In today’s life it’s obvious to see that people are busy, not only are people busy, but children are busier and more overscheduled then they have ever been. So, when we do our workshops it’s a huge concern for us if we are really reaching people for the long haul, or are we just motivating them for 2 or 3 months to do outdoor education and then they shove their Project WILD book in their closet never to be used again? We may never really know. Just last week someone was telling me that they found new Project WILD books at a garage sale last year, that pretty much made my heart drop.
So how important exactly is a short nature hike through a prairie? It’s one of the most burning education questions of the decade, and, according to experts, a lack of routine contact with nature may result in stunted academic and developmental growth. This unwanted side-effect of the electronic age is called Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). The term was coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods in order to explain how our societal disconnect with nature is affecting today’s children. Louv says we have entered a new era of suburban sprawl that restricts outdoor play, in conjunction with a plugged-in culture that draws kids indoors.
As environmental educators we know that sometimes children just do not want to go outside. They would rather sit in the comfort of their room, and watch the latest episode of the newest tv series on Netflix. But, even if children go out for 20 minutes a day, heck even five minutes a day, that is better than nothing.
Today I am going to share with you 5 outdoor related activities to do in under 5 minutes, while still having a meaningful experience outside.
1) Sprout Your Socks: I know for a fact that my washing machine eats my sock pairs so that there always seems to be a sock missing from my pair. Well, that extra sock you can never find a match to does not need to be needlessly thrown away. You can use it as a seed collector. Instead of putting your sock on and then your shoe, try it the other way around with your sock on the outside of your shoe. Then go for a quick walk outside, and when you come in see what seeds or objects have stuck to it. Peel your sock off, put it in a plastic bag, spray a little water on it, seal it, and then hang it by a window for some light, in a few days you will have your own little garden.
2) Look Under a Rock: Probably one of the most simple things you can do. This can be a rock, or a log, or even an old piece of junk laying around your house. Simply turn something over and observe. You could also ask these questions to start a discussion with your child:
- What kind of insects do you see?
- What patterns in the dirt can you find?
- Are there any slug trails or worm holes?
3) Wildlife Hunt:
Go out to a local park, or your backyard (depending how much time you have) and look through a habitat and see what you find, have a “Five senses scavenger hunt.”
- What signs of life does your child hear?
- What does the bark of a tree feel like?
- What does that blade of grass smell like?
- What signs of wildlife might be easy to see?
4) Raindrop Plop!
It is common to see a child stick out their tongue to catch a raindrop, but with this science activity, you can catch it and bring it inside! The materials you need include flour, a pie pan, and a rainy day. First, sift some flour into a baking pan or pie pan until it is about one inch thick and covering the pan. Take the floured pan outside and let the rain come down on the pan for about a minute. When the rain hits the pan of flour, a tiny “dough drop” is formed. These “drops” can then be sifted from the flour and examined. You can count the flour drops, compare the differences in size and shape. If you have a food scale around the kitchen, you can even compare the weight of the flour drops!
5) I love Dirt!
Dirt can be one of the most fun, and simple nature activities, because usually you can find dirt anywhere and everywhere. Let your child explore and GET DIRTY! Use different tools in the dirt such as buckets, paper towel rolls, Old Flowerpots, cottonballs, etc.