I’ve been making plans for the second half of the school year… winter won’t keep us cooped up in the house with all these fun things to do during our nature walks!
Now that the leaves of deciduous trees have fallen, it’s a great time to identify trees by their twigs and buds. Try hunting for “rainbow twigs” – the yellowish twigs of the willow; reddish twigs of the hornbeam, silver maple, or red osier; and the green of the dogwood and sassafras. Collect brown twigs of nearby trees and play a twig matching game once back inside after taking two of each type of twig from the trees you visited during your nature walk or outdoors time. Here is a great resource for identifying trees by their twigs and buds. Notice the buds and leaf scar formations of the different trees; older children can sketch these in a “tree journal” (blank main lesson book dedicated to tree discoveries and studies) and later in spring, add a few dried leaves from the tree to match. I’m planning to make a few tiny “leaf bud fairies” that can be hidden with a piece of green or brown felt that looks like part of the twig, then pulled down to remove the hidden flower bud fairy’s blossom and face.
Without the leaf cover, the stark silhouettes of plants can be observed, drawn, and in the case of trees, silhouettes can offer identification as certain trees have a specific silhouette.
Hunt for animal trails and find their favorite places to walk and hunt. Bring a measuring stick and measure the distance between their strides. Guess if they were walking, jumping, or running. Make up stories about where they might have been going- to visit relatives? To play games with other critters? To look for food or run away from another animal? Let the children’s imagination run wild. This year we plan to start a collection of plaster of paris animal track casts. Here is a tutorial.
After some hibernation stories, we plan to make a few “nesties” for the little wooden and knitted animals we have to hide in on the nature table. We are also using Brunhild Muller’s book (out of print now I hear) “Making Picture Books with Movable Figures” to show animals moving in and out of their dens. Steiner recommended such moveable figures in books or toys with strings that can mimic movement through minipulation in several of his lectures. Hibernation is such a fun topic for small children because they already have the “den-building” instinct. Of course they will want to build their own dens and nests with blankets and boxes all over the house, and we will make a few burrows outside too and look for places we think are spots animals may favor for hibernation outdoors.
Here are printable flashcards of winter constellations. In addition to spotting them outside, we are going to make a constellation viewer by drawing a few constellations on a small piece of paper, poking out the spots stars would be with a pin or tip of a paper clip, and taping the paper to one end of a tin can on which both ends have been removed. Then when you peer into the can the constellations should be visible. I am wondering if we go to a bedroom at night in the dark, set an upright flashlight on the ground and hold the can over it, if the constellations will appear on the ceiling… I bet they’d love that.
Snow & Ice
Ice hangings, homemade icicles, ice candles, snow sculptures (I think we have enough snow outside to make a life size polar bear and ride him!), blowing bubbles outside in freezing temps to see if they will freeze after being caught on the wand, ice “sherbert”… so much to do with snow and ice!
What are you doing to enjoy winter wonder?