At Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve nature experiences and good health go hand in hand.
Now is the opportunity to start summer learning and take your families into the outdoor classroom. Simple yet powerful activities you can do at home, at a park, or at a special spot, like Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, can connect the whole family to the natural landscape. Here are a few of the Director of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, Angela Belli’s favorite summer nature adventures to spark anyone’s curiosity of the world around them.
Take a simple piece of yarn, about 16 inches long, and tie the ends together. Find a favorite spot in your backyard and lay the piece of yarn on the ground in the shape of the circle. This is now your child's special spot. Stand tall on your feet like a giant and look into the circle and spy what you find. Maybe a dandelion or grasshopper is visible to your naked eye. Now kneel or lay flat on your stomach and take a closer look, like you were a fairy in a big forest. Move the blade of grass around and see what is hiding. You may find wriggling worms, tiny leaf hoppers, furry hairs on a leaf, or water droplets hanging on a blade of grass. The world of tiny nature is fascinating if you take the time to take a careful look!
Sketch a tic tac toe sign (or “hashtag” for the younger generation) out on a piece of paper. In each square, help your child write or draw different bird behaviors. Have them think about what birds do all day-eating, flying, singing, preening, perching, flocking, etc. You can use binoculars or simply take an old paper towel roll for a spotting scope and hit a trail, sidewalk, or park. Even just sit and picnic in your back yard! Check off as many bird activities as you can on your walk. First one to see three in a row wins!
Give your child 20 seconds to scavenge the backyard for a natural items that have fallen to the ground – gather one for each hand. That items can be a leaf, stick, flower petal, or stone. You do the same. Bring the natural items back to a flat surface (your canvas) - on top of a flat rock, or mudflat works well. Lay the items down and try to make a shape of a butterfly, a rainbow, a fish, or anything else you choose. Children are super creative and see the natural world so different than adults. Let them create, but encourage them to use all the items collected and collect more to adorn their piece of artwork!
Gather as many natural items as you can into a paper bag- just make sure that they are all flat. Bark, rocks, leaves of all shapes and sizes. Have a contest to see who can make the tallest nature tower without it falling down!
Take a white paper plate and cut a small hole in the corner so can hold with one finger. Paint a small circle of each of the following colors around the plate - red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue, and white. Once the paint dries - take a color hike! Try and find items in nature that match each color. A green leaf may match the green or the blue sky will match the blue. Nature has a rainbow of colors and shades to discover!
Simple family nature activities encourage curiosity and discovery in our own backyards and in special places like the conservation areas at WPNR. Time outdoors with your families can remind each one of us, young and old, that humans are part of the ever-changing landscape in the natural environment and that getting outside, if only for a short time each day, can boost your mood, improve your health and strengthen your family’s relationship with nature.
The Walzer Way Blog is maintained by WPNR staff with contributions from Saint Vincent College students and staff, volunteers, community members, and more. If you are interested in contributing to The Walzer Way Blog, contact the Learning Barn.