Children and Nature

There was a child went forth everyday, And the first object he looked upon, that object he became, And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years. The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass and white and red morning glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird, And the Third-month lambs and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal and the cow’s calf, . . . Walt Whitman

Learning is taking place at all times in all circumstances for every person. There are many ways to learn. Children learn best by doing. Inspire children with the diversity of life!

“It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does…

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” ~ John Taylor Gatto ~

Biophilia is the love of nature. Eco-psychology and evolutionary psychology suggest that humans are genetically programmed by evolution with an affinity for the natural outdoors. Evolutionary psychologists use the term biophilia to refer to this innate, hereditary emotional attraction of humans to nature and other living organisms. Natural outdoor environments produce positive physiological and psychological responses in humans, including reduced stress and a general feeling of wellbeing. People, especially young children, who have not yet adapted to the man-made world, prefer natural landscapes to built environments.

Biophobia is the aversion to nature. If the human attraction to nature is not given opportunities to flourish during the early years of life, biophobia may develop. Biophobia ranges from discomfort in natural places to active scorn for whatever is not man-made managed or air-conditioned. Biophobia manifests in the tendency to regard nature as nothing more than a disposable resource.

Research consistently shows that children have a strong preference to be outdoors in nature. Nature sustains us and is an incredible library of knowledge. Children are natural explorers and have an intense desire for knowledge about their surroundings. They need opportunities to explore the natural world for if there are not early experiences with nature, a love and respect for nature doesn’t develop. It is important that we guide children to discover themselves and the world around them.

In the outdoor classroom children feel a sense of belonging in nature, become more observant, and develop a reverence for life. Watching a seedling unfurl, witnessing the death of a neglected plant, raising a garden for butterflies – these experiences help students acquire a direct, personal understanding of what living things require to thrive, and how they adapt and interact. These connections serve as a vital foundation for developing a lifelong ethic of environmental stewardship. The outdoors is a developmentally appropriate classroom for children.

Society puts its best foot forward in early childhood education. Fifty percent of our intellectual capability is achieved before the age of four. Psychological patterns are set before the age of seven and the child’s self image is formed during this time, which sets his personality pattern. I can’t think of any better place to stimulate their senses and develop perceptual motor skills than the great outdoors!

Children are not born with finely tuned perceptual motor skills. They are a result of being challenged as a child. Research has shown us the intellectualizing capability of the senses. The development of the senses precedes that of superior intellectual activity and the power of observation is procured through the development of the senses.

Children are sensorial explorers. They gain a better understanding of the world around them when they are involved in activities that bring them in direct contact with nature. Nature captivates the child’s imagination, activates the senses and gives them a sense of belonging in nature and they develop the ability to express their experiences.

Knowledge advances rapidly when the line between work and play fades. Remember . . . children are always unconsciously taking in impressions that form their minds.

Conduct some observation excursions. Walk with a purpose. Maybe it will be to discover trees, the kinds of leaves or fruit they bear, the shade they give, or the shelter they give to birds and animals. You can teach children about trees in the classroom, but they must see and experience trees to make trees real to them. Get outside with children, get some exercise, build a garden and explore together. Everyone benefits! Rather than showing them a tomato, let them grow one and see where it comes from, and how and what it needs! Our children will grow healthier, understand where their food comes from and that plants are alive, and an outdoor classroom addresses our health in every way . . . mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is a fact.

It is our responsibility to see that our children get what they need in the healthiest environment possible. It is a critical time to stand up for children and provide them with more than a swing and monkey bars and a yard of fire ants or a basketball. I know this is not every school, but I have seen and experienced enough to know that our children’s greatest needs and period of learning and development are from conception through the elementary years. This is where our focus should be in order to help children grow healthy and strong. After these years there focus changes, there ‘s a social adjustment, a different focus, and very different life experiences.

Environmental education should start early with hands-on experiences with nature. There is evidence that concern for the environment is based on affection for nature that only develops with autonomous, unmediated contact with nature. The way people feel in pleasing natural environments improves recall of information, creative problem solving, and creativity.

Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and a sense of wonder. Wonder is important as it a motivator for life long learning.

The natural world is essential to the emotional health of children. Just as children need positive adult contact and a sense of connection to the wider human community, they need positive contact with nature and the chance for solitude and the sense of wonder that nature offers.

All the manufactured equipment and indoor instructional materials produced by the best educators in the world cannot substitute for the primary experience of hands-on engagement with nature. Manufactured equipment falls very short of the potential of outdoor areas to be rich play and learning environments for children, and denies children their birthright to experience nature outdoors, which includes vegetation, animals, insects, water and sand, not just the sun and air that manufactured playgrounds offer.

The lives of children today are more structured and supervised, with few opportunities for free play. Their physical boundaries have shrunk. Parents are afraid for their children’s safety And when children do have free time, it’s often spent inside in front of the television or computers. For some children, that’s because their neighborhood, apartment complex or house has no outdoor play space. Children live, what one play authority refers to, a childhood of imprisonment. Childcare facility playgrounds are often the only outdoor time many young children experience.

Gardening reclains the heart in nature education!


Link to Bracken Bat Cave

What do you call a little bat? A battle.

What do you call a bat in a belfry? A dingbat.

Why did the bat use mouthwash? Because he had bat breath!

Which bat knows the ABC’s? The alpha bat!

“Catch a bat in your hat and good luck will follow!” In Chinese art 5 bats represent the blessings of Health, long life, prosperity, love of virtue, and peaceful death. How we think about animals depends on our cultural biases.

Blind as a bat!

Wise as an Owl!

Smart as a fox!

Hungry as a bear!

Busy as a bee!

Bats are mammals and make up the order Chiroptera. There is evidence bats have existed for 50 million years or longer. They are warm blooded, nocturnal, nurse their babies with milk, and have fur. There are over 900 species of bats, but only 3 are vampires located in Central and South America. They suck blood from the wounds of birds and mammals. A lot of bats, including the flying fox, eat fruit. Other bats eat insects, frogs, fish, and other small animals. Because they are active at night their life seems mysterious.

Bats are the only mammals that can fly with “hand wings”. Their finger bones are elongated and connected with membranes. If we had fingers like a bat they would be longer than our legs! A few tropical bats have a wingspan of 6 feet, but most bats are small (1/10th of a pound in the U.S.). They have enlarged ears, bizarre noses, and the habit of hanging upside down. Their leaf- noses and large ears are involved in echolocation.

Bats produce a high- pitched burst of sound and then their brain analyses the echo for finding their way and finding their prey. Bats’ brains process the auditory information within those echoes as visual maps. All bats can see and all bats are sensitive to changing light levels because this is the main cue that they use to sense when it is nighttime and time to become active. To track down prey, avoid predators and find their way home in the dark, most bats depend on echolocation. They broadcast high-pitched sonar signals and listen for the echoes of sound waves bouncing off objects they’re looking for or obstacles in their path. Biologists listen to bat sounds with bat detectors that translate the ultrasonic signal into a range that we can hear. Bats increase the number of calls before they attack prey in order to pinpoint their meal. Many insects can hear echolocation and hide.

You may see bats at night around lights trying to catch insects. In the southwest, the long-nosed bats seek fruit nectar of the saguaro cactus and agave. The organ pipe cactus has flowers that open at night and is dependent on bats for pollination. Bats eat the fruits and disperse the seeds in their guano

Bats carry their babies for 4 months and have 1 single “pup” each year. The red bat has multiple births. Baby bats are born big like a 120 lb. woman having a 40 lb. baby. There are large maternity crèches but some species roost alone. Mother bats feed babies milk and babies make a distinct sound that the mother recognizes. Babies grow quickly and in 3 moths the little brown bat is ready to fly. The big brown bat is ready in 1 month. Fifty percent of babies die the first winter.

Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats to distribute their seeds. The greatest numbers of bats are in the tropics. Bats are absent from the poles and the very dry desert. Forty species live in the United States. Hawaii has 1 bat species. CA. has 25 bat species.

