I have always loved being out in nature. Even as a child I have such fond memories of camping trips with my family, climbing a particularly wonderful climbing tree in my yard, and exploring the woods that bordered our neighorhood. I’m thankful that I have an outdoorsy hubby who is totally on board with camping and hiking and all the fun stuff. It’s truly just a part of our family culture. I knew that I also wanted it to be a fundamental part of our homeschool because God’s creation truly teaches us so much. Even Psalm 19 tells us how nature/creation itself teaches us about God. I love that! Nature also teaches us how to recognize true beauty. Screens and the chase for the latest and greatest thing can too often crowd out appetites for what is good and lovely; I feel like exposure to nature helps to teach our minds to appreciate life in a more authentic way. Not to mention there are tremendous health benefits to being outdoors. Because of this I decided that it would be a huge part of our study of science in our homeschool. There’s something that imprints the mind so well when something is experienced and not just read or taught about.
Because of this we have a very eclectic mix for our science this year. We have been using a variety of living books and field guides, we have observed and been immersed in the great outdoors on nature walks and camping trips, and observed and participated in Classical Conversations science experiments on our community day. We’ve memorized and learned about a variety of science facts through Classical Conversations, and we’ve been working through the Christian Light Education science workbooks. The variety certainly makes science a favorite around here.
Nature Pal Exchange
One of our science activities that we have particularly enjoyed this year was participating in Nature Pal Exchange. I discovered this organization through instagram. Last spring when I noticed many homeschool mamas that I follow posting what they sent and received. I knew we had to jump on board the next time around! When fall sign ups finally came, we didn’t hesitate.
How it works.
Nature Pal Exchange collects a small donation to support a specially chosen charity for each exchange. You submit your donation along with your address and some general information about your children and their ages. Then Nature Pal Exchange pairs you with a family from a different area than you, and they also try to match families with similar age ranges of children. These are only families in the U.S. and Canada for now. They send an email with your trading family’s information, give a send off date, and some general guidelines for mailing nature items.
Then the fun begins.
You take nature walks to collect nature goodies, label if you can, wrap and send off. You can also include nature related gifts, books, and brochures or print outs about your state or area. Coloring sheets or a nature craft would be a fun idea also! I’ve been brainstorming a bit for our next package. Get it all gathered and packed up, then send it off to your exchange family by the due date. It’s a lot of fun!
My girls loved the whole process. They even loved going to the post office together to mail it off. It was truly a great way to get us looking more closely outdoors and learning how to identify things in nature. The girls were always coming in from playing in the yard with little treasures to send.
When our package arrived they were so excited! (I was too!) We are still getting out our nature gift from the family in Minnesota. All of the photos in this post are of the lovely package this family sent us. They even sent a wonderful book called “North Woods Girl” that had beautiful pictures. We felt very blessed by them!
So whether you are a homeschool family or not, I highly recommend joining in on this fun! Just follow the Nature Pal instagram feed and when sign ups open they let everyone know there.
Happy nature studying!
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