Sunday, September 16, 2012

Have a family adventure outdoors

So the leisure days of summer are over. That does not mean, however, that our time outdoors should come to an end. On the contrary, if you have children who are naturally curious and full of questions about the world around them, there is no better way to teach them about the environment and science than a walk in the woods or a trip to the zoo. It’s also a great way to spend some quality time with the family.

“Hands-on experiences help kids of all ages grasp concepts and retain information,” according to a report by TruGreen, creators of MyBotanicalPlanet.com, a free website with lesson plans and interactive games for students in grades K-5 who want to explore basic botany and water conservation. The site features lesson plans that are designed to be fun and educational. However, it’s something you might want to do after a trip outdoors or in the case of rain.

If you’re looking for ideas that you can use to help your kids love learning about science outdoors, here are a few suggestions from active moms and Watershed Fred -- who is the educational character featured at MyBotanicalPlanet.com.

Plan a field trip.
Pack a snack of gummy frogs or a hearty sandwich and embark on a journey. It can be a short trip or an all-day adventure and do not let the threat of rain stop you. Instead, don your raincoat and rubber boots and carry on.

Explore your backyard.
Who said you have to drive to your destination? Check out your own backyard or nearby woodlands. I used to love collecting leaf samples that I later used for projects like a collage. Consider packing a magnifying glass so you can do some serious research: Examining bugs, plant stems, tree bark and spider webs. Watershed Fred suggests having your child give an explorer’s report on what he or she finds.

Your home turf.
Take photographs of the different trees and bushes in the neighborhood that you can identify later. Who knows? You might have a rare species of tree or plant growing in your backyard. Plan a scavenger hunt at a nearby stream or pond. Make a list of items that everyone must find like animal tracks, water insects, birds fishing or taking a drink, frogs hopping or snakes slithering.

Visit local attractions.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been there before. As with life -- animals at the zoo are forever changing and growing. For some families it is an annual visit, even monthly. If you want to make it different before you go, have your child check out some library books about one or two of their favorite animals. This way they can learn some facts about those animals and be even more excited while observing them. They might even be able to teach you something new.

For comments or questions, email gina.joseph@macombdaily.com.

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