About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are frugivores, or fruit eaters. A few species such as the Fish-eating bat feed from animals other than insects, with the vampire bats being the only mammalian parasite species. Bats play an important role in controlling pests (the mosquito.) They need to eat 30-50% of their body weight nightly. A single bat can eat enough mosquitoes in a single evening to save several people the agony of these insects that bite and cause great itching bumps protecting us from malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. Bat droppings are good fertilizer

Bats are disappearing due to the destruction of habitats, pesticides, and roosting sites being disturbed. Bats are very sensitive and susceptible to pesticides. The gray bat is endangered in the U.S., and so are the Hawaiian hoary bat, Indiana bat, Mexican long nosed, and big-eared bat.

Bats live 10 – 30 years and often migrate with the seasons to more sheltered sites. They may migrate 300 miles in all directions of their summer home. The free tailed bats may migrate 1000 miles to Brazil or Mexico. When bats hibernate, their body temperature drops to save energy and their heartbeat slows to 10 beats/minute. Their heart beats 13,000 times a minute in flight. Flight has enabled bats to become one of the most widely distributed groups of mammals. Apart from the Arctic, the Antarctic and a few isolated oceanic islands, bats exist all over the world. Bats are found in almost every habitat available on Earth. Different species select different habitats during different seasons — ranging from seacoast to mountains and even deserts — bat habitats have two basic requirements: roosts, where they spend the day or hibernate, and places for foraging. Bat roosts can be found in hollows, crevices, foliage, and even human-made structures; and include “tents” that bats construct by biting leaves.

Inside a cavern in Mexico there are 20 million bats hanging by their toes. It is the largest concentration of warm-blooded animals in the world! At dusk they all fly out to feed. Because they are active at night their life seems mysterious.

The scientists who discovered Onychonycteris finneyi, the oldest known bat fossil concluded that the prehistoric species could fly but that the sonar sense didn’t evolve until later. When scientists examined O. finneyi, as part of the study, their results suggested that the ancient species may have shared that same echo locating bone structure. Though echolocation is a relatively primitive trait, existing since at least 50 million years ago, researchers are still discovering new complexities about the sonar system.

Most bats do have bad eyesight, but they are definitely not blind. What they see can sometimes interfere with what they hear. We know that visual information can override echolocation information even when the echolocation information contradicts the visual information. A captive bat in a darkened room might fly into a window since it sees light coming through pane as an escape route, although echolocation sonar tells it there’s an obstacle in the way. In laboratory tests, bats have been shown to be able to distinguish shapes and colors. This is not unlike dolphins that use echolocation to hunt, especially in the murky depths. Their eyes, while small and sometimes poorly developed, are also completely functional, not to mention the fact that they have excellent hearing and sense of smell. Perhaps the saying should be changed to “Keen as a Bat”?

The smallest bat is the bumblebee bat (with a wingspan of 6 inches=15 cm. It is arguably the smallest extant species of mammal, with the Etruscan shrew being the other contender. The largest species of bat is the Giant Golden-crowned Flying-fox, which is 336–343 mm (13.23–13.50 in) long, has a wingspan of 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) and weighs approximately 1.1–1.2 kg (2–3 lb).


Two traditionally recognized suborders of bats are:

  1. Megachiroptera (megabats)
  2. Microchiroptera (microbats/echolocating bats)

Not all megabats are larger than microbats. The major distinctions between the two suborders are: Microbats use echolocation: megabats do not with the exception of Rousettus and relatives. Microbats lack the claw at the second toe of the forelimb.

The ears of microbats do not close to form a ring: the edges are separated from each other at the base of the ear. Microbats lack under fur: they are either naked or have guard hairs.

Creative Outdoor Ideas

Christmas Crafts

Friendship Angel

This special angel
My gift to you
Blessed with memories
Of friendship so true.

On tiny wings
To you she went
For like good friends
She’s Heaven sent.


Make a Paper Plate Santa

Sewing Cards
Cut out green tree triangles (or bell/ stocking) from poster board
Use hole punch to punch holes around outside and let kids lace with red yarn and tie loop to hang on tree

Heart Tree   Cut out 3 different sizes of green hearts and create a heart tree glueing them together upside down.

