Wednesday, September 14, 2022

50+ Learning Activities for This Last Week of Summer

Summer is coming to a close. Autumn officially begins on September 22 this year. That means we have about 7 days of summer left, and we should all enjoy it to the fullest. Get outside, soak up the last of the Summer Sun, and savor it. Make this last week of summer fun, special, memorable, and educational!

Take the “Classroom” outside! As soon as the morning chores are done, head outside. Pack sack lunches, lunch boxes, a thermos, bottles of water, and snacks. Bring along backpacks, phones, cameras, binoculars, step counters or fitness trackers, books, field guides, notebooks, paper, pencils, pens.

Use your backyard, local parks, nature trails, or any green space for your “classroom” this week. Free your mind from daily worries and embrace the present moments spent outside with your children. Be open to whatever crosses your path as you observe and absorb your surroundings together. Try to visit different areas each day.

Flexibility is key this week – yet learning will occur! If your children are following a specific homeschool program and need to stay on-track, take the lessons with you. Allow them to complete lessons outside. Then engage with nature and let children spread their wings and explore.

As they explore the outdoors, what do they see? What can they do in this space? How do they feel here? What more would they like to do or see? Where else would they like to go? Encourage them to write or sketch these observations and feelings – Language Arts has now begun!

7 Days of Learning, 50 Activities

For 7 days of learning and 50+ activities, try these activities outdoors. You can do one activity per day, or all the activities each day, or variations of the activities every day, all year, rain or shine! And learning will naturally occur, each and every day.

1. Language Arts:
• Go on “Story Walks” along nature trails, in local parks, or in library gardens.
• Create your own “Story Walk” in your backyard or neighborhood green space.
• Read favorite books while swinging or relaxing in the branches of a tree.
• Sketch the scenes and vistas surrounding you, then describe why they're special to you.
• Read signs and plaques describing local areas of interest.
• Discuss things you had never noticed or experienced, and why they’re interesting.
• Write stories or essays about the places you visit and the things you see this week.

2. Social Studies:
• Create a map of your community parks, neighborhood green spaces, nature trails.
• Each day, draw the route you take, using different colors to indicate different days and areas visited.
• Describe landmarks encountered, such as gates or sign posts, trailheads or information displays, boulders or stone formations, waterfalls or creeks, bridges or boardwalks, monuments or memorials, etc.
• Learn the difference between “natural landmarks” and “cultural landmarks.”
• Research these landmark terms: geological landmarks, biological landmarks, architecture landmarks, archaeological landmarks, and see how they differ.
• Discuss how your local landmarks relate to the history of your town or community.
• Photograph, draw, or sketch these landmarks, and write about their history and importance to your area.

3. Science:
• Use field guides and binoculars to identify plants; wildflowers; trees; birds; insects; animals; urban wildlife; rivers, streams, or pond life; ocean, beach, or shoreline life, etc.
• Learn which birds, butterflies, or wildflowers are most common in your backyard or local parks.
• Plant flowers that attract birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees to your own backyard.
• Build bird feeders, birdhouses, butterfly houses, bat houses, or natural habitats that will draw beneficial animals to your location.
• Plan dozens of outdoor activities by using books such as Outdoor Science Experiments; Backyard Science and Discovery; Nature Smarts; Outdoor Science Projects; and Exploring Nature.
• Observe the sky and clouds overhead. What type of cloud formations do you see? What type of weather might they bring? How has the location of the sun changed since you left your house this morning? Draw or describe these in your Science Journal.
• Write about your favorite places in your Science Journal or notebook, describing why those areas felt special to you, and add photos or drawings of them, too.

4. Math:
• Consult step counters, pedometers, or fitness trackers to tally up total steps and distance of nature walks each day.
• Determine the time spent on each walk, and if using a fitness tracker, determine the number of calories burned per time and distance.
• For comparisons, run around a track or trail, and compare that to walking the same track or trail, in terms of steps, time, distance, and calories burned.
• Create a chart in your Math Journal or notebook, illustrating the daily steps, distance, time, and calories burned.
• Using the map from Social Studies, calculate the distance or miles between your house and the park, nature trail, creek, local store, downtown square, etc.
• Using the construction ideas from Science, calculate the size, dimensions, openings, slats, etc. for birdhouses, feeders, bat houses, and other outdoor science projects.
• Formulate and draw blueprints or plans for constructing these projects, based upon your calculations, then take photos of the completed projects.

5. Life Skills:
• Use decision-making skills on where to walk or explore the outdoors each day, deciding what items to take along, what the weather will be like, and what to wear each day.
• Use critical-thinking skills on how to reach the places you want to go, the best routes to take, the most-interesting paths or trails to follow, the many things you can learn.
• Observe and note everything around you – the good and the not-so-good – and discuss why it's important to observe your surroundings.
• Obey safety rules and “rules of the road” – watching traffic, even on nature trails, exercising caution at crosswalks, and paying attention to traffic signals.
• Be respectful of other walkers, hikers, bicyclists, horse trail riders, and others who are outside to enjoy a day in nature.
• Be careful and aware of the inhabitants of nature, from insects and snakes, to bears and wolves, to alligators and sharks – it’s their home, too, so maintain safe distances.
• Clean up after picnics and science projects, and leave no trace behind – in other words: “Take only memories, leave only footprints.”

6. Art:
• Draw detailed maps of trails or places visited each day.
• Paint or draw colorful sketches of butterflies on flowers, birds in trees, fish in ponds, waves along the shoreline.
• Try urban sketches of landscapers working in the park, tables and umbrellas in an outdoor cafĂ©, shopkeepers opening their doors, delivery trucks outside a storefront.
• Sketch a strolling musician, a plein air art event in the park, artwork in an art gallery, iron or concrete sculptures in the park.
• Learn about famous and not-so-famous artists, painters, sculptors in your town and the artwork they created.
• Try copying one of the artist’s artwork or creations, then try it again, in your own style.
• Take photos of all the artistic views you see on your walks, or outdoors in your own backyard, then sketch, paint, or create them from your photos.

7. Music:
• Listen – intently – to Nature’s Music: the birds singing to each other, the wind in the trees, crickets chirping in tall grasses, dry leaves rustling along the sidewalk, gravel crunching beneath your feet, the creek gurgling over rocks, waves crashing against the shoreline.
• Replicate these sounds of Nature’s Music the best you can, singing like the birds, whooshing like the wind, chirping like the crickets, gurgling like the creek.
• Create your own songs about nature, composing the lyrics and melody to express your feelings about being outside.
• Dance to the music from a concert in the park.
• Learn about the local musicians in your area and try to see their performances.
• Visit music stores and look at new music or instruments you’d like to learn to play.
• Perform a musical or create a play based upon your experiences in nature this week.

Remember to explore nature often, and enjoy the great outdoors, rain or shine, summer or winter, spring or fall – and enjoy it all!

Happy homeschooling!

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