June Extracurricular and Enrichment Series: Science and Nature
Children have many “why” questions and because science teaches them about the world around them, it can be a really fun and engaging subject for them to learn. I remember science always being one of my favorite subjects in school. When I went to high school, I especially loved zoology and botany. The University of Texas Arlington Online, states in their blog, “Ideally, teaching the scientific method to students is teaching them how to think, learn, solve problems and make informed decisions. These skills are integral to every aspect of a student’s education and life, from school to career.”
If you help peak their interest in science at a young age it can help them keep their interest in it and do well in science throughout school and life. Science is important because that is where children begin learning critical thinking skills. According to the Home Science Tools blog, “the best way for kids to learn science is by doing real science. A child can get scientific facts or even knowledge from a book. However, they are fully immersed in the learning process when they do science.” With the warm weather that has arrived and after being stuck inside for so long, it is the perfect time to get outside with your family and learn some hands-on science while exploring nature. Below are some outdoor activities that can be fun for children of all ages.
· Nature Scavenger hunt or Nature Bingo – Templates for these can be found online or you can come up with your own. Scavenger hunts and bingo are fun for children of all ages.
· Nature center – While there might not be as many open right now, nature centers are great places to watch the wildlife outside and learn about them as well. Some also host fun activities for children to participate in as well.
· National Parks or Natural Attractions – Look near your area or take a road trip to see national parks such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or Ruby Falls in Tennessee. These are fun for the whole family and typically have information centers or tours to teach you about the wildlife or the unique land formations.
· Hiking – Hiking can be a fun exercise for the whole family. A fun way to keep children entertained while hiking would be to encourage them to keep a nature journal as they go. They can pick up leaves and flowers and identify them later in their journal. You can also give them a camera to take pictures of the wildlife and rock formations and other sights they find exciting along the way.
· Garden – Gardens can be great for children of all ages. With smaller children, you can start with a smaller garden with flowers that are easy to care for. As your children get older though you can start a vegetable and fruit garden and leave most of the responsibility to your child. You can show them how to care for the plants and when to know when they are ripe and ready to eat. Using them in the dinners and desserts would be fun for them as they get to see the whole process.
· Butterfly garden – A Monarch butterfly garden would be a really neat project to work on with your children. You can teach them about the Monarch butterfly and set up a garden with milkweed and various flowering plants, and you will hopefully have some visitors. As they reproduce and go through the butterfly life cycle, you can teach your children about the Monarch butterfly life cycle and hopefully be able to see a caterpillar transform.
· Wildflowers for Bees – This may be a project better for older children so the younger ones are not tempted to mess with the flowers and be potentially stung by the bees. Research with your children which wildflowers in your area are attractive to bees and plant a garden of them. You will want to ensure that you do not plant any invasive species of flowers though. Flowers that are native to Indiana may not be native to other states and can be considered invasive.
· Bird feeder – A bird feeder can be found easily in most stores and could be a fun activity as well. You can hang it up in your yard and watch and identify the various birds that come to eat at the feeder.
· Tree Age – While out in nature on a trail or in a park, you can look for trees that have been cut down with your children. Once you find them you can teach them, how to find the trees’ age by counting the rings in the trunk.
· Wildlife rescue – If you have a wildlife rescue near you such as a big cat rescue or a wolf rescue, you can take your children to learn about them. They will typically have a tour you can take to learn about the animals they take care of. Most rescues will take in animals who have been neglected or from people that bought them thinking they could handle them but once they get larger, they realize they cannot. If you do visit one, make sure they treat the animals properly, have sufficient habitat for them, and proper barriers between the animals and visitors.
Which of these activities have you done with your children? Let us know in the comments, we would love to hear from you!