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Nature's Classroom

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Nature's Classroom
by MaryLynn Heron - Friday, 1 March 2019, 3:25 PM

Dear Cordova Bay Families,

Reasoning and problem-solving are central to healthy child development, and one of the best classrooms for developing strategies and tools for investigating things, understanding how things work, building structures and working with others is NATURE. Although technology can certainly be brought into nature to create some really amazing things: think iMovie and a cool beach scape or the forest to make cool movie trailers or short clips. Or, how about geocaching or orienteering for the child who likes adventure? Nature is full of things for children to discover, explore and wonder about. Just take the recent snowfall and the many science and math lessons that came about because of it: measurement of the depth of the snow, temperature and freezing points, the physics of sliding (gravity, friction, surface quality, etc.), and the list goes on. 

We instinctively know that nature is the perfect classroom, and yet despite this knowledge, we sometimes do not heed its calling. The Canadian Pediatric Society tells us, alarmingly, that the average screen use for our children is 7.5 hours per day. Although it would be lovely to think that all this screen time is happening in nature, something tells me it is perhaps not. So, I ask the question: as spring break approaches for our children, how might we encourage them to get outside and work at reducing screen time to the recommended 1-2 hours each day? 

Over the years, families have shared the following outdoor learning ideas with me, and I would like to share them with you:

Backyard/neighbourhood scavenger hunt

Gardening (especially when a child gets to pick their own seeds to growsmile


Wildlife Photographer for the day 

Painting in the park (take a picnic and eat outdoors)

Rock sculptures at a favourite beach (take you camera for some cool pics)

Go-Kart building and races (amazing what you can do with a skateboard, cardboard and a skipping rope)

MEC slackline for some backyard balancing fun

Collecting objects in nature (create some fun nature art after a walk through Doumac park with your collection)

Bird House Building in the backyard (most craft stores sell kits)

Time Capsule (have your child make one and bury it)

Parkour (a cool way to get from point A to point B using the environment and your own agility. Check it out online.)

The list of activities is endless. 

As a kid from the seventies, I remember the incredible feeling of independence, as I rode off on my bike to explore a park with a friend or a trail by my home. Finding a spot to build a catapult or a teeter-totter in the woods was a huge thrill! Relay races and capture the flag….I can almost smell the wet grass, as we fell down and rested a while during a day of hard play outdoors. 

As you prepare for your child’s two week spring break, I invite you and your child to experience nature’s classroom. I encourage you to explore some ideas from your own childhood, or maybe some of the ones that I have listed above. 


Mary Lynn Heron