Tag Archive | natural world

The earth is more important than maths and grammar

Bread in the making!

Pulling out of London on the train recently I love to look upon the back gardens. Behind the terraced streets these little green oases must offer some much needed sanctuary to the wildlife (never mind the humans)!

From the centre of the city, where the soaring icons, office towers and blocks of flats butt up against each other without a scrap of space between, we begin to pass these tiny, tatty back gardens where people are making such a champion effort to provide that sanctuary with what little space they have. And even those rammed in high-rise blocks boast boxes and planters and gardens on rooftops in gallant attempts to create a little natural space where nature can flourish among places covered in concrete. Sometimes it does it on its own and a buddleia protrudes from a wall and weeds grow on sidings. But many Londoners are giving it a helping hand, creating spaces to invite insects, birds and critters we’ll never see to drop in.

When I see these awesome attempts to give nature a welcome I am filled with awe and wonder. And immediately stop taking for granted the abundance of natural space and greenery I have round me where I live now. I grew up in a top storey flat in London so I know what it’s like to be concreted in. I know how precious these few natural oases are. We didn’t have one!

I’m also thinking about the children who live without them now. About the generations of children who never experience countryside. And how they will ever be able to understand the significance of nature and natural science.

From the tiniest miniscule organism, through all the plants and animals, to the largest oldest tree everything has importance in the ecology of the planet. Everything needs a place. And we depend upon it all for our food, for our air, for our survival and that of the planet. And I worry that those children with shuttered, sheltered existences will never have the opportunity to know anything different, will never truly understand that significance, being so far removed from it on their pavement journeys between home and school and their virtual lives of indoor entertainment.

Surely this knowledge and experience is far more essential to an education, will have far more impact on a future, than times tables and grammar? It is imperative. But as kids follow academic curriculum and obedience to indoor culture I wonder how nature will make its impact known.

So I urge all families to help your kids understand the ecology of the earth that is battened down beneath that concrete, understand that it is still what everyone needs for their survival wherever they live, whether they have contact with it or not. Cities and towns have places to go to get down to the earth, they have planters and gardens and parks, and even farms, where that understanding can begin. And failing that you can simply stand in the supermarket by the fruit and veg and ask the question; where does all this come from and what aspects of nature do we depend upon to get it here, from the bees that pollinate, to the insects and leaf matter which make the soil, the animals that fertilise it, to the workers who make it possible. That question will take you on a journey.

The earth may not be under your feet as it is now under mine, but it is just as essential to your life. And it’s essential to every child’s education that they understand that!

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Using nature to talk about mortality with kids

I wonder how the little Guillemot is? 

I think it was a guillemot anyway. It was standing forlornly at the edge of the water so still I thought it was an upstanding stone when I first caught sight of it in the distance. But as I walked nearer I realised it was a little bird. It was bedraggled and saturated and appeared to be shivering.

I guessed it had probably got exhausted and waterlogged. But had managed to come ashore with the tide.

What to do?

Leave it to recover in calm and solitude, or take it somewhere? The stress of being captured can often create further injury or cause them to die of shock anyway.

It was always a dilemma when we found exhausted or injured wild things. They rarely survived as a result of our attentions but the children always wanted to take them home and cosset and cuddle them back to health as we did them! None of which does wild things any good usually but it’s very hard to explain that to a child.

Nestlings were the worst. The children were adamant that they could save them with human ministrations, not understanding that most of them wouldn’t make it – human comforts are rarely what they need.

Living in the country animal fatalities were regularly witnessed. Another corpse in the tideline or a remnant of a fox’s meal, as well as farming, were opportunities for study and discussion and also conversations about the natural course of life.

These events, and the passing of pets, are a good opportunity to talk to kids about these difficult issues – although not difficult really if you make them a natural part of examining life.

More difficult when they’re not talked about and come as a terrible shock.

Mortality is usually conveniently hidden away like a taboo. But it is far better that it is confronted honestly, that children understand about the cycle of life, that we are sad and bereft for some time after losing someone or something, and that this passes, new aspects of life flood in and make us feel better and we survive and move forward.

Children are very matter-of-fact. They deal far better with honest answers than with cover ups. They see through those. They can only trust us if they know we’re honest. That way they’ll believe us when we say that we can recover from grief and loss, rather than thinking this is just another grown up lie.

The loss of pets or things in the wild and natural world provide good opportunities for us to talk about both the living and the passing of life, not in a morbid way. But in a matter-of-fact way with the children. And we shouldn’t shy away from it.

Had little children been with me when I saw the guillemot they would no doubt have wanted to do something about it. But I thought it best to leave it to find itself somewhere quiet to recover as it looked reasonable robust. After I’d had a good look at it – a rare treat to be so close.

But it popped into my mind occasionally throughout the day as I wondered about its fate.

Building skills with the Big Garden Bird Watch

It might be a bit late to get a pack for the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend but it’s never too late to encourage the children to learn about the bird life around them.

