Families in Nature:
Connecting School Children with Nature

by Mark Stevens
Outings in nature are vital for school kids to appreciate nature and make them well rounded in this computer age.
Schools should have science rooms in which children—under adult supervision—can observe plants, animals and elements.
A class walk through the local woods is another great way for children to get to know the local terrain. Interaction with nature should take place at least once a day. This does not mean that the children need to take a field trip every day. Once children are inspired to “see” things in nature, they will be creative on their own in the science classroom and during school recess in the immediate fields surrounding the school.
To inspire children, school events can range from a small hike along a dirt path, on which the ants show off their busy habits, to identifying trees, looking at growth and movement near and in streams—pointing out the flowers, moss and other plants and animals that live on or near them.
A schoolbook that teaches children about nature is good. But the experience is not complete until the kids have smelled and touched the grass, bark, water, mushrooms and insects both in and outside of the classroom.
At the end of a field trip through the woods, it is a special treat for the children to take a break in a picnic area to enjoy some of the local fruits and vegetables. This is a great way to connect boys and girls to the earth.
School children not only learn about nature but they grow their social skills by talking with their classmates and teacher about their new discoveries and observations. Group and team challenges such as crossing a stream together or finding leaves or nuts in the woods necessitate cooperation and communication. This gives the children practical experience and common sense that they can use later in nature and in life in general. 
Observing nature takes a fair share of patience as well. To see the habits of birds and squirrels, it is important to be quiet and observant. To wait for a gopher to come out of its hole might often necessitate too much patience. In such situations a bit of luck is involved. But the more knowledge kids gain, the more likely they will get in tune with the animals’ habits, such as the feeding time when the animals are more likely to come out and “play.”
Climbing and building outdoors help kids learn about the elements of nature such as sand and stone. Hiking and climbing promote physical fitness. Building with the elements helps advance scientific knowledge to better understand the text in schoolbooks and maybe even inspire the next generation forest rangers and architects. A nighttime outing under the stars can literally open new worlds for school children.
Schools can help educate children in nature, so that our next generation can not only appreciate but also better manage the elements of this small world.
luisas natureAbout the author:
Families in Nature is written by Mark J. Stevens, author of LUISA'S NATURE (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Spring 2008). Mark is a news journalist currently working in Europe. Fluent in French, Spanish, and German, he has enjoyed extensive travel much of his life. Shaped by the rural New Jersey setting of his youth, Mark continues to explore the richness of nature with his wife and two children on the outskirts of Munich, Germany. He also belongs to several parenting and nature organizations in the U.S. and Europe. For more information, visit www.luisasnature.com.