For years folk have been asking me to create materials that they can use for their kids with a South African context, there are so many magical wild life resources for kids online, but not a lot in the South African context. So we are introducing Wildlife Wednesdays, where we plan to bring you a closer look at local wildlife with interviews and printables and a whole lot of resources that we have found useful, in twenty one years of homeschooling journey.
I intend to find a topic of the month and explore it more. Provide links and resources: reference books, local stories, activities, apps, videos, really whatever it takes to explore nature a whole lot more. We will choose a local plant, bird, animal, insect and so on… just a list of resources for you and your kids to explore the great outdoors a bit more.
What Do You Need to Get Outdoors.
That’s it really. There is wildlife outside your kitchen window, on your doorstep… there really is. Don’t fall into the trap of we are nowhere near a nature park, or we live in an urban environment…. Nature is all around us. To be honest we have never been to a Big Gamepark, though we live in South Africa (I see the irony), just the entrance fee makes it unattainable for most South African families… that being said we have found lots of ways to get outside and find our adventures. There are free wide open spaces, there are accessible mountains and beaches for heady adventures… and there are trees on the street corner and bird feeders can be created, it isn’t impossible to find nature… step out the door and go and find it.
Finding Inspiration Online
I just want to say right from the start, there are millions and millions of resources online and it is really hard to filter out the best ones. That being said, you get what you pay for and things can add up really, really quickly… especially when you are paying in US Dollars or Pounds, and you are earning Rands. So I am always on the lookout for free, or nearly free products, that will add a bit of spice to our learning… resources that can turn something from dry and boring to fascinating and fun… These are the resources that we make use of a lot in our home school.
If you don’t follow 1000 Hours Outside… then do so already. Imagine spending 1000 hours outside a year, that’s about three hours a day, how on earth would you do that? Well this website will show you how, with so many resources and beautiful trackers. She has an amazing podcast, that I absolutely love. My favourite one so far has to be an interview with John Muir Laws: You’re Not Stuck with the Brain You Were Born With: John Muir Laws Talks Nature Journaling, Dyslexia, Growth Mindset, Ukulele, and so much more!
I’ll direct my readers to this website again and again… he is the ultimate in teaching nature journaling to folk all over the world. He has a page of free resources for teachers, where you can download one of his books, How to Teach Nature Journaling and dozens of other resources. And I am just going to say: The Nature Journal Connection… a collection of 15 minute lessons created especially with curious kids in mind. We are going to be using these videos for school this year. Watch the first one… and get hooked on the series!!!
His website is absolutely packed with lessons and ideas and more important than that… inspiration. Inspiration to get outdoors and journal!!! I have to say that it is not exclusively for kids… everybody needs to get outdoors into nature and curious kids, will inspire their parents and this is definitely material for all ages and stages of artist. Younger kids will wander off, and return when their interest is sparked… that’s okay… everyone will learn something from these videos and what a gift they are to the community.
Otherwise, he has free video lessons on every possible nature topic: How to draw birds, plants, insects and all sorts of animals. I need to mention that these videos can be long, this is not the 30 second plan to drawing a raptor, for example, they are long detailed videos that take us days to cover, often spread over a week… by the end of the week not only can we draw what he is teaching, but we have learned so much.
3. Instagram Inspiration
- Fire Fly Nature School: The most beautiful printable nature study guides for children, with beautiful photographs, illustrations and places for children to fill in their own observations. Also, she has loads of wonderful freebies… follow her on instagram and sign up to her newsletter.
- Raising Little Shoots: Has a wonderful blog, and a curriculum for exploring the great out doors with kids. I absolutely love her phenology wheel… take a look at her on instagram.
- Steph Hathaway Designs: She has the most beautiful nature study guides, and other topics too. She has some lovely freebies as well… Her work is stunning and beautiful to print out and use as posters and inspiration for your nature studies. Find her on instagram here.
- Chickie & Roo: Also has lovely printable resources and loads and loads of inspiration, including a flower of the month club.(on instagram).
4. There is an App for that iNaturalist and iSeek.
Yes, taking your phone on an adventure is part of the fun nowadays and a photographic scavenger hunt is a must. You may have heard of the app inaturalist, where you photograph and record details of your observations and you can look at fellow observers all over the world. It is really cool and a lot of fun. But did you know that there is a super easy to use kids version called iSeek. This app was created by iNaturalist and it is packed with challenges and badges to collect, it is full of facts and great place to learn and discover. This is all a very natural way for your children (and yourself) to become citizen scientists… not that you have to use it on every outing, but it is a fun place to stop and linger every now and then.
5. Our Favourite Book Resources from Struik Nature
We use Struik Nature books for almost all our nature study projects… the have field guides for every level of explorer, from young explorers who are all about the illustrations, to folk who want to pop a quick reference in their pocket… and even to reference guides for scientists packed with every conceivable fact. We start with the “younger versions” and my kids have used those all the way through school, and we pop the bigger reference guides onto the coffee table for our topics of the month. Their Quick ID Guides are perfect for studying Nature.
- Se7en+1 Steps to a Nature Watch Project And a Year on Elsie’s Peak…
- Se7en + 1 Tips for Creating Nature NoteBooks With Kids…
- Se7en + 1 Steps to Great Hiking With Kids…
- Citizen Science with Kids…
- All our Homeschooling Blog Posts… in one place!!!
7. Get Excited… About Next Time…
Like most projects that seem overwhelming… I am going to suggest you just start. Step outdoors… don’t worry about having the bast resources, references books or the right watercolour paints for notebooking, in fact don’t even worry about notebooks… just get outdoors, whatever the weather… it will change your life.
Next week I will bring you a post on Exploring with Kids and just how to get outdoors… And the following week will be February, and we will start our first adventure together.