Monday, August 22, 2016

Deer Dancer: A Book Review and Resources

Deer Dancer by Mary Lyn Ray is a delightful look at the interaction and play between a young child who is in dance and a deer. You can find it read online here. It is a simple, easy to read book which would be appropriate for preschoolers or younger grade school. I really liked the movement, imagination, and the connection of dance to nature. Personally, I typically do programs on deer in the fall. I would include this quick book as part of a creative movement feature, reading the book, and then having music for a deer dance. There is a native story that this reminds me of deer dancing like this. I might also share this book as part of our exploration on deer. Here is a listing of various native stories on deer. Here is a link on a Yaqui Deer Dance as well and another with a video.

The story reads:
There’s a place I go that’s green and grass,
a place I thought that no one knew—
until the deer came.

I love that this recognizes and validates those special places for children. We tend to watch our children pretty vigilantly as a society, but allowing a nearby secret space or even just a hidden space nearby where we can hear what is going on is magical. Additionally, there is much imagery, as she is still as the grass. I really like the natural connection. 

The girl is somewhat apprehensive with her skills as a dancer; however, her confidence grew as she lifted her antlers like the deer. 

I love seeing children explore animals through play. Dance is a form of play. Here are other ideas I have pulled together to help children learn about animals through play:

Additionally, I often teach about deer in nature preschool. Here are ideas that we used to connect to deer.

General information on White Tailed Deer in Spring:

This post may contain affiliate links. I found it at the Bristol Library. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adding Plants to an Outdoor Classroom

 Plants are a great way to add color and texture in any outdoor space, including natural play spaces for children. At the recent Nature Explore/Outdoor Classroom Leadership Institute, I outlined tips for adding plants to your area in my mind.  I'll share my thoughts here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pirate Party=Loose Parts + Nature Play!

Ahoy there, matey! We had a pirate birthday party for our wee one!

Our youngest son recently turned four. To celebrate, we invited friends and family to our new house for some nature play, er, I mean, for his birthday party. We have a great space for adventures, so took some basic concepts of nature play we could easily do in our yard and wove them into a story for a bit of pirate adventure! 

I found a few decorations at Hobby Lobby, but also had the boys raid the dress up box as I knew they could find the flag, capes, and hats that would work well for the party. They also found the pirate ship and Playmobil figurines for starters and decor. 

We also pulled out some loose parts toys. This was my son's attempt at a primitive pirate ship!

The birthday boy also got some of these cool Tegu blocks for his birthday (when they were on sale!), so many planks were made for walking!

We made a "plank" to cross with milk crates and marine plywood ($2/length of this size at the local Restore). We had these all on hand. The planks were reconfigured many times and many ways! #looseparts

The younger ones loved walking the plank! I appreciate how encouraging and helpful my oldest was with his little brother. 

After walking the plank because the ship wrecked, we "swam" to the shore and then climbed the highest mountain we could find to look for a good place to build a shelter.

Alas, they found sticks, old curtains and more to build shelters!

After we found shelter, we needed to look for fresh water. We explored the water's edge, yet only found one tadpole (maybe too many people) where we pulled 14 out of the pond just a few days ago.  Of course they were released after we checked them out a bit. 

We followed the stream back into the forest, crossing the bridge, and hearing the frogs jump in!

Our next mission was to find the treasure chest! We had to climb up and down the giant logs to find them. 

Loved seeing these little ones just drawn to the logs! Some had no fear! 

We distributed the booty and then searched for more treasures! 

One treasure we found in the forest was a slimy slug! Another great thing to explore (and put back where we found it!

We had both sand and water options for more treasures! 

We washed hands and headed inside for snacks--peg legs (carrots), fish and chips (chips and goldfish crackers), banana pirates, orange boats, and gold nuggets (cheese cubes). 

The birthday boy was very proud of his banana scribbles!

The birthday boy blew out his candles and the planks became great places to sit. 

Presents were opened (lots of creative options, construction sets, loose parts toys, and more!). 

And we had more free play time! 

Keeping it real since it looks all rosy! A cover was taken off the hot tub, disturbing some wasps. Lots of stings and screams later we completely avoided that area! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pocket Guide to the Outdoors

I have always enjoyed the story of My Side of the Mountain. In today's day and age, we might cringe at a child forging out on his own to live in the wild. Sam Gribley was well prepared, having read voraciously before he left to understand nature better. In the Pocket Guide to the Outdoors, the reader can experience some of what Sam experiences through quotes, activities, and skill building. The author, Jean Craighead George, is an accomplished writer of nature based books.

The book starts with a letter from Sam Gribley to the reader, extending an invitation to practice some of the skills he learned in whatever setting a child might be in. He gives a great invitation to get involved with nature and our conservation. 

The book is organized by topic, allowing the reader to find what interests him/her most. Within each topic, there is a quote from the book, My Side of the Mountain, as well as skill building information and   activities. I liked this quote on fire, as I would like to work on fire building with my own boys. Topics include camping, shelters, fire, water, fishing, roadkill & bugs, outdoor cooking, edible wild plants, poisonous plants, medicine plants, useful knots, animal tracking, birdsongs, falconry, hiking & trailblazing, finding your way, outdoor fun, outdoor safety, and recipes. 

