How To Use Exploring Nature With Children With Your Co-op

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I have so many families that write to me to let me know that they use ENWC for their co-op, and I often hear from families who would like some tips on how to go about using ENWC in their co-op setting. I thought today that I would share some ideas.

Co-ops are very welcome to use Exploring Nature With Children, however, I ask that you do not copy any portion of the book to distribute to others. I do offer a discount for co-op members, please contact me directly at: lynnseddonhs@gmail.com for further details.

The theme for your meeting

  • The beauty of Exploring Nature With Children is that this part is already done for you. ENWC gives your 4 weekly themes for each month of the year, so if you are a co-op that meets weekly, just follow along. If you meet less frequently; monthly, say, then choose from that month you think the children would enjoy the most, or whatever theme calls to you! Take a look at the sample; all the themes are listed in the table of contents.

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Structuring your time together.

  • Miss Mason recommended sending the children off for the first one to two hours of a nature walk. This may seem like ‘wasted time’ but I would really recommend keeping this step if at all possible. The children get to blow off steam, and get their wiggles out, they get to play and have fun exploring with their friends, and you may also be surprised at the wee nature treasures that they bring to show you.
  • Once the children have had a good play and run about, begin your nature walk. Each week’ walk is laid out for you, step by step in ENWC, so even if you have no knowledge of the natural world, you can have the confidence to get out there, and learn right along with the families, whilst still leading the sessions.
  • Be sure to cover any relevant safety information for your walk. Again, this is covered for you in ENWC.
  • I give you plenty of scientific information for each week’s topic, however, Miss Mason advises that “The Mother must refrain from too much talk” (Vol I, Part II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children) Allow the children to form their own relationship with nature. Ask them questions, allow them to think upon the answers. The occasional remark, or piece of information offered, will suffice on your part.
  • Allow time for nature journaling. Simply have everyone sketch what they see, then write a short narration. (Non-writers can narrate to their parent, who can act as a scribe on their behalf.)

This is how many families use ENWC in their co-ops. Other families also incorporate the poetry and art aspects of ENWC.

  • Prepare a copy of the week’s art print; you could have a copy printed, look it up in an art book, or easiest of all, bring up the image on your tablet. Invite the children to look at the piece, and ask them the questions in the ‘How to Use This Book’ section of ENWC.
  • Use snack/lunch time to enjoy the poetry; make the most of the silence whilst the children eat, and read to them the poem for the week.

All-day co-ops may choose to work on one of the related activities in the afternoon.

  • The activities vary; venn diagrams, writing poetry, making models, amongst many others. I have been very careful to use only relevant, authentic activities, with absolutely no busy work. Some will suit younger children, others are for the older child, choose an activity that will suit the ages and stages of the children, and the time you have available.
  • If you have sufficient time in the afternoon, gather everyone together and read aloud to them one of the shorter stories or picture books from the week’s book list. Please don’t be afraid to use picture books with older children. I have included some marvellous picture books in the weekly reading lists; dig in, they can be a wonderful source of learning, even for adults!

I would recommend contacting the participating families a week or two before your first nature walk. Let them know:

  • Start & finish times (Expect & prepare for late comers, those who may need to leave early.)
  • How your time together will be structured.
  • Recommended clothing. This may seem obvious, but it is worth stating what clothing will be appropriate. Will the children need stout walking boots? Wellington boots and raincoats? Suncream is always worth packing, as is bug repellant.
  • What to bring along. Snacks or a packed lunch, water, and journaling supplies are usually the basics.
  • Let the families know what you will be providing. Field guides, any safety equipment, and so forth.
  • As a nature group leader who once lost all the children (not my finest moment!) I heartily recommend taking a whistle, and letting the families know that if you blow sharply three times, you expect everyone to go to a designated meeting point. Have the parents explain this to their children before the first meeting, and be sure to reiterate this & have a wee practice each time you meet for co-op.

I hope that you find this information helpful. Please do let me know if you are running an Exploring Nature With Children nature co-op, it would be smashing to hear from you.

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Moth Week ~ Exploring Nature With Children

This week is moth week in Exploring Nature With Children. We found a lovely Cinnabar caterpillar out on a walk this week. I am sorry I have no photos, but I found an interesting video about the Cinnabar on YouTube.
Another video you may wish to view is this one all about the taxonomy of moths and butterflies.
In our nature journals this week, Rose chose to sketch a Kingfisher, as she has been fascinated with them since we had the blessing to see one fishing at our local pond.
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I chose Blackberries. I love blackberries both to sketch & eat! We pick them in the lane behind our house every summer. This year, however, someone has been and hacked them all down, which we are very sad about. I found this branch in the woods. There is hope for our Michaelmas jam tarts after all!
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Remember there is 20% off Exploring Nature With Children until August 20th 2016 using the code EXPLORE

What is happening in the natural world where you live?

Happy exploring!

Bits And Pieces

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There are only a couple of days left ’till sign ups for the Nature Pen Friends close, so please do get in touch soon if you would like to participate. Information is here.

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It has been a while since I did a weekly round up, and while this post isn’t exactly that, it gives you a bit of an idea what we have been up to.

We are really excited to be involved with Rocket Science, an ‘out of this world’ educational project, run by The RHS Campaign for School Gardening and The UK Space Agency .

Back in May 2015, Two kilograms of rocket seeds took off from Florida bound for the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month Principia mission.

After several months on board, the seeds were sent back and landed in the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2016. After they returned to the UK, they were packaged up with identical seeds that had stayed on earth. Schools (and home educators!) were invited to take part, and participants each received two packets of 100 seeds to grow and compare.

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We planted our seeds with friends who are helping us with the project. I shall keep you posted on the developments!

We also had heaps of fun investigating Barn Owl pellets this week!

