September 9, 2010

Learning in Nature

Today we spent the morning at the local arboretum.  It seemed we somehow decided to organize our day around various water exhibits there.  We visited the ponds. waterfalls, and fountains.  Each time we finished in one location the kids wanted to head to the next water destination.  It is not always this way but it was so remarkable yesterday that I noted it to myself.  It was also interesting to me because the water views lasts much longer than the flowers will here, which is what I suppose I wanted to get my fill of :)

Only Sirah seemed to enjoy the flowers as much as I did.  She took several videos of simply walking through the gardens filled with flowers.  The video is simply her camera pointing down and out at the gardens as she walks through them, no narration, no special commentary just a walk through the gardens.  At first I thought that was odd but then I thought how awesome will that feel to watch in about 4 months?

School at the arboretum is not unusual for us.  Often in the springtime I will pack up school bags, blankets and lunch and we will find a nice spot to do all of our subjects there.  Workbooks and textbooks and certainly read alouds are portable and sometimes the change of scenery is all we need to get inspired again.  I used to be afraid it would be distracting for my kids and to an extent it is but the distraction is an overall good one and worth it.

Today we simply went with our sketchbooks and cameras.  We walked through the arboretum at a fairly leisurely pace just taking it all in.  At times we would sit quietly near the waterfall and just be, at other times the kids were exploring and looking for nature and asking questions without any prompting.  Several times we stopped in a particular area to take some photos or to do some nature note booking.

Since my kids were little I have kept nature notebooks of theirs.  Sketches they have drawn in various places like zoos, arboretums, nature preserves, our yard, etc.  I date them and write a description of what they drew and where they were.  It is fun then to look back and compare their work from when they were 4 to when they are 11.  These are somewhat scattered despite my best efforts to keep them in one book - that seemed to not work, a sketchbook would get lost and found years later, another sketchbook would be filled and sometimes they would just draw on random slips of paper.  I am saving as many of these as I can and one day and will try to compile them into one single book for them.  This past summer I bought each of the kids a very nice sketchbook with a nice cover and told them this was for school purposes only and they can't skip around or rip out pages in it.  They are now all old enough to make this work and hopefully this can be the start of a new tradition of keeping them all in one place :)  Yesterday we used those notebooks and each person drew a sketch or two.

Sometimes it is hard to let myself go out during school hours without feeling like I am losing or wasting time.  I need to remind myself that these field trips, excursions and alternate classrooms really do promote their learning in unique ways.  A visit to the arboretum helps them see science at work in a natural way.  The visit piques their curiosity and inspires them to ask interesting and unusual questions and discover answers they may not have thought of otherwise.  A walk through the flowers calms us and prepares our minds, and reminds us of what is beautiful and good.  Drawing nature challenges our artistic ability as well as our scientific minds as we pay attention to details in ways we would not if we just observed a flower or specimen.  These are not wasted but well used moments of my kids education and they are the ones I hope they recall when they remember our years of homeschooling.

After the arboretum we came home and had lunch and went back to our textbooks and workbooks and challenging our minds in the usual ways.  We still got in several hours worth of traditional school work even with our morning excursion.  I felt more refreshed, hope the kids did too.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.8

No comments:

Post a Comment