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Get outside!

March 30th, 2010

The weather these next few days looks to be absolutely gorgeous, so I shouldn’t have to encourage you twice to get out with your kids! Wherever you live around the Chicago area, find a new forest preserve, a nature trail, or even just a playground and enjoy. This time of year it can still be hit or miss, so grab it while you can.

Beaver eaten tree

Today we enjoyed some time with my parents, sister, and nephew at Spring Valley in Schaumburg. Unfortunately the historical farm and log cabin will not be open until next week, but we still soaked in the sunshine on the beautiful walking trails and spent some time in the nature center there. We checked out the bat boxes, the observation deck, the calves, turtles, ducks, trees chopped down by a beaver, wasp nests, and so much more. It is amazing what kids will find and what will fascinate them when you just get out and walk.

Need ideas? Be sure to check out the field trip listings for other local ideas. Maybe you have already seen all the stuff really close to your house, so try somewhere a little further away. One of the great advantages to living in this great metropolis is all that we have within an hour’s drive. Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village, Independence Grove in Libertyville (check before going, sometimes they charge an admission per vehicle), Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook, Millenium Park in Chicago, Bartlett Nature Center at the James “Pate” Philip State Park in Bartlett, Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington,  and on and on. I would guess there is somewhere that you have not explored with your kids.

Lots of nature centers have activity backpacks that you can check out, and the volunteers that often staff the desks are happy to help make the most of your experience. At Spring Valley you can also rent binoculars, so you never know what might be available if you just ask.

Not a big nature enthusiast?

New to the whole idea of nature study? Make a game of it . . .

- See who can find the most birds, maybe even check out a bird field guide from the library and try to identify a bird that is new to you.

- Make a bingo board with nature items and see who can get bingo first.

- Maybe you have a budding artist, bring sketch pads and find a spot to sit and draw. Some homeschoolers love to do this each week (check out Harmony Art Mom’s Sketch Tuesday for inspiration here)

- Even just bring a book and do your silent or oral reading outside. I love the flexibility of homeschooling. We often take our afternoon classes outdoors to mix a little business with pleasure.

If you want some web based help and ideas to make the most of your outing you might enjoy these sites:

- Charlotte Mason was really big on nature study, and this page has a great summary of her thoughts on nature study.

- More thoughts based on Charlotte Mason’s philosophies of nature study including how to start in your backyard, putting together a notebook, and getting the most of a hike.

- Connecting with Nature also offers lots of great ideas starting right in your own backyard and building your nature studies from there.

- Put together an outdoor treasure hunt. This would be a great activity for just your family or even to invite a few friends along with.

Wherever you go, however you plan to enjoy it, don’t put it off. Just do it! Get out there and soak up this spring weather.

Any other ideas for getting started on nature walks or making the most of your time out of doors?

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