listening for birds each morning.  We made lists each day of all the species we heard...intent on hearing the same number from the previous day.  And then, we compared lists....some days we heard a new voice and excitedly added that to the list.  Fun....
And who hasn’t tried to catch frogs.  That is still one of my favorite things to do!


 Whether it was ants climbing up a tree or bats flying overhead at night, we always had a “show” worth paying attention to. On some occasions we went to explore other places, pretending to be Lewis and Clark pointing to a new path, hiking up a stream, or kayaking on a nearby lake.  All of these activities were free and entertaining.....simple and fun

What I learned from this experience with my granddaughter is that it doesn’t take much to entertain a child in nature.  And that children have longer attention spans than you might think. You just have to find something interesting to attend to.  Nature does the rest.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Learning---- the Natural Way

I go to nature to be calmed, to be awed, and to be inspired.  But I realized this summer as we were taking our granddaughter into nature that it can be such a learning experience as well.  Our granddaughter, almost 4 years old when she came to visit for the summer, was already quite precocious.  She could recognize all of her letters and write most of them, count to 100 with some help, and recognized some sight words from books she had read over and over again.

This summer I watched as these skills grew by leaps and bounds, without effort, naturally while in nature!  She walked through the woods every day and quickly learned to put symbols on our trail map—coyote scat, turkey feathers, and bee trees were added to a basic map (map reading skills).  Also, she measured the growth of plants with her whole body as a measuring stick (math skills).

The daily walks led to stories that were told on her return. I would start the story...”Once upon a time, a little girl came to stay with her grandparents for the summer.  One day, as she was walking through the woods, she spotted a....”  Here I would wait for her to add to the story based on her experience that day.  It was a fun reminder of what she had seen but also led to literacy skills.  She would then write the story; most of the time this was just a series of circles on the paper because she couldn’t write fast enough to get it all down on paper.

The walks also led to drawings of what she had seen.  Sometimes she would look things up in field guides (see the blog post, What's in a Name ).  She learned to look in the index to see if the animal was in the guide (reading skills).  While drawing insects, she would put 3 legs on one side and 3 on the other.  While drawing spiders, she would put 4 legs on one side and 4 on the other.  I think it is no coincidence that she quickly learned that 3+3=6 and 4+4=8 (math facts).

Of course, besides reading, writing and math, she was learning science.  She was learning to make close observations and comparisons of living things.  She was learning about growth and life cycles of plants.  Weather patterns, camouflage, growth and life cycles were just a few of the topics in science that she was learning about.  All of this in a hands-on concrete approach that ensures not only learning but appreciation of nature.

Since the topic of this blog is learning, I can say that my granddaughter was not the only one learning things this summer.  I was learning right along with her, marveling at how much she was absorbing, and enjoying our time together.  Never has learning been this much fun!