How Can We Restore Connections Through Nature Study?
Let’s explore how nature study with our children can help restore so many connections in our lives.
Welcome to Episode 91 of the Art of Homeschooling Podcast! Click play above to listen. And scroll down the show notes for highlights, quotes, and suggested resources. I’m so glad you’re here!
How Can We Restore Connections Through Nature Study?
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved watching animals, being in the woods, and spending as much time as possible outdoors. As I drafted notes for this episode, I sat on the deck in our backyard in what I lovingly refer to as my “outdoor office.”
And a little hummingbird kept me company, hovering around our beautiful fuchsia bee balm flowers. Can you spot it in the picture below?
One of the things I loved about homeschooling for over 25 years was the opportunity to spend time outdoors and share my love of nature with my 3 kiddos. Who now, as young adults, also love the outdoors. Whether it’s camping, hiking, rock climbing, biking, fishing, or canoeing. There are just so many ways to relish in the natural world.
So let’s start with the question of what exactly is nature study?
What is Nature Study?
Nature study is really any moment we take to connect with anything in nature. So simple!
And nature study can include planned lessons with learning and activities focused on plants, animals, birds, rocks and minerals, the weather, everything and anything from the nature world around us.
Why Nature Study?
Here are just some of the reasons…
- Inspires awe & wonder
- Precursor to science
- Builds appreciation for the world around us
- Makes us good stewards
- Trains the senses
- Helps to train observation & documentation
- Fun & relaxing
- Allows us to Integrate subjects (art, science, humanities, math)
- Great for mixed ages
- Helps us to experience the rhythm of the year: the seasons
- Makes science more interesting & more hands-on
- Cultivates curiosity & investigation, exploring & understanding the unknown
- Helps us experience the power of place
- AND nature study helps to foster all kinds of connections.
Why Restore Our Connection to Nature?
In the world as it is right now, in our communities, in our families, and in our homeschools, connecting to nature can be an antidote to stress and busyness and to the habit of disconnecting from the present.
Research is discovering all the different ways that nature benefits our well-being, health, and relationships. This suggests that we seek out nature experiences because they’re good for our social and personal well-being. There’s even research to suggest that outdoor activity and spending time in nature can help improve children’s attention, vision, and cognitive functioning.
Here’s How Nature Study Helps Restore Connections…
Connection to Self
As parents, we sure need help getting into the present moment!
We’re either thinking about what needs to be done (the future). Or lamenting about what DIDN’T happen, or how we wish we’d done something differently in the past.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re also worried that you’re not doing enough or you’re doing this whole parenting or homeschooling thing all wrong.
The antidote to all that? Spending time in nature and observing its beauty can help us reconnect to ourselves and to what’s most important to us.
And most of all: Studying nature with our children is like a double-dose of getting into the present moment!
Connection to Others
There are no limits to what can be discovered in nature. And because humans are social creatures, you can foster social connections by sharing your curiousity about nature or your discoveries in the natural world around you.
When you’re outdoors, you can either follow your children and what they find. Or you can be the one to draw them into what you’re noticing and discovering.
Connection to Mother Earth / The Cosmos
When spending time in nature, you can let go of your to do list and focus on your place in geograpy, the ecosystem, in the world and in the cosmos. Let yourself breathe. Let your senses take in everything around you. You belong here.
Do not underestimate the healing and therapy Mother Earth is providing to your family. Let the magic of our planet do 90% of the work for you.
And then help your child to do the same ~ to let go and surrender a bit!
Connection to Something Greater Than Ourselves
The awe and wonder of nature allow us to consider the possibility of a higher power, some power in the universe greater than ourselves.
A connection that’s difficult to put into words but can be part of appreciating all the plants and animals in the world around us and finding our place in the world.
If You’re Planning Nature Study Lessons, Here are a Few Tips…
- Go on monthly outings to the same area or on the same trail (perhaps even meet up with friends)
- Take care of a plot in the yard or woods (There’s a sweet book series called One Small Square that can help you with this. <That’s a referral link. Read my full disclosure policy here.)
- Observe a tree through the seasons
- Create seasonal nature paintings
- Start a nature journal
- Play nature games (A great resource for this is the book, Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell. <That’s a referral link.)
- Create a nature table indoors to reflect the seasons outdoors
- A walk no matter the time length, weather, setting, or moods is an adventure waiting to be taken
- Cities, forest, beaches, streams, marked trails, open fields, farms, or your own downtown/neighborhood are places to promote stewardship of the earth and to get children familiar with their surroundings
- Just go exploring – Remember the goal is to get your children outside. Unstructured time in nature is like a soothing balm for healing in our sometimes stressful lives and world.
Nature Study in the Waldorf Curriculum
- In the Waldorf curriculum, nature study and science blocks show up in every grade.
- Kindy & Grade 1: Nature Stories
- Grade 2: Animal Stories & Nature Stories
- Grade 3: Farming
- Grade 4: Human & Animal
- Grade 5: Plants & Trees
- Grade 6: Rocks & Minerals
- Grade 7 & 8: Insects, Weather, Astronomy
Make Nature Study a Part of Who You Are & What You Do
Nature study can become a part of your regular family rhythm, daily, weekly, and seasonally. Because spending time outdoors is an amazing way to build family relationships and make memories, along with restoring connections.
Consider planning for a regular dose of nature study. Perhaps weekly on Fridays. Or Sunday afternoons. Maybe plan two big outings each month. Just an hour in your backyard each evening can become a beautiful and valuable routine.
Nature study can also be an emergency measure when your day seems to be falling apart.
Remember to be patient with yourself as you get into the flow of nature. Just start with the question, “How can we restore connections through nature study?”
More Inspiration for You
Check this article from my blog archive with some of my favorite books for nature study: “I Just Want to Be Outside!”
And if you want more support for studying nature, I have an entire masterclass with four video lessons inside the Inspired at Home membership. I’d love to help you bring more nature experiences to YOUR children. You can find all the membership details here.
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