Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and explore nature. Whether you are planning a week long summer camp with a nature lover’s theme or simply wanting to incorporate some ideas into your lesson plans, the ideas below offer an easy way to get started. They are easy to adapt for the number of children in your group and for different ages.
Need an activity for those indoor mid-day hours? Have the children set-up a bird watching station as part of your indoor nature studies. Begin by making pine cone bird feeders. Tie a piece of yarn to one end of a pine cone. If the students are old enough to accomplish this on their own, demonstrate for them how to tie the yarn onto the cone. After the yarn is attached, have students slather peanut butter* on the pine cone and dip it into a tray of bird seed. It will be an sticky mess, so be prepared for them to go immediately outdoors and hang them on a tree or bush right outside the classroom windows. It is important that all of the pine cones are facing the classroom windows, because the students will be counting how many birds come to visit and if the pine cones are on the opposite side, no one will be able to see the birds. Once the pine cones are hung, have students take turns watching the bush or tree during center time. They can keep track of visitors with tally marks on a sheet of paper or with a more detailed observation check-list. Design the record keeping sheet with their abilities in mind. At the end of the day or week, have students graph how many birds came to visit each day and discuss why the numbers may have fluctuated.
*Be conscientious of any nut allergies that students may have.
This craft is best explained with a simple YouTube video. It is also best if you practice folding the paper to create the butterfly before attempting it with children. You will need at least one sheet of origami paper per child. Work with children in small groups at a center for the best results.
A simple bookmark craft is a great way to get children excited about collecting things in nature. Go on a short nature walk at the beginning of the week and have students collect colorful leaves or wildflowers that can be pressed flat. When you return to the classroom, have each child place his findings between two sheets of wax paper with his name written on one and put them between pages of books that you have designated as pressing books. Once all of the findings are in the books, press them flat by placing heavy books on top. At the end of the week, have students retrieve their pressed leaves or flowers. Give each child two bookmark-size sheets of clear contact paper and have them arrange their items on one piece before covering them with the second sheet. If the students are older they can probably do this on their own, but younger children will need assistance. When the bookmarks have been trimmed and firmly flattened, punch a hole near the top and thread a length of ribbon through for a tassel.
What are some of your favorite nature crafts?
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