I know, it's the 31st and I haven't posted 31 Nature walks. I'm a little behind in a lot of things. Make that a LOT behind. I'm not sure if I'll get to the rest of the posts on my list but for today, I'm delighted to share a guest post from my friend Beth .
The above photo was taken, believe it or not, in a somewhat urban setting. It's not in a downtown area, but it is a nature reserve within the greater metropolitan area in which I live.
My city has been deemed the fourth most populous city in North America, behind Mexico City, New York, and L.A. I guess you could say I have a bit of experience with city living. I live in the suburbs, but it's not really much different from the downtown city proper. It's densely populated, it's full of commercial property, it's polluted, and it's busy and loud.
Living in a setting like this presents challenges to getting connected to nature, to be sure. Nonetheless there are lots of ways to get up close and personal with nature in its many wonders and glory, even in an urban setting.
So what would a nature walk in the city look like for us? It might include the following elements:
What's the weather doing? Living with a pilot (who is trained in meteorology) can be pretty helpful at times. Like when we're driving along the highway and see some cool clouds, and he says "Kids! Look over there! Check out the cumulonimbus! Do you see the virga underneath? Looks like we'll be passing through heavy rain in about 3 minutes."
Sun, rain, clouds, fog, frost, snow, rainbows, hail, thunder and lightning are all fun and fascinating ways to observe nature, even in nature!
2. Seasonal photos in the same spot
I came across this idea on a homeschool forum and I think it's brilliant. Pick a spot in your yard, and with each changing of season, take a photo of the kids there. Pick a spot that will have obvious changes (not hard to do, usually!), like in front of a tree that will be green, then red/golden, then naked and snowy, then finally have buds for spring. It will so fun to look back at the photos and observe the various changes between the seasons.
There are bugs everywhere - city and country! Each place has their own native types. You need only go out to your backyard to find a plethora.
4. Building Materials
This may not be a traditional nature study idea, but it will definitely be an interesting lesson for the curious child, leading to more study later on. When you are out walking in the city, talk about the materials you see around you that are used for man-made structures. Glass, metal, wood, plaster... all of these things are made from things in nature! Talk about it and help them see the connection. The discussions that might follow are endless, really. Everything from rock-mining to conservationism to the logging industry!
The city is somewhat famous for many bird images, isn't it? Pigeons are a dime-a-dozen in the downtown areas, and suburban backyard bird feeders can attract dozens (if not more) of varieties to observe, admire, and study. Sketch them, look them up, and dive into learning about them!
It seems that cities are somewhat intentional about inserting 'green spaces', nestled among the concrete buildings and high-rise towers. While they may not be out in the 'wild', city trees are still trees, and are useful for all kinds of study and exploration. Teach your kids to identify leaves, recognize different types of bark, and differentiate the various varieties. They are also great to observe in the changing of seasons.
You see a lawn to be mowed, but there's really a whole microcosm down there, waiting to be discovered! Anyone remember "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"? It's a world unto itself. A magnifying glass and a leisurely afternoon in the sunshine are recommended.
Gardening can be done in the city, no matter how small of a space you've got! Even apartment dwellers can grow things in containers. It's the perfect opportunity to study life cycles, biology, and - of course - botany! Make a point of also observing other gardens when you are out walking in your neighbourhood. Compare and contrast them. Discuss the different varieties of plants, and the methods required for care.
9. Growing things inside
Going outside to observe nature up close and personal is always best, but if you really can't make it happen due to weather or other mitigating factors, then don't be afraid to bring nature to you! Stick a bean seed in a clear cup with some water and observe what happens. Bring in a snowball, place it in a bowl, and record your scientific observations. Look up youtube videos or watch Planet Earth movies. Do what you need to do to instil a love and appreciation for nature, no matter where you are.
10. Parks, nature reserves, etc.
Most cities are good about having parks available. This is because they recognize the intrinsic need of people to be in nature. Take advantage of these, and when you are tired of nature walks on concrete sidewalks, surrounded by suburbia or skyscrapers, hop into your car for 5 minutes and find a larger green space to enjoy.
Living in a city does not have to equal a lack of opportunity to interact with nature. You just have to know where to look!
Do you live in a city? How do you interact with nature?
Beth blogs at Red & Honey, a lifestyle blog for the naturally-minded homemaker. She recently began a passionate love affair with coffee and her life will never be the same. She has had three babies in less than four years, is a professional laundry-avoider, and loves to stay up way too late making weird stuff from scratch that normal people tend to just buy in a store. Hence, the coffee.