This week, our outdoor time has been limited due to Toddler Tornado having been stopped in his tracks by a cast on his broken leg. I say stopped in his tracks, but that is not entirely accurate. It is more like we have been stopped in our tracks trying to keep him from re-injuring himself and trying to keep his cast clear of itchy things like sand, grass, dirt, and playground mulch.
Since he gets pretty frustrated constantly restrained in his stroller every time we go out, I have not been going out much. So today, I decided that an Outdoor Hour Challenge in our backyard was needed. I plopped Z-urchin on the swing and most of the time, he remained there.
At first, the kids did not want to be looking for interesting things. All the toys and things in our backyard may have been a bit distracting. So I started by exclaiming over the grapefruits I found on a branch hanging over our fence from the tree next door. K thought the grapefruit smelled yummy.
On the ground next to the fence, I found a very small feather. The kids enjoyed feeling how soft it was. All of a sudden, Z appeared at my side and dirt was threatening to enter the bottom of his cast. So I picked him up and sat on the swing with him and a grapefruit I had plucked from the branch. I sent the kids to find something interesting. X-man’s first find was a pole from our swing. And then an airplane in the sky. He then remarked excitedly about how many flowers were on our blue potato bush. K triked off to the side of the house and came back so excited! She had found a feather under a paper in the dirt.
This discovery led her to take a shovel and discover more things in the dirt. She found a rock and a couple of small green plants. She said, “Mommy, it is like a leaf, but it has this long part. So it is not like a leaf.” She was pointing to the root. So I showed her the leaf, the stem, and the root of the plant. X-man decided to join her in her digging adventures and they looked for things in the dirt by the baby orange tree.
We then went inside to do an entry in our nature journal. I titled the page, “Backyard” for them and they could draw whatever they wanted to draw from their backyard. They really enjoyed drawing the grapefruit, the pole, the airplane, the little plant with roots, and the orange tree. I just drew the orange tree. At our last house, we had a beautiful orange tree and we often enjoyed the fruit. So I am going to look up how to care for an orange tree and we will make sure we take good care of this baby orange tree! Maybe someday, it will grant us lovely, juicy fruit.
The Outdoor Hour Challenge #3 told me to encourage being quiet and observing things with our senses. We did not succeed with quiet, but we did use smell, touch, sight… and the toddler even used taste to experience our backyard.
I read my pages in the Handbook of Nature Study about the correlation of nature study to language and nature study to drawing. The author explains that children do not enjoy English exercises because they are asked to write about topics they are not interested in for people who are not interested in those topics either. She encourages teachers to remember that the purpose of language is to convey ideas and if we allow the students to write about what they are interested in and if we receive the information they give with delight, students will be more motivated to write. I am not at this point yet as my children are still quite young, but it is an inspiring thought.
The author also recorded how a teacher allowed the students to choose the medium for the nature journal entry based on what seemed appropriate for the subject matter. I really like this idea and it encourages me to introduce my children to a variety of mediums they can use.
Nature study time today was more challenging than the other two times, though I am not sure if that is because we were in our backyard- where there are many distractions- or because of the toddler in a cast. However, I am glad we got outside and took a deeper look at our backyard. It turned out to be refreshing and enjoyable.