Learning and the world

Learning and the world

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In a previous article, we explored how and why nature is critical for a child’s development, discovering that a lot of the UK’s wunderkind spend half of their waking lives in front of a screen, many of which additionally suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder.

As a result, we decided to ask some of you nature-loving folk what you did, personally, to connect your kids (or the kids around you) to nature, asking specifically what you’ve done, what they’ve played and why you’ve encouraged them to mix with the environment. Here are the results.

Jenny Inglis, Editor of Whizz Pop Bang:

“The study of natue is such a major part of science, and there’s so much that kids can learn by investigating the world around them.

You could go bug hunting, fossil hunting, or go outside and look at the stars – it’s enough to blow any child’s mind!

There’s also room to conduct more intense games, such as ‘soil detective’, which goes as follows:

  • Collect 10 spoonfuls of soil from two or three different places, like your garden, the park, a field or a riverbank

  • Put each soil sample into an old jam jar and label the jars with the place you collected from

  • Fill all jars 3/4 full with water

  • Screw on the lids and shake well

  • Leave the jars to stand and sit back and watch!

The soil will slowly settle. Most soil is a mix of sand, silt and clay as well as rotten plants and animals (organic matter). By looking at the thickness of the layers, you can identify soil from different areas. This is similar to how forensic scientists test soil. They analyse the soil on a suspect’s boots and compare that to the soil at the crime scene.

Children make excellent scientists – they’re naturally inquisitive and they love experimenting – especially experimenting outside with nature, and we think it’s important that they do so.”

Gail Newman, Company Director of How Quirky:

“Both of my children were taught to respect and enjoy nature.  My father is a keen gardener, so they spent a lot of time with him, learning about vegetation and flowers, and how to grow things themselves.  My son James even made the local paper once, after winning an award for growing the biggest carrot!”

Francesca De Franco, freelance PR consultant, mother and founder of The Parent Social:

“We’ve been members of the National Trust since my eldest daughter was a few months old. It started off as just having good places to go for a visit and nice walks, but very quickly our daughter became very engaged in what she was seeing and experiencing.

We were nature spotting from very early on; identifying different animals, birds and insects. We saw all manner of gardens from beautiful rose gardens and ornamental gardens to kitchen gardens. As she got older this prompted all sorts of questions about the world around her – species, lifecycles, habitats, nourishment and nurturing…

On the physical side there were trees to climb, brooks to jump and beams to cross: all brilliant for developing gross motor skills and learning about risk taking.

 The National Trust also puts on numerous seasonal/themed trails, which have strong practical elements such as den building and water filtration. It’s pretty hands on, and the children learn without knowing it. My four-year-old twins have followed in their big sister’s footsteps and are huge fans too.

We’re now doing the National Trust’s 50 Things to do Before You’re 11 ¾. It’s all about being an adventurer, a discoverer, a ranger, a tracker and an explorer. So far this, for us, has included eating apples straight from the tree, playing pooh sticks (which sticks win the most? Big, small, thick, thin?), exploring caves, checking out rock pools, bird watching and even geocaching!”

Iris Cohen, London-based nanny:

“When I first came to London, and started working as a nanny, I was surprised that the children had no idea if basil was a plant, a tree or a flower! Teaching kids how to grow plants and flowers is so important for their growth. It also teaches patience and dedication, which are crucial skills to use later on in their lives.”

Joel Merry, Babylangues languages instructor:

“I regularly take the children outside to parks and other cultural open spaces in the city. Incorporating nature into my method of teaching provides exciting opportunities to explore a whole new world and level of English, broadening the children’s vocabulary and appreciation for a foreign language, and instilling a strong sense in the minds of the children that learning a second language need not be restricted to the home or the classroom.”

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Have you used nature to teach your kids, or the kids around you, as they grow up? How so? Tell us over at our Facebook or Twitter page – we’d love to hear your stories.

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