This week my daughter is spending her days in the forest. She is attending the Wild Art and Creations camp. She is climbing trees, digging in clay and exploring in the woods. The first day she helped dig a latrine and then avoided using it as long as possible. She is learning to whittle and generally having a great time. I know this because she is pretty dirty and scratched up at the end of every day and wearing a great big grin on her face.
There are two more camps this summer with space available
- Farm & Forest (July 18 -22)
- Spirit of Nature (July 25 -29
Earth Path also offers summer camps outside of their partnership with Nature Connections. All of their summer camps this year are full.
They do however have fall programs available
Get the Kids Outside
Nature Connections and Earth Path share very similar philosophies when it comes to their programming. It is all about getting outside and getting kids connected to nature. They provide opportunities for kids to explore, discover and learn from and about nature. They focus on giving kids the freedom to take calculated risk and build confidence through their explorations.
So many of our kids live highly structured lives, often within structured spaces like schools and all of the various educational activities we sign them up for. Nature Connections and Earth Path both believe in the importance of kids getting hands on experience with nature and learning together. They see nature as a teaching assistant providing opportunities for teachable moments all the time.
Nature Education Tips for Parents
If you don’t live in eastern Ontario and you can’t access the excellent opportunities available through Nature Connections and Earth Path, they have some tips on how you can take advantage of the educational opportunities presented by the natural environments all around us.
This might seem self-explanatory if you are going to do nature education. Since it is hard to do when you are inside. We and our kids are spending increasing amounts of time in front of screens and often with more than one screen on the go at a time. The average Canadian consumed 70 hours a week of digital and traditional media. I know with my kids it is hard to fight against the lure of the iPad and / Netflix.
You don’t need a national park in your backyard to find nature. It is all around us and setting time every day or every week to explore can make a difference.
Discover your world
Your backyard or local park offers a whole world of discovery for kids. Grab a magnifying glass and check out the plants and bugs, leaves and blades of grass. Get down on your hands and knees with your kids and examine everything you see. Let your kids guide the way to what they want to explore. Be excited about what you find and draw your kids in to the discoveries with your enthusiasm.
Get down on your hands and knees with your kids and examine everything you find in your backyard.Click To Tweet
Sit and Observe
Find a good place to sit and observe nature on a regular basis. Establish a sitting place or a few sitting places where you and your kids can observe what is happening in front of you. For example, I live in a large city and yet our backyard is home to birds, squirrels, groundhogs, bees and a thoroughfare for a local skunk. I can sit on my back step with my toddler and she will spot every creature that enters her line of vision. She will tell me about them all, even the ones that I can’t see. Places to watch and observe give you opportunities to talk about what you see together.
Don’t Answer All the Questions
Sometimes it is better to say I don’t know in response to a question. Then you can say; “let’s go and find out.” Research online and in field guides. Compare images of birds that are similar to the one your child saw that triggered a question of “what kind of bird is that?” We don’t have to know all the answers. Exploration together is a great learning opportunity – for both of you.
If you are in the Ottawa area, check out the Nature Connections and Earth Path camps this summer and programming throughout the year. My seven year old has loved every day of her experience so far this week and I think she is going to be quite disappointed when it comes to an end.
Disclosure: While I was not financially compensated for this post, my daughter was provided with a free week of Wild Art & Creations Camp as an exchange.