Typically, when it comes to nature, my motto is “what happens in nature, stays in nature." I tend to look around and take it all in visually, as opposed to treating nature as a tangible item meant for me. However, there are special occasions, such as teaching children about the nature around them that I tend to make special exceptions.
This week I chose to focus on bringing kids back into nature. My sister and I were fortunate enough to spend parts of our childhood with Mother Nature. I vividly remember my favorite shirt, one with animal paw prints on them, used for a tracking reference. Our dad was an avid outdoorsmen and our mother, well, she appreciated my dad enough to be a part of it. We had family trips out to the mountains and made pools from beavers dams. The greatest memories of my life were with my parents and godparents in the woods along a bending river and near a fire.
Since I am beginning to work with children, bringing them out into nature in hopes of creating a sustainable responsibility for their own back yards, I asked myself “what was most effective for me as a child to really learn about my surroundings.” And of course, even as an adult, and especially when I was a child, it was all about making a nature arrangement.
This week I invite you and your loved ones (including friends, family and children) to take a nature expedition to collect seeds and pods, leaves, fruits, wildflowers, feathers, pine needles, shedded reptile skin, molting insects, already hatched eggs (only if the animal is not endangered can you do this) and reptiles . Sometimes under old pine trees you’ll find owl pellets (which I am fascinated with).
Gather all that you have found and place it on a piece of paper in the middle of your table. You will be amazed at the amount of items you will find in your own backyard. Encourage the youngin's to conduct research on the items they are not familiar with or take the opportunity to share your own knowledge. Dedicate time each day to walking with your friends and family to gather such items, even long strolls on the beach will prove to be fruitful adventures. For a list of common tree leaves follow this website, and for common native wildflowers follow this link.
In honor of the month that we celebrate our Earth why not get out there and become familiar with it? We only have one life, so why not get to know the life around you?
If you or your child becomes really intrigued with the bio artifact or nature item that you find, then start a curio box. These things become the greatest treasures to your children and throughout life they will thank you for it. In economic times such as these and especially in times where technology is advancing and more time is being spent in front of the television, we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to get out there, be active and discover the world around us. Once we become aware of surroundings and the ecosystems surrounding us, we embrace the natural wonder in ourselves and become more responsible for protecting it.
So, this week get out there and enjoy what nature has to offer you! Happy collecting!
Visit one of Dunedin's many parks for a nature stroll: