This post may contain affiliate links.
I live right on the edge of a beautiful mountain. Five minutes away is the entrance to the canyon that has so much to see and do. For some reason, I never seem to get up there often enough. This summer I decided to change that. I started a Summer Nature School and invited anyone that wanted to come to join us. I’ve never done anything like this before, but really felt a strong desire to get to know our native plants and animals and get to know local nature better. We have done 2 weeks of it so far and it has been so wonderful!
We have a large community of homeschoolers where I live. I sent out an e-mail on one of the local forums and got a HUGE response of people who wanted to do this with me. I also invited friends from our church and family that live close by. Many of them were willing to help lead and teach different activities. I am running it weekly through the whole summer and people are just coming to the weeks that work for them. I set up a Facebook page for communication and it has been working perfectly! Mostly, I am just the organizer & everyone else is helping to keep it going through the summer. I am only teaching 3 of the weeks.
Each week we meet and learn about different aspects of nature. We do a little mini lesson (10-15 minutes) on the topic of the week. Then there is a related activity or something to enhance the learning. We rotate locations so we can see more of the area and enjoy different parts of it. Some ideas for a nature school: Find great local hikes, talk to park rangers for tips and help (or even to guest speak), do nature art, learn to draw nature, survival skills, learn local habitats, wildlife conservation, and more. Keep it simple because mostly the kids just want to play! Everyone should bring a nature kit each week to help them learn & study.
Our Summer Nature School Schedule:
Week 1: Introduction to Nature Study and local history.
I shared some quotes from the beginning of the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock about the importance of nature study for kids. Another fun resource is the The Berenstain Bears Nature Guide. I talked with them about the rules of the local national forest- keeping it clean, not destroying nature, not taking anything out of the parks, etc. I also talked to them about keeping a nature journal- writing and sketching about the things that they learn an see. Then we spent some time exploring and playing in nature. Our first week we met at a reservoir and there was a hiking trail nearby. It was a wonderful setting and the kids had so much fun!
We also did a little nature Scavenger hunt. You can download a copy of my scavenger hunt HERE.
Week 2: Birds
I found picture of 20 different birds that live here year round. I printed them out on cardstock and laminated them so the kids can hold them and look at them. Then I used my bird app- Chirp (awesome app!!) and played the songs of each bird for them. We talked a little about birds and their characteristics The kids LOVED this!! Then I brought some step-by-step pictures teaching them how to draw a bird. Some good resources: All About Birds website, The Burgess Bird Book for Children, field guide for birds in your area.