Kids learn best when they’re having fun and what could be more enjoyable than getting outdoors and close to nature? There’s an emerging concern that children are missing out on the benefits of outdoor activities because parents may be anxious that their children will be hurt at play and that it’s safer to stay indoors. And this is alot more common than you think.
The term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ refers to the negative consequences resulting from children’s loss of meaningful contact with nature. Australian research recommends “that young children need exposure to natural environments to appreciate the complex variations of texture, sound, light, smell, colour and temperature”.
Thankfully, there are many fantastic outdoor activities out there that have positive outcomes for children’s development and well-being. Even better, it is easy to combine the fun and games outside with learning outcomes that can reach children of all ages. Of course this can be in the form of curriculum aligned lessons conducted as part of an incursion or excursion for the children at school or can be as simple as a walk to the local park or waterway.
1. Tree planting: This fun activity allows children to get their hands dirty while learning and is a powerful way for them to connect with nature. Tree planting involves plant identification, understanding soil composition, observing macro-invertebrates like worms living in the soil and understanding how vegetation creates habitat for wildlife and contributes to the water cycle. Taking it a step further, plant samples can be collected and pressed to add to a catalogue that can support further learning back in the classroom or at home.
2. Seeking biodiversity: This activity can take place in your own backyard, a park, a school ground or just about anywhere where nature’s gifts are on show. A biodiversity assessment can involve simply using our senses to observe different living things in their habitat. Children can see, hear, feel, touch or even smell the different types of living creatures in their natural environment. By taking time to identify what lives where and why, we can understand the web of life and the impacts of human disturbance on biodiversity.
3. Mini beasts: Children love collecting mini beasts (insects) and can learn so much about them by looking at where they are found and how their bodies differ according to where they live. Suddenly survival, animal features and adaptations, and life cycles are all a brand new world of discovery!
4. Art and nature: Using a combination of creative arts techniques and the senses children will quickly astound you at what amazing patterns and symmetry that they can find in nature. Collecting natural objects such as leaves, twigs, feathers, shells, or seeds young minds recognise the beauty in each of these things and will find the most wonderfully creative ways to transform them into artwork. This helps them to make their own connections about what they can find in nature, such as colours and shapes, seasonal changes or how animals and plants interact with one another.
5. How clean is the water: Did you know that aquatic macro-invertebrates (water bugs) are an indicator of the health and quality of a waterway? Children can become a detective at their local waterway by investigating the macro-invertebrates that live there and determining whether the water they are living in is clean and healthy or not. Children can also take a closer look at the adaptations that each bug has in order to better survive in its environment and start to make connections to what has been observed and the possible influences of the surrounding local environment.
6. Erosion of our landscape: Simply taking a walk in your local area can reveal many examples of weathering, erosion, flood lines and rehabilitation works. Children can learn about different rock and soil types to and compare how they respond to the forces of nature. They can even get their hands dirty while testing out their theories by making a miniature catchment with sand or dirt, creating their very own rivers and water bodies. In this way they can begin to understand how water shapes the landscape.
So are you inspired? There are so many simple but beautiful ways that children can not only reconnect with nature but also learn so many things while doing it. And let’s not forget just how much fun it can be too.
If you would like even more inspiration take a few moments to look around the Natura Education part of our website. If you are a teaching professional perhaps we can help you to get some of these ideas up and running at your school.
In fact if you would like to speak to one of our experienced educators to get some ideas about what you can do we would be more than happy to offer obligation-free advice, just contact us here. We can even assist you with how to better align outdoor education activities with the Australian Curriculum which can be a great help to many teachers.
CITATIONS http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-05-14/33888  http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=862353523949113;res=IELBus