Connecting Children and Nature
Winter is a time for celebration! At nightfall on December 2nd Hanukkah began. Winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is December 21st, followed closely by and Christmas on the 25th. Celebrate this season with these suggestions for outdoor rituals, crafts, and experiences for home or school.
See the Sunrise or Sunset. Throughout December take time to go outside every day and notice the sun. Try to do it at the same time each day—possibly at sunrise or sunset if you’re at home, or at the beginning or end of the school day. If you keep this commitment throughout the year, you’ll really notice the change in the day’s length and the sun’s path.
Make a Yule Wreath. Make a wreath of evergreens (or purchase one) and invite family members or students create a small card illustrating something they appreciate about winter. Have each person show their card and share something about it. Then attach the card to the wreath and display it in a prominent location. On New Year’s Day, remove the cards (you can keep them in scrap book) and return the wreath back to nature.
Celebrate Twice—Both Inside and Outside. Celebrate Christmas as you usually do inside, and also create a NEW tradition of celebrating Christmas outside. You might decorate a tree with pinecones smeared with peanut butter (something the birds will appreciate) or play a game of “Outdoor Scavenger Hunt” as you look for items in nature that begin with the letters of the alphabet. Encourage creativity, especially for challenging letters, such as eXtra-ordinary leaf or Zebra-shaped cloud. Preparing food outside over an open fire is always fun. S’mores anyone?
Show the Way with Luminaries. Hanukkah is a Festival of Lights that is traditionally celebrated with lighted candles. This year decorate your walkway or front porch with paper bag luminaries. Cut holes, stars, or hearts in the bags and fill them with sand for stability. Place a wax votive or battery-operated candle inside each bag and enjoy the inviting glow.
Include the Environment in New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re going to make resolutions at the beginning of year, you might want to add one or two that are good for the environment. Here are some ideas to get you started: commit to turning out the lights whenever you leave a room, grow a windowsill herb garden, donate items you don’t need or use, use natural cleaning products, compost food scraps, or decide to make one energy-efficient change to your home.
Artist of the Month
Congratulations to Laurie Angus for having her book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat, chosen as an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the Children’s Book Council and the National Science Teachers Association. Laurie’s backyard is a playground for many wild creatures, as well as a diverse assortment of birds, including hawks, hummingbirds, and egrets.
Nature Books for Kids
John Muir wrote Stickeen, his account of his adventures with a brave little dog, in 1880–and it is still just as thrilling over a century later. We follow Muir through a trip he called “the most memorable of my wild life,” crisscrossing icy crevasses and eventually winning over his aloof and mysterious companion, Stickeen.
Now there is a picture book adaptation that captures the spirit and adventure of the original book, while pairing it with the majestic wintry art of Christopher Canyon. Donnell Rubay’s adapted text works for both adults and children, from adventure-loving four year olds to dog-loving twelve year olds…