Using Nature as a Summer Classroom

children with magnifying glasses out in natureThe summer months provide lots of down time to relax and recharge, but they also provide plenty of opportunities for learning. Want to get out in nature but also be able to teach something new to your kids? Here are some ideas for educational and creative activities you can do with children of varying ages that will get you out of the house and back into nature.

Bird Watching
During the summer months, birds are easy to spot no matter where you live. Take pictures of birds you spot on walks and make an album or make duplicate prints and create your own matching game. For older children, you can classify birds in a number of ways like color and size. In May and June, look for baby birds appearing in nests and observe how the mama bird cares for them.

Water Painting
Any type of water activity is a popular one during the hot summer months and this one is no exception. Fill a bucket with water and get some paint brushes, any size will do, and "paint" away. Children will love experimenting on different surfaces like concrete, brick and other outside surfaces. The best part is that cleaning up is a breeze! Just collect the brushes and bucket and let the sun dry up the artwork.

Nature Journal
Creating and maintaining a nature journal is a great way for a child to record his discoveries throughout the summer season. Find a plain notebook or even fold blank paper in half and staple the pages together down the middle. Have the child take this with him every time he goes on a walk or even while observing through the window. All of the blank paper in the notebook provides space for pictures to be drawn or pasted as well as extra space for notes, diagrams, etc.

Scavenger Hunt
Due to our day to day activities, we often forget what treasures are in our own backyard. Before a walk or a day at the park, create a list of items or animals to look for. You can list general items like a flower and bird or you can be more specific like a dandelion and red-breasted nuthatch. This can even be modified for younger children by compiling the list by using pictures. Once everyone has their list, they are on the hunt for exciting discoveries.

Whether it be flowers, herbs, or vegetables, children are the perfect helpers to assist with tending to a garden. Summer is the perfect time to learn about how plants grow and how to care for them. Also, with so many different types of vegetables in season, it is a great opportunity to try new foods as well as learn how to prepare them in delicious ways.

Camping is the ultimate summer outdoor activity. From hiking, to swimming, to campfires, the opportunities are endless. If unable to make it to a campsite, pitch a tent in the backyard. Kids will still have the same experience of sleeping in nature but with access to their comfort items and indoor plumbing.

There are so many items to find and collect when you are out in nature. Go to a field and gather up some wildflowers. Take some petals off and press them in a book and put the rest in a vase. Find rocks of various shapes and sizes and use them for art projects or paint them and hide them for someone else to find.

Bedtimes are a little less strict during summer vacation so why not stay up a little longer and learn about the stars? You can do some research before at the library or online and while looking through a telescope or just with your eyes, try to make out different constellations and formations. This is a great activity to do while camping or adventuring somewhere without too many buildings and lights around.

Summer does not have to be all about air conditioning and technology. Invite your children outside with you and use nature to explore new ideas and opportunities.

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