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Nature in the Field


There is no description, no image in any book, that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest.
-Maria Montessori

If there's one thing we have fallen in love with in recent years, it's camping.  While our primary goal is to bond as as a family, there is a strong connection to nature that occurs.  My children explore the natural world around them with a heighten sense of curiosity.  Learning is effortless.

I respect that camping may not sound like an enjoyable activity for everyone.  Thankfully, you do not have to live in a tent to reap the many rewards of immersion in the natural world.  Simply spending a day in a state or national park can give a full experience.  In case you're wondering what you could do there, let me give a little glimpse into some of the things we did during our last weekend visit.  Then stay tuned for ideas on how to get the most out of your experience.

E found an insect friend who walked around on her for at least an hour.

After encouraging her friend back to his habitat, she decided to draw a picture to document it.  We attempted to discover the name in our insect guide.

Another common sight after a muddy night is paw prints.  We know how to secure our food from the raccoons but it doesn't stop them from explore.  The kids love looking for tracks each morning.

E and W went fishing.  They dug for worms.

Time to learn about trees and develop gross motors skills all at once!

The kids found this frog in the bathroom.  E is an animal whisper as he was completely content to attach to her thumb.

W had a chance to hold him as well.

After a short visit, we told him goodbye and placed him back in his habitat.  The kids were amazed at his ability to climb the tree.

He settled into a notch.  We talked about how his skin matched the tree and what purpose that might serve.

Art is a frequent outdoor activity before breakfast.

L viewing a copperhead at the nature center.

William observing the black rat snake.

Most state and national parks offer a nature center.  The displays are fantastic and always changing.  This one talked about identifying poison ivy.

And look at all this great information available for free!  It's a home school mom's dream.  There are usually interpreters around to answer questions too.

We attended a program on woodpeckers.  The kids were engaged and even I learned new things.  I never realized the hammering noise is their call and not the noise made when making a hole.

We learned how to identify every species of wood pecker in our state, which is six.

What would nature exploration be without a hike?

 We did leave the park at one point to visit a nearby cave.  While we waited for our tour time, the kids sifted through fossil bags.  That's the kind of thing that happen when there's a grandparent around.  They each ended up with a lovely collection and I promised they wouldn't have to put them in the school room.

The entrance to Blue Spring Caverns.

This cave is an underground river so it was a boat tour. 
This visit meant we officially finished the Indiana Cave Trail!!!!

If there's a creek open to visitors, my kids will be in it.  Here's a tip: carry a pair of water shoes with you.  They are fantastic for creek stomping and help prevent slips.

To help in exploration, each of our children have a hiking backpack.  There are no expectations as to how and when they used the contents.

This is the Deuter Junior Backpack.  It is perfect for our adventures.

This attached tool is a safety whistle, compass, and thermometer.

Here are the current contents (L to R)
  1. Snacks 
  2. Water Bottle
  3. Glo Stick
    My kids love these so they each get one per trip to use when they choose.
  4. Fisher Price Kid Tough Binoculars
    While it's easy to think of these as a toy, they are actually fantastic for a young child.  They work and are easy to focus.
  5. Colored Pencils/Sketch Pad
    These are kept in a large baggie since we've had backpacks fall into a creek.
  6. Camera
    The older two have the Canon Powershot ELPH 115.  I haven't regretted the decision to get good cameras for the kids.  Image stabilization is an important feature for a young child.  These ended up being gifts from family, which has been highly appreciated over another toy.  We go through the rules and usage together initially.  Just like the paper, they are kept in a baggy, just in case.
  7. Camp Trowel
    Everyone needs a shovel.
  8. Magnifying Glass (not pictured)
    It must have been in use elsewhere.
  9. Treasure Box (not pictured)
    Each of the kids has a small plastic box for holding found items such as leaves, rocks, and such.  However, most state and national parks have strict rules about disturbing the natural environment and removing even the smallest items.  One flower may seem trivial but if everyone did it, it would add up quickly.  We respect this and only pack treasure boxes when the park we are visiting allows it.
Each child also has a walking stick.  They can be helpful on rugged trails.

In addition to backpacks, I have created exploration bins for the campsite.  These always go with us on trips.  I store them out in the open and the kids can use them whenever and however they like.

This is the Sterilite bin system I use.

Our camping bins.

The large one holds various sketch pads.  The small one contains markers and crayons.

This is the Toobs Tree set.  I printed the cards from The Natural Homeschool.

This is the North American Wildlife set from Safari LTD.  The kids love acting out stories with them.

Sometimes the scenes are interesting.

This is the insects toob.

This is the backyard birds toob.  I printed the cards from Natural Beach Living.

Foam dart guns - a camping must.

Usually there are more card options in this box.  I need to work on it.

This is our book bin.  I rotate this one on occasion.

These guides are from Waterford Press.  They are fantastic and I highly encourage you to find sets for your state/region.  The guides are laminated and make it simple to identify various wildlife.  They fit in our backpacks too.

These are Fandex sets.  They aren't as easy to flip through as the pocket guides above but my kids still adore them.


I hope you have found some ideas to inspire you to go out into nature.  If you need help locating park options, check out Discover the Forest.  You can also sign up for a free federal park pass if you have a 4th grader.  I encourage you to find the website for your state's DNR (Department of Natural Resources).  They usually contain upcoming activities.  You may be surprised to see how many free programs are available.  Go for a weekend or go for an hour.  Just go! 

I've been debating writing a series on camping.  Let me know if this is something you'd be interested in.  I never thought it was something I could adapt to but now I long to go every weekend.

Follow me on Facebook - Visit me at Montessori Homeschooling

This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori series.  I am honored to take part in it.  Please visit the links below.  There are fantastic ideas on Nature and The Outdoors!

Pond Theme Activities - STEM - Free Printables
| Natural Beach Living

Exploring our Senses Outdoors (Montessori Silence Game) – Printables
| The Natural Homeschool

Montessori Nature Tray with Vocabulary - Parts of the Plant
| Living Montessori Now

Montessori Inspired Bird Unit
- Mama’s Happy Hive

Montessori-inspired Preschool Bird Unit Study
| Sugar,Glitter & Spice

Montessori-inspired Backyard Bird Activities
| Every Star is Different

Nature in the Field
| Grace and Green Pastures

Listening Scavenger Hunt to Explore Creation
| Christian Montessori Network

There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest.
Read more at:
There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest.
Read more at:
There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest.
Read more at:
There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest.
Read more at:
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