We made a dragon one year to celebrate the Chinese new year using painted decorated boxes. We made a paper mache head. Every child was part of the parade dragon!

New Year’s Project Give children black paper and let them make fireworks with colored chalk then spray lightly with hairspray to set chalk so it won’t smear.

Pine Cone Christmas Gnome


3 popsicle sticks
2 google eyes
1 red pompom

Glue 2 Popsicle sticks together and make a ‘V’ shape. About 1/3 way from top, glue third popsicle stick horizontally across the others. Glue google eyes under the cross stick and the red pompom at the bottom of the V-shape.

String decorations
Balloons, string, glue, glitter
Blow up balloons and tie. Dip strings in glue and wrap around balloon. Spinkle with glitter and let dry. Pop balloon!

Bird Seed Ornaments

4 cups birdseed
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 lb lard
Cookie cutters
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper
Cooking spray
2 straws

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, water, corn syrup and gelatin to form a smooth paste.
Slowly add the birdseed to the paste and combine until the birdseed is fully coated. Melt 1 pound of lard and add to mixture.
Place the cookie cutters on a parchment paper-lined pan and coat the cookie cutters with cooking spray. Spoon the birdseed mixture into the cookie cutters. Press the mixture down firmly with the back on the spoon to pack the mixture into the cookie cutters as tight as possible.
Cut straws into 3-inch segments and press the straw into the top one-fourth of the birdseed-filled cookie cutter. Make sure the hole goes all the way through the mixture. Leave the straw in the ornament and dry for 3 to 4 hours.
Once the birdseed ornaments have dried, take out the straw and carefully remove the ornaments from the cookie cutters. Harden overnight in the freezer.
Run a piece of twine through the hole at the top of the ornament. Hang the completed ornament in a tree for the birds to enjoy.

Melted crayon fireworks

Handprint Ball

Fingerprint String of Christmas Lights

Counting Snowflakes










Tic Tac Toe Tree Box



Tin Bucket, colored balls and aquarium glue.









CD Tree


paper towel nutcrackers







Ojo de Dios



Easter Crafts

Cultural Note: In Greece, the tradition is to dye the eggs red on Red Thursday – which commemorates the day the Last Supper was eaten. It’s also called Unholy Thursday because that’s when Jesus was betrayed by Judas. The red of the eggs represents the Blood of Christ.


Dying eggs Naturally
For blue, use red cabbage
For red, try whole beets (not canned), cherries, or cranberries
For light green, use spinach or fresh green herbs
For tan, brew strong coffee, tea, or a handful of cumin seeds
For yellow, try turmeric (a spice) and yellow onion skins
For olive green, use red onion skins
For purple, grape juice or frozen blueberries
Preparing the Dyes Cover the ingredients with water, while making enough dye to cover the eggs. Add white vinegar to set the dye and bring out color – about 3-4 cups water to 1 T. white vinegar. Bring water to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. If color is still not released add more vinegar and simmer another half hour – careful not to let the water boil off. Gently smash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon. When using green leafy vegetables, substitute 1 teaspoon of baking soda for the vinegar. After cooking, strain the colored liquid through a strainer with a coffee filter.
Dying Eggs Naturally GREEN with Spinach – Simmer frozen spinach in water with a little baking soda for about 30 minutes or longer until water is green.

Olive Green
Peels of 5 Red Onions
6 Cups of Water
1 T. Vinegar
Boil 30 Minutes. Let eggs soak in the dye till desired color. Makes wonderful brick red eggs.

Turmeric for Yellow
4 tablespoons Turmeric
3 cups Water
1 T. Vinegar
Boil for 5 minutes and then simmer for 30 minutes. Filter through a coffee filter inside a strainer to get rid of the excess turmeric.

Coloring the Eggs – For a more consistent color on the eggs, hard boil the eggs in advance and prepare the dye separately.
Once dye is ready, put it in a bowl, add the hard-boiled eggs and let soak for five minutes to several hours. The longer they soak, the darker the color. Turn them in the dye occasionally for more consistent color.

Drying the Eggs -Remove eggs from dye bath and let them dry. Be careful for eggs may take on the pattern of whatever surface you rest them on.


            PLANT PRINT EGGS

                                                           Silk Tie Easter Eggs

Silk Tie Easter Eggs

Small- to medium-size raw eggs
Glass or enamel pot
Silk ties, blouses, or boxers, cut into pieces large enough to cover an egg
White sheets ( pillowcases or old tablecloths), cut into pieces to cover silk-wrapped eggs
Twist ties
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
Warm water
Vegetable oil
Paper towels
Tongs or spoon

1. Cut silk into a square (or a piece) large enough to wrap around a raw egg.
2. Wrap raw egg with a piece of silk, making sure the printed side of the material is facing the egg. Silk can still be used if it doesn’t fit perfectly around egg.
3. Place the silk-wrapped egg in a piece of white sheet, pillowcase, or old tablecloth and secure tightly with a twist-tie.
4. Place the eggs in an enamel or glass pot filled with water to cover eggs completely. Add three tablespoons of white vinegar.
5. Bring water to a boil, turn heat down, and simmer for 20 minutes (longer if you plan on eating the eggs).
6. Remove eggs from water and let cool.
7. Remove silk from cooled egg.
8. For shiny eggs, wipe with vegetable oil after completing step


Marbelized Eggs To add a marbleized effect, stir in a few teaspoons of vegetable oil into the cooled strained dye. The oil sticks to the shell in places, preventing the dye from coloring the shell in certain spots.

For a relief technique, cover the shell with stickers, tape, stencils, leafs, or flowers before dying them.

Marble some eggs with nail polish

Eggs. A lot of them.
Nail polish in all kinds of fun shades – silver polish was amazing!
A plastic cup filled with room temperature water. If the water is too cold or too hot, the polish won’t work.
Nail polish remover. You’ll need this to get the polish off your fingers when you’re done.
Drop lots of nail polish into the water. If it sinks, the temperature isn’t right. You want it to spread out over the top of the water. Have fun playing with colors! Then take a toothpick and swirl the colors a bit.
Hold your egg between your fingers so that you cover the least amount of surface area on the egg. Then dunk straight down into the water, hold for a second underwater and then bring it up. The polish will cover about half of the egg. Sit the egg in a carton or something and let it dry.

Volcano Eggs

Volcano Egg Dying
hard-boiled eggs
food coloring
baking soda
paint brushes
some cups
big lipped plate or bowl
a cup of water
1. Create baking soda paint using a tbsp (or so) of baking soda, couple tsps of water, and some food coloring. Mix it up and experiment until you have the consistency you want.
2. Grab a paint brush and start painting your eggs.
3. Drop some food coloring splashes onto your eggs using a dropper.
4. Pour vinegar on top of the egg and watch the “volcanic eruption” all around your egg (picture the bubbling of a baking soda volcano, but more colorful. Every time is different based on your colorful combinations).
5. Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 again and again until you get bored and are ready to move on to another egg.
6. Pat off the excess vinegar off lightly or just let them air dry.





Our crayon dyed eggs! Put on crayon design while very warm and then put into dye.

Rubber Bands Wrap eggs with a few rubber bands before dyeing it. To get a few different shads, take the egg out of the dye, remove a few of the rubber bands.



Napkin print eggs.   Cover with napkin and paint with vinegar




Tie-dyed eggs Add a few drops of food coloring to the eggs in a colander and then rinse the eggs with cool water. Shake the eggs gently so the food coloring spills over the sides of the eggs. Add a few drops of a new color to the eggs in the colander. Very gently spread the color all around. Rinse the eggs with cold water. Repeat the process with a third color. After you’ve added the final color, rinse the eggs again. Dry with a paper towel. Place in a container to store and refrigerate.



                                                       Painted Eggs

Yarn Dipped Eggs in flour/wheat paste mache mixture with a little
Elmers glue added and wrapped around a balloon.


Egg Shakers

Egg Garland

Valentine Crafts