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Big girl took a break from exam revision to join us as we carefully excavated the pellets to find what the owl had eaten.

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This was utterly fascinating, and we found the remains of several small mammals and birds. Here are just a few of the bones we found.

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This week was also my birthday, so I did some celebratory dyeing and dyed up some sock yarn, inspired by the colours of the bluebells that are beginning to bloom.

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I received some books for my birthday that I am really looking forward to getting stuck into; Creating Textured Landscapes, and Drawing and Painting Trees in the Landscape, both by Claudia Nice. Her art work is beautiful and inspiring, so I am hoping to learn a lot from working through the books at my own pace.

Speaking of books, we have some great ones on the go; Elianna is reading Never Give In, The Extraordinary Character Of Winston Churchill, Rose is reading Woof! by Allen Ahlberg, and together we are reading My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrel, which is hilarious (though, be warned, it does contain swearing.)

Rose has been very busy in the garden, rescuing tired bees and even a wasp, tending and observing the tadpoles, and chasing our cat when he unfortunately caught a baby bird. She is making the most of the burst of fine weather we are having at the moment; getting her schoolwork finished as early as possible, and heading barefoot into the garden. Which is where she would much rather be.

 

 

Lectio Divina And Expanding Nature Study

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“Lectio Divina” is a Latin term for the Christian practice of “divine reading”, a way to read the scriptures, meditating upon them, and moving forward in prayer. The reader is changed by this deep and powerful experience; but what has this to do with nature study?

These three stages of learning are reflected through many ideas of education. They are a truly wonderful way to approach nature study. Let us look at the three stages of Lectio Divina and how we can bring these ideas to the study of nature.

  • Reading ~ Observing

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When studying nature, this would be the stage at which we closely observe. Like the grammar stage of The Trivium, we are learning the facts about our subject. We spend time closely observing nature, learning, reading books and field guides and building up a store of knowledge about our subject.

In our nature journals, this may look like:

Key facts such as the location, date, time of day or night.

Brief notes on the weather.

We may make quick sketches to capture what we see, notes at the sides of our sketches to help us remember key details, such as notes on textures, position etc.

Latin names of subjects

Measurements

Photographs

  • Meditating ~ Thinking

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This is such an important step in nature study; not to be rushed or missed by the harried parent! Reflecting upon what we have learned, making our own connections, thinking critically is important to building a relationship with, and understanding, the natural world around us. How does all that we observed in stage one fit together? This would be the logic stage within The Trivium.

In our journals we may make notes on connections; ‘what does this remind me of ?’ I would strongly urge you to read this blog post by naturalist John Muir Laws: Prompts For Deeper Nature Observation. His questions, I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of, are wonderful, thought provoking tools.

  • Praying ~ Responding

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The final stage is our response to all we have learned and discovered. We have been changed by our experiences and have a need to communicate and express that. We cannot do this stage well, or authentically, without the building blocks of the previous stages, like the Rhetoric stage in The Trivium.

Our nature journals are the perfect place to respond; we may choose to:

Create more intricate, fully formed paintings or drawings of the focus of our nature study.

 

An arrangement of pressed flowers or leaves

Quotes that pertain to the subject

Passages of scripture

Poetry; either written by ourselves in response to our wonder at the focus of our studies, or poetry written by another, that our heart connects with.

Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to the journal keeper.

These stages are not fixed rules, but an oft-practiced pattern to mark the way as we progress in our journaling of the natural world, and enter into a deeper relationship and knowledge.

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Happy exploring!

 

 

Nesting Birds ~ Exploring Nature With Children

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This week in Exploring Nature With Children is the ‘nesting birds’ week. Rose and I headed to our special nature spot, looking out for any nesting activity, and whilst we didn’t see any birds obviously nest building, we did spot existing nests.

Once we arrived at the park we saw lots of mating behaviour; male pigeons puffed up and strutting their stuff to impress the females, male mallards fighting with each other and chasing females. Two of the males chased each other ’round and ’round in the pond, snapping at each other’s tales. It was quite a drama!

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Young Mallards

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Rose with her pigeon friends

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We also spotted this unusually marked fellow!

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Isn’t he handsome!

The snowdrops are still thriving.

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There was a glorious display of Daffodils.

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We spotted beautiful lichen!

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And Pansies!

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I found this smashing interactive on the Mallard Lifecycle that you may be interested in taking a look at.

We didn’t work in our journals this week; we have been busy visiting my poorly Mother-in-law, and our walk fell on our 100th day of school, so we were focused somewhat on the fun activities surrounding that.

How was your walk this week? Do let me know in the comments or FaceBook group.

Happy exploring!

 

 

On Creative Inspiration

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I have been taking time to look back through my sketchbook from last year.

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I began to play around with watercolour, painting animals in a free and relaxed way. I tried to capture the spirit of each animal, rather than a hyper-realistic image.

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Unfortunately, I let life get in the way and I didn’t keep up with the exploration. I have ordered a new sketchbook for myself, as my old one only has a couple of pages left, so I am hoping this will be a good creativity boost!

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Happy exploring!

Nature Study With Pets At Home

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Our nature study had a different flavour this week as we visited our local Pets At Home for a reptile workshop.

Pets at home offer a range of workshops ,  aimed at children from the ages of 5-11, although the website states that children of all ages are welcome.

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Our workshop was hosted by Mark, a Pets At Home employee who was both knowledgable about the animals, and great with kids. We learned an awful lot about Charlie the Corn Snake, a resident of our local store, and the children got to hold him, which was of course a great hit!

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I would definitely recommend going along to a workshop at your local Pets At Home; Rose and her friend had a blast, and are planning to get a flat together when they are grown up, so they can keep as many pets as possible! The workshops are still available, so check the website to see what is going on in your own local store.