Since the onset of spring I find myself moving our lessons outdoors. Unfortunately with the fresh air comes many creature distractions. To keep their minds learning we Observe, Document, and Identify the world around us.
A child’s first response to seeing a creature in nature is to catch it. As adults we know this isn’t a good idea. Teaching a child to first observe an animal can help them learn the difference between aggressive and passive behaviors. It also allows them to see a side of nature seldom seen.
No matter how much I yell my children still feel the need to pick up every frog that crosses their path. In an effort to explain the power of observation I try to get them to notice the frog’s reaction. I remain hopeful that they understand the frog is doing what they should be…trying to observe whether or not they are in danger.
In an anthropology lab we were asked to observe baboons in the zoo over the course of a few hours. It was amazing to watch how they interacted with one enough and how their social ranking affected everything.
Thankfully we don’t have to go to the zoo to observe this lighter side of nature. Challenge your children to be still, even if only for 20 minutes, and watch. They’ll see birds attacking squirrels, birds building nests, and sometimes even snakes coming in and out of their holes. They’ll learn that everything is trying to survive and hopefully see that we’re not that much different than the animals in the yard.
Both my husband and I like to draw so it’s only natural that we encourage our children to express themselves by drawing as well. So when we come along a critter in the wild we get out out notebooks and draw what we see! We encourage them to find the details that make that animal unique and make sure that they document them. While the kids are drawing their pictures I get out the camera and snap a few shots.
When we head back into the house we compare our nature books with both the pictures they drew and the photos I’ve taken. By using our power of observation we’re able to identify the creatures.
Being about to identify objects on their own is empowering and encourages a healthy appetite for learning! It’s kind of like the first time you successfully use html, you want to learn more and do more with it! Okay, maybe that’s not a good example.
In the immortal words of the Kratt Brothers, “…something, something,…see ya on the Creature Trail!”