Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Flowers, Trees, and Animals: Learning to Love Nature

Two questions I always am asking myself is, "What are the core things I want my daughter to grow up knowing?" and "What is she experiencing in her life right now to learn those things?"  One of my answers is that I want her to appreciate and care tenderly for this magnificent planet God has created.  And so I try to do nature activities with her frequently.  We've slacked on these the past week or so, and so today we did some catch-up.  Here were our nature activities:

1.  Throughout the Spring we have been going on daily walks/stroller rides.  I've been stopping whenever I see flowers in bloom, and I enthusiastically name them and point to them.  Today, however, we stopped to look at different kinds of leaves.  We saw long, skinny pine tree leaves, flat and broad leaves, big leaves, small leaves, jagged-edge leaves, smooth-edge leaves, etc., etc.  When they were close to the road, I'd let her touch them for a little while to feel as well as see the differences between the leaves.  This was also good for reinforcing opposite concepts (like, showing her two very different leaves and naming them "BIG/little" "jagged/smooth" etc.)

2.  I picked a dandelion and brought it home with us.  When we got home, I took a white sheet of computer paper and put the dandelion on top of it.  I rubbed the flower bud into the paper, and showed her that it made a yellow spot.  Then I pointed out to her the petals, the leaves, and the stem.  Then we took the different parts of the dandelion (all the petals, the leaves, and the stem) apart, looking carefully at each part.  We put the little petals on one part of the paper, the leaves on another part of the paper, and the stem on another (this was good for teaching the sorting concept, as well).  We pulled the stem apart to look inside.  It was very interesting exploration.  I kept reinforcing that this is beautiful and good.

3.  We went to the local nature conservation area.  My daughter chased geese, and she even came across a little family with 6 baby geese!  The mommy goose was not so happy as she kept chasing the little babies, and so I had to put an end to that (with some loud protests), but I am glad she got to see and interact with the geese.  We also saw ducks, a peacock, a turtle, fish, and a rabbit.  The conservation center had some inside rooms with interactive animal books, a bald-eagle puzzle, a life-size bear head, a life-size wooden alligator, lots of types of eggs (behind glass), and some really fun chairs to climb, objects to open and close, and colors to identify.  Check out the types of places like this that your tax dollars are paying for in your area!

4.  There was a pond at the nature conservation center, and we sat down beside it.  She wanted to throw things into it.  I made it into a game.  I'd give her something to throw in, she'd throw it, and we'd see if it sinks or floats.  It was really interesting to me that everything connected with life in some way floated (e.g., leaves, sticks, petals,), but those things not connected with living things all sunk (e.g., rocks).  I wonder if that's always the case?

5.  We spent some time in our yard with our flowers and shrubs.  I excitedly showed her the insects.  Some crawl on the ground, some fly in the air, look - that one went under a rock!, etc.   She very sweetly leaned down to pretend to kiss an insect a few times.  Very sweet.  I'm not a fan of bugs in general, and I figure she'll readily pick that up as she grows.  But I also want her to grow up knowing that we couldn't live without them, and, more importantly, that God made them and called them good.  So they are worthy of our appreciation, even if sometimes they bother us.

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