Whether parents homeschool or not, children need educational enrichment during summer vacation. Happily, summer’s perfect for outdoor lessons. Here are nature crafts, science explorations and experiments to keep learning fresh. These lessons adapt to any age from preschool to high school.
* Life-sized habitat diorama. Research which biome (earth zone) you live in–woodland, savannah, desert, plains, mountains, lake dune, ocean seaside. Then explore and collect natural specimens (nothing living or in use by a living thing): feathers, bark, grass, shed skin, bug exoskeletons, vacated nests, fur tufts, seed pods, cones, leaves, rocks, sand, flowers. Discuss habitat details you observe; note animals, plants, trees, geological formations. Using a large recycled cardboard box as a diorama, have children draw what they saw. Glue specimens to appropriate spots (bark on tree, feather on a bird, etc.). Use recycled materials to add simulated details. Children can pretend to be animals in their habitat.
* Nature patterns. Teach concepts like natural geometry, sequencing and Fibonacci numbers (here’s an article I wrote on that). Collect rocks, shells, bark, feathers, seeds, leaves, fur, dead insects. Examine patterns. Look at animal body covering patterns in situ (where they are–don’t touch or move). Glue found specimens to paper and encourage children to replicate pattern around the object.
* Bucket Garden. Plant fruit-bearing seeds–tomatoes, beans, pepper, melons, squash, pumpkins– in recycled clear plastic dishes. Poke holes in the bottom so plants can suck moisture through roots. Explain that plants prefer this to absorbing water through leaves. Observe growth–roots, sprouts, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, then back to seeds in fruit, Have children make plant journals illustrating or writing observations. Transplant as needed. If you plant pumpkins, melons or squash, beware–they need lots of room to spread out.
* Nature drama. Assign students to pick a natural phenomenon and write a short play or skit about it. Good subjects include: cycles, wildfires, natural disasters, deforestation, animal classification, biological functions, predator-prey, food chain, symbiotic relationships, environment, conservation, endangered species, extinction, pollution, unusual animals, weather. Plays might be allegorical (moral) or fable (fantasy story explaining how it started), Squidoo lists free printable world fables to use as inspiration. Plays might be comedy (animals outsmarting man) or tragedy (pollution, deforestation). Characters might personify elements, animals or plants. Using recycled materials, have children create props, costumes, settings, scenery and act out their plays. It could be told as a puppet show.
Assign kids to work together so they get cooperative learning experience.