At the end of the book, there are several recipes for using wild edibles. We have learning more about wild edibles on our Family Nature Bucket List, so hope to explore this more! 

Jean Craighead George writes a letter at the end to the reader about who Sam Gribley is . . . he is the many people in her life who connect with nature in various ways. 

I find this to be a great companion to My Side of the Mountain. While simple, it gives a variety of ideas and skill builders. I would like to watch the older movie again and use the guide to pick out a few activities that each of my children would like to explore as part of this. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tooling Around: A Book Review

Tooling Around: Crafty Creatures and the Tools They Use is a neat look at how animals use tools. It explores the concept of a tool, as there are a few definitions for this, such as "an object that an animal uses to accomplish a goal." Of course, as humans, we use tools all the time.

I like the two page spread with simple two lines of text on one side and a more in depth section on the other side. If I'm reading to younger kids I could just use the simpler side, using the other information as background information with myself. With older kids, I might stick to the more detailed information.
The book looks at finches with a cactus spine, chimps using sticks to get termites, otters using a rock to crack shells, crows using a wire or forked twig for a hook (some local crows will do this), a red deer putting mud and grass to look larger, a bowerbird who builds a nest with paint and decorations, flies that bring a "gift" to a potential mate, dolphins using sponges, squids with coconut shells, and more! None were local to our area, but now I think I will be watching more closely!

At the end, the author has a note looking at the history of tools and animals that use them. Additionally, she shares where the creatures in the book live, additional books related to the topic, websites to peruse, and a bibliography. 

While I really enjoy the book, it's not one I would use with groups as much as it doesn't show our local nature. However, it would fit in well for specific stations or presentations on animal behaviors. It may be perfect for the animal lover kid who wants to learn all about animals and how they act. 

Like animals? Want to encourage children to learn about them through play? Check out this post on 16+ ideas for animal play
This post may contain affiliate links.

Raindrops Roll: A book review

I love books by April Pulley Sayre. In my experience, they are great read aloud books with carefully chosen words that pack a lot of science and wonder in just a couple of sentences a page. With the short text, it makes these perfect for preschool children; however, I have also read them to adults and older children as well.

This book, Raindrops Roll is all photographs, which makes it different than some of her other books. She took almost all of the photos herself, using her neighbors garden and getting very wet! I like her personal note of thanks specific to this book, naming our local Michiana weather people, her neighbors and husband, as well as others that reviewed the book and made it happen. The book has won several prestigious awards.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Family Nature Bucket List!

Have you made a Nature Bucket List for this summer already? If not, you might want to try it out! A few weeks ago, we sat down and tried an idea we found on Nurture in Nature by Tania Moloney. Find her post here. It has great inspiration and ideas for compiling your own list.

We made this a Family Home Evening activity. One night a week, we try to get together as a family and have a short spiritual thought, activity, treats, and time to talk about our week and where our family is going. It's family time! A few weeks ago, we decided to think of the many natural creations we have been given during this time and make some plans for our summer fun!

We used a few resources, such as our 2015 Michiana Summer Guide, various kids getting outside book, Tania's post, and specifically a new book for us called Go Wild!, as we wanted to to incorporate some adventure and skills we haven't tried just yet. We especially are looking forward to making bowls out of wood and embers. We'll need to blow for a long time!

We started with a big piece of paper we reclaimed from a shipping box and a bunch of markers.

Some kids drew pictures to illustrate what they wanted to do, others helped research or write. We spent time on our WHY first, sharing things like family together time, getting outdoors, exercise, etc. Then we started writing down our lists. At first we just started brainstorming and then we started making different categories. Tania had a few different ideas for this--we did parks/places, sunny days, water, conservation, giving, and learning. 

We skipped the step to decorate our bucket as I use these for all kinds of things and wanted to use it for other purposes later. I let the kids write on most of the clothespins, as they were very engaged and motivated. They became more into it as they wrote more activities. We color coded our activities choosing a color for each type of activity. 

In just a few weeks, we have already had plenty of summer fun from our list! We went to the Indiana Dunes with friends (Silver Beach this time--so much to explore!). 

We pulled garlic mustard (an invasive species) when we visited a cool nature inspired park in Beaverton, Ohio.

We experimented with fire and made s'mores! I'm sure this will be repeated many times. 

We visited Allan Kauffman Park in Goshen, one of our favorite nature play areas nearby. 

And we picked up ice cream at The Chief while playing in the trees. 

It has been a great experience. I feel like these are all things we would be doing anyway. However, there is more buy in from many of the kids. We pulled it out this evening to look at our week and what activities we might do this week. We are using it to document what we have done as we look at the clips we put in the bucket as we finish them. We plan on printing one to two pictures for each activity and writing a card to remember our excursions, putting them in a Project Life book to remember our Family Nature Bucket List Summer! This could be extended year round or recycled. I know many of these are favorite activities for our family. It reminds us of our traditions and encourages us to get outside as a family, spending time in nature together! 

It's currently strawberry picking time, so we will tackle that clip tomorrow. It's an activity we enjoy. Find our strawberry pursuits and tips here. Imagine that--with 4 growing boys, many of our excursions involve food! I was surprised how much they want to forage for food, pick berries, and cook over fires! We will be eating well as we go through the summer! We look forward to more Family Nature Bucket List items! Thanks, Tania!