Monthly Archives: October 2016

Studying Nature Through Observation

Young boy exploring nature in a meadow with a magnifying glass looking for insects

Environmental science is a multi-discipline subject covering aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, soil science, geology, geography, ecology and more. Environmental science can be summarised as the study of our natural environment and its interactions, including the impact of humans on that environment. So, how do you study nature? There are so many topics and subtopics to consider that everyone can usually identify some aspect of environmental science that is of interest to them.

Let us begin with children – they have a natural curiosity which should be encouraged along with respect for their environment and living creatures. There can be a steep learning curve e.g. you pull a cat’s tail often enough and it will scratch you, likewise stick your hand in a beehive or ants nest and you’ll likely be stung or bitten! Also, children can be cruel by accident – they will gently pick up a butterfly or ladybird to show you and unfortunately damage its wings so it then can’t fly. So, perhaps teaching children how to study nature through observation is the way forward. You can learn a lot about nature by sitting and watching, especially in a garden, park, by a river or down at the coast. So arm yourself and your kids with a container and a magnifying lens and off you go on nature walks. Handy items to take with you are a notepad and pen for making sketches, writing notes etc of the animals or plants that you see. A nature study book is useful too, in order to teach children how to use keys to identify different species.

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Discipline Strengths and Problems For Nature-Smart Children

82Discipline isn’t a huge problem for most nature-smart children. Their behavior probably depends on which other intelligence strengths they rely on. Nature-smart children think in patterns and are usually able to compare and contrast easily.

Nature-smart children usually enjoy collecting things according to shape, design, and texture. There may be times when this becomes a problem. Have you had students who insist on lining up all their crayons in a certain way? Do they organize and reorganize their books and folders? Do they seem to get distracted by the texture of their sweater? Do they prefer pens with a certain texture?

These habits and preferences aren’t necessarily “bad.” They can become a problem when they’re taken to the extreme or they interfere with children’s abilities to concentrate. Perhaps understanding their root in their nature-smart strengths will help you talk with kids about their behavior and your concerns.

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Nature Versus Nurture Debate and Children

81I must admit it really saddens me when I hear a parent saying their child is like them or a particular relative, if the child cannot perform a task or do a specific thing. You know what I mean? ‘I was never any good at maths and so little Johnny will also not be good at math. That explains his poor math grades and the fact that he cannot remember his times tables.’

How untrue this is. There are many explanations as to why a child cannot do a given task or activity and most of the time it is not down to nurture more a case of nature. What is nature versus nurture debate? This debate argues that humans behave in a certain way due to environmental factors (nurture) whilst other scientist believe it is due to genetics or our animal instincts (nature). I believe it is a combination of both.

However, given the right resources most children can do most activities and learn all topics of a given subject. It is a matter of how they are nurtured to learn and not if they can ever learn it. If a family member constantly states that a child is unable to do a given task – due to the nature of that child and some genetic dysfunction, then it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Most children are intelligent enough to understand these conversations and the connotations of them. Basically, they know it means that they are not expected to do well and so what is the point of trying as, ‘if Dad can’t do it, how can I possibly do it?’

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How To Teach Children To Respect Nature

80The first step in getting any child interested in nature is to educate them about the world around them. Take nature walks and visit local places of interest, then take time to look at the varied flora and fauna around you. This is a great opportunity to learn together: even if you do not know the name of a particular plant or bird, there are many excellent color illustrated guides available. These types of field book are excellent for identifying different species throughout the season. Ensure that all children are aware that there are some plants and animals which can cause harm, so never to touch, pick or eat any plant they find (unless you know it is OK) and do not disturb animals unnecessarily.

Experiences in nature are unforgettable and will build a child’s respect for their environment. For really exciting moments which will stay with your youngster for ever, try early morning or evening walks at a local nature reserve- these are times when birds and animals are on the move- for a child to see a fox and her cubs at play or an eagle gliding through the sky can be inspiring.

Learn about techniques for moving quietly and being aware of your surroundings to aid you in spotting creatures. One technique which can help kids really connect to nature by quietly sitting in a glade or field and closing your eyes. The aim is to listen to all the different sounds- can they hear a babbling brook, a lark singing, a mouse moving through the grass nearby?

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Why Children Love Dirt

79It is a question that many parents have asked themselves: “Why does my child love playing with dirt?” One plain and simple answer may be: children love the way dirt smells and feels.

Another down to earth answer could be: children play with dirt because as an element very close to the composition of their very own bodies, they are instinctively attracted to it.

Builds Immune System

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