Explore Nature This Summer

Explore Nature This Summer

By Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

It’s summer! That means it’s time to get outside for many families! In summer, more than any other season we think of all the exotic places, interesting historical sites and beautiful beach destinations we can sightsee! We plan for transportation, we make lists and we schedule special tours to explore new sites! It was Richard Louv, the author of Last Child In The Woods and Vitamin-N, that helped me realize, that like many of you, I’m drawn to time in the natural world. This summer, I encourage you to extend your learning at our online school beyond the walls of your home-based classroom into nature!

You may have picked up on my love of nature through several of my previous blog posts where I discuss hanging out in natural surroundings while completing your online school work whether it’s in a hammock, on a bike or at the beach! In fact, having an outdoor classroom or meeting with community group are both wonderful ideas for incorporating Mother Nature into your daily online school routine. I have an outdoor classroom with a picnic table under a pecan tree with an extended range on my home Wi-Fi so that I can teach from the lush setting of my yard with a magnolia tree as the background for my video. I dare you to connect with your environment by setting up an outdoor classroom today.

Travel during the summer is another great way to incorporate nature into your learning experiences and can usually be broken into two categories: local/regional and “the big vacation!” Indeed, both can incorporate nature exploration that extends learning.

I must say, even though we think of summer as travel time–my students tend to travel throughout the entire school year because our program lends itself to the flexibility to extend learning to destinations found in our courses! Whether you travel during the summer or throughout the year, I want you to think about how you can extend learning from your home-based classroom into nature the next time you take a trip with your family.

Locally and regionally, there are usually hundreds of green spaces that are ready for you! Many local parks now offer Wi-Fi; or, you can turn your phone into a hotspot and take your books and a computer along–who knows you may get to go to a battle field, fort or museum that is found in your history course. Try going to http://findyourpark.com/ to find a place near you. Or take a science experiment into the natural world—see if you find rocks while on a hike, then come home and identify them using your science course material under your microscope. Our English courses are filled with authors who have written all over the world—find a story or poem that is set in a natural landscape and read it there to get a better understanding of the authors perspective. Write your next essay while at a local park bench. If the local outdoors are not for you, try going to an art museum and read the location/date of every landscape then place it in a timeline using your art or history course as a guide. You can find ways to be amongst flora, fauna and wildlife while learning at our school!

When planning our “big vacation” trips, we scour the internet for the “perfect destination” that is offered world-wide. This year the US National Park Service is having its centennial celebration this year and has tons of opportunities to engage your family beyond the classroom and it’s open to travelers from all over the world! There is a list below (not exhaustive) of some other countries that have awesome national park systems and are worth exploring.

I encourage you to find some nature, near you or far away that offers your family a chance to look beyond the science, math or history textbook into a world of learning. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for visiting places that offer places to swim, wade and stroll through pristine bodies of undeveloped waters. My personal experiences while working with K12 International Academy have taken me to the Grand Canyon to explore hydrology, Death Valley where I studied dry lake beds and to Yellowstone where I took an in-depth look at geysers.

The nature-classroom connections are boundless–I challenge you to explore! Where are you headed this summer? What sites have you discovered that extend your online classroom to the natural world?

United Nations World Heritage Sites http://whc.unesco.org/

National Parks of Australia http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/national-parks

National Parks of the Amazon in Brazil http://www.brazil.org.za/national-parks-of-the