Find out more about what to feed your birds at www.rspb.org.uk

Find out more about what to feed your birds at http://www.rspb.org.uk

You might feel you’re not that interested in birds and neither are the children. But there’s more point to it than that.

Doing activities like this encourages the development of the skills children need for science in general.

The snag with the curriculum of science most parents are familiar with through their own experience in school is that you can feel very much removed from it. But the basis of science is quite simple really; it’s based in understanding the world and the things within it. As Albert Einstein famously said; ‘the whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking’. It evolves from there!

And the best place to start is with the things that are relevant to children now, the things they see – birds for example. And bugs. And flowers and plants. And  wondering about things, like what they’re are made of, what materials are used, where they come from, and why – from homes to helicopters to trees. And from these small beginnings their study stretches into the bigger questions like what’s the earth made of, what space is, and bigger aspects of chemistry and physics.

Yet the skills needed to pursue science into more complex subject matter are based right back in activities that are seemingly small and insignificant. Like bird watching for example. For this encourages the children to practice the most fundamental skill of all scientific study – observation.

From there will come other valuable skills like; questioning, identification, hypothesising, language, (through conversations about what they see), analyzing, classification, extended study and understanding how everything relates to each other as well as to them.

So use any opportunity you can to get the kids interested in the world that’s near to them and it will build the skills and understanding needed for when the time comes to study those things that right now seem further removed! The Bird Watch offers such an opportunity.

For more ideas you might also like to explore:

https://www.buglife.org.uk/

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

http://www.froglife.org/

www.rigb.org

 

Merry Christmas!

20161129_070415

A beautiful quiet is laid around the cottage this early pre-dawn time.

I open the curtains and creep back into bed to wait for the light to rise. Watching.

Beyond the steamy panes there’s a glow to the East. Light enough to show me the frost  whitening the field. From the other window the dark still sparkles with stars.

These crisp, clear, quiet dawns always put me in mind of Christmas and fill me up with peace. And love.

May your Christmas be as peaceful and sparkly as a starry sky and your new year as hopeful as a clear and promising dawn.

Merry Christmas.

Acting wild!

20151231_105913Heck it was wild out there at times this weekend. I keep up my daily walk in the wilds even when it’s blowing fit to knock me over.

Yesterday I got a ducking. And the day before I got my cheeks bitten with the stinging cold.

There will be a time I go out there and it’s all soft and gentle and hanging sweet with birdsong.

Doesn’t matter what the weather I always go. Because with all these years of going I’ve learnt the importance; it changes my mood, it gives me inspiration, it keeps my mind and my muscles fit – the heart being the most important one. And besides, despite my complaining and not always wanting to go when it’s a real challenge out there, I know it’s the answer to a sense of holistic wellbeing. You see articles like this about it all the time.

Even though we’ve tried to tidy it all away and ignore it, being out in the natural world is something we naturally need.

We all need it. Me, you, families, kids especially, young, old. Everyone does. We need it to be regular and ongoing. Only then will we reap the benefits. Being shut away from it is affecting our overall and longer term health dramatically.

Which is why the Wildlife Trusts have started a 30 days wild campaign. To get people, especially families, to reconnect with nature. Doesn’t matter where you live, there’s ways to do it even in urban areas.

Check out the link – and sign up for the inspirational pack. And go act a little wild for yourself, each day, and see if it puts you and the children in a healthier frame of mind. You might also find that, not only do you reconnect with nature, you reconnect with each other better too.

Singing of holidays

spring16 003I’ve been editing my new Home Ed book; one just for all those wobbly days when you wonder what the hell you’re doing! It’s to reassure you you’re doing good, because I remember what it’s like when your mind turns deceitful and messes with your confidence. This book is to get it back on track.

I’ve been determined to get it done, it’s a lot of work and I’m that stuck to keyboard I think my fingers now have square ends. And I also get slightly loony when I’ve been shut inside, too still, for too long.

So I’m just a bit desperate to prise bum off chair and get outside; enjoy the Spring delights this weekend even if it is in the rain.

Delights like:

– Rippling Lark song as they sing over their territories and show off to a mate. When did singing stop being a way to show off to a mate? Have you sung to a mate lately? The blackbird is the best at it; I hear him morning and evenings on branches and rooves and TV aerials.

– The perfume of the soil. I guess you don’t often hear soil described as having perfume. But the scent of it turned under the harrows, drying in the Spring winds, is as delectable as the smell of the shore when you roll up at the seaside. I drink it in.

– More light than dark hours in each twenty four, increasing every day till the solstice – fair makes my sap rise! When my sap rises I feel I can achieve anything – bit like the Lark. Even singing.

– The beginnings of buds, blooms and blossom that decorate all natural spaces wherever I go – rural or urban, from the tiniest green jewels on the hawthorn hedges to the blousy buds of the magnolia in town gardens.

This is how I’ll be celebrating this Spring weekend – hope you find some delights too and enjoy yours whatever you’re doing.

Happy holidays!

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!