Backyard Ideas for KidsValerie Mcclintick
Homeschooling shouldn’t mean you are stuck in your schoolroom. The world is full of opportunities and lessons waiting to be learned. We have all heard of the phenomenon of road-schooling and world-schooling where the classroom becomes wherever you are. The possibilities are endless. However, that is not feasible for everyone, nor is it necessary. In fact, you can make the world your classroom right in your own backyard! Here are the best opportunities for backyard learning during each season.
Backyard Learning in all Seasons
Spring has sprung and now summer is here — so have the opportunities for learning. After a long winter, everyone is dying to bask in the sun. So, springtime is the perfect time to start your backyard learning adventure. There is so much to explore and observe. Every day something new is happening. Here are some topics to get you started in outdoor learning:
- Vernal ponds– Hurry, they don’t last long! Vernal ponds are a short lived environment that is teaming with wildlife to explore. So, get your nets and notebooks, let the pond do the teaching.
- Weather-March winds, April showers, and the occasional snowstorm make springtime the perfect classroom for meteorology. Set up a weather station and start learning!
- Birds and nests-During the spring, birds are hard at work building nests and preparing for chicks. Since the leaves are still forming, this is your best opportunity to observe your feathers neighbors.
- Flower life cycles-Flowers are the hallmark of spring. Some come back every year, others only last a couple of seasons. Why is that? Explore perennial vs annual varieties.
- Soil testing and micro-organisms-Do you know what kind of soil you have? This is a great time to test soil, learn about soil types/amendments, and study the tiny organisms that keep soil healthy.
- Seed germination-Last fall, plants dropped their seeds. Maybe you even ordered seeds for spring. What happens when a seed goes into the ground though? Keep a log and do some dissecting to get you started.
- Composting and worm farms-Worms are important for healthy soil and plants. Why not raise your own or simply start a composting pile. It’s an art and a science!
- Color theory-Is there anything as beautiful as the colors of spring? After a drab winter, every shade of the rainbow is bursting forth. Learn more about colors and how they relate to each other.
- Flower pressing and Flower crafts-So, spring doesn’t last forever, but spring flowers can. Learn how to press flower (and which ones cannot be pressed). Then explore crafts and gifts you can make from your treasures.
- Foraging and noxious plants-The plants around your home can be helpful or harmful. Ask an expert to help you identify the friends and foes. Learn about how plants like poison ivy make life difficult.
- Chick life cycles-Does anything say spring like baby chicks? Raise your own chicks, observe a neighbors chicks, or keep an eye on backyard bird chicks.
Learning in Your Backyard over the Summer
Now that the yard has exploded with vegetation and life, your backyard learning opportunities are just getting started. The summer heat provides now chances to explore and learn. Make the most of the opportunities right outside your door. Now, is the time for hands-on and outside the box learning. So, put on your shades and sunblock, here’s what you could learn about this season:
- Insects-Creepy crawlies and bugs abound. Learn how insects help and hurt us, and how to identify them.
- Local wildlife – who’s living in your backyard? Track prints, keep logs, and learn about the neighbors who live outside your home.
- Hummingbirds-These little wonders can be hard to find. Set up a hummingbird feeder and watch them in action.
- Gardening– Gardens are where learning really grows. Math, science, art, and logic all come into play. Learn about growing food, while protecting plants from pests and disease
- Sunflowers-Tons of lessons in a little seed. Watch the flowers follow the sun and study how they grow. Then enjoy a harvest of crisp sunflower seeds in the fall.
- Solar ovens-Too hot to cook? Try building a solar oven and learn how to harvest the power of the sun.
- Water safety-Life lessons are always important. Learning to swim and be safe around the water is a lesson that will keep giving for the rest of your children’s lives.
- Skin health-Between sun, bugs, and poison ivy, your skin may be suffering a bit. How can you keep it healthy and safe while having fun?
- Butterfly and bee preservation-Save the bees and butterflies! We need them to pollinate crops and keep our food supply going. Learn how to provide what pollinators need to survive and thrive.
- Medicinal and culinary herb-So, what’s growing in your garden? Add some spice with herbs that help heal or add bursts of flavor to your favorite meals.
Outside Lessons for Fall
Autumn learning opportunities are ripe for the harvest. The world is changing right before our eyes, so there is so much to explore. Now’s the time to gather up backyard learning and enjoy this bountiful season. If you need some ideas to get going, here’s a list of autumn backyard learning.
- Harvest and preservation-Now that you have been gardening all summer, learn how to harvest and store all your hard work.
- Photosynthesis-Plants are happy to be green. But, why do the leaves change colors. Learn about photosynthesis and the hidden colors of leaves.
- Animals preparing for winter-Remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper? Animals can’t just turn on the heat. How do they get ready to survive the long winter months?
- Tree life cycles-Trees change from season to season. How does the weather affect their growth and production?
- Corn and popcorn-Corn is a staple. How can it be used? What is the history of corn, and how does it affect your backyard and home?
- Leaf identifications-Now that leaves are piling up, it’s time to do some investigation. Get your magnifying glasses and take a closer look. What are the parts of a leaf? Can you identify all the ones that you find?
Winter Learning in Your Backyard
Just because the natural world looks like it’s sleeping, doesn’t mean outdoor learning has to stop. Winter is still a wonderful time to take your homeschooling outside and explore learning opportunities. So, bundle up and dive into these topics:
- Tree identification-Can you identify trees without their leaves? Learn about the silhouettes of trees and how to tell one from another even in the dead of winter.
- Hibernation-Some animals sleep all winter, or at least most of it. How does hibernation work and why do they do it?
- Animal dens and burrows: Speaking of hibernation, where are the animals all winter? Learn about where your furry neighbors are spending their time and see how many you can identify in your own backyard.
- Snow science-Ready, set, let’s experiment with snow. Make your own ice cream, witness the water cycle, and study all the ways snow helps the soil.
- Winter food sources for animals-It might look like everything is dead, but animals still need to eat. What are they eating and how do they survive?
- Igloos -Now that you have had fun playing with and in the snow, learn about how snow is used by humans. Igloos aren’t just fun, they are functional. How have Inuits used snow to protect themselves and provide warmth?