First off, let me start with this disclaimer: I’m a city girl — born in a city, grew up and went to school in a city, worked in a city. Frankly, most of my vacations have even been in a city. I am NOT Nature Girl. Therefore, moving to Montana, a state that is all about being outside, has been a jolt to my comfort zone. What an amazing expansion of our homeschooling possibilities it is, though.
If you’re an intrepid studier of nature or outdoorsman, don’t expect to learn anything new here. For those who may have a similar life experience to me, however, I’ll share our plan. We’re determined to add lots of outdoor adventures to our homeschooling.
1. CAMERA. I’m putting that in all caps because it’s nearly the most important element for me. As a communication professional, getting behind the camera makes me instantly comfortable, even when attempting something totally new. I’m passing that on to my son, and he enjoys taking his iPod on our excursions and cataloging the things he sees. And…that’s why you’ll see a lot of pictures in this blog post.
2. Google, etc. The amazing thing about technology is that you have a walking encyclopedia inside your phone. When we’re out and about, we look up things — animals, plants, facts and figures. If I can’t find it easily, I’ll even post a pic on Facebook. Guaranteed one of my friends will know exactly what it is.
3. Driving. Find the scenic routes. Not sure you’re up to a big hike? There’s a lot of beauty to be observed from the inside of a car. What are you driving by? Mountains? Rivers? Wooded areas? Flowers in the city park? There is always something to observe, and maybe to make note of for future study.
4. Get out and walk. Better than the car (usually), though, is to walk. Walk on trails, walk up mountains, walk around the neighborhood. Every opportunity we get in this “new land,” we try to find a trail or an interesting place to stop and explore.
5. Nature centers. Hunt for nature centers, wildlife sanctuaries, even your local animal shelter. The staff who man these places can provide interesting information, and it’s often more impressive coming from a “professional” than coming from mom. If you have access to wildlife sanctuaries, you may be able to learn about lions and tigers and bears (oh, my); but, even if your local shelter is for cats and dogs, you can get useful information on pet welfare and safety.
6. Up close and personal. I guess this is part of #4, but it goes a little further. Leave the beaten path when it’s safe (or when you have bear spray). Wade in the creek and look for fish and amphibians. Climb the tree. Find a pair of binoculars so you can study birds in their nest. Touch. Smell. Taste.
So, maybe you don’t live near the Rockies or the Okefenokee Swamp or Death Valley. Guaranteed you can find ways to explore nature where you are. Put on your tourist cap if you need to, and figure out what someone visiting your region might want to see or do that is outside. Google for nearby parks or nature centers. If you’re tied at home with tiny ones, then make it a point to examine your own yard: plants, ladybugs, trees, birds, spider webs, pine cones, bats, ant hills…
Explore. And, don’t forget to take your camera.
“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.”
~Job 12:7,8 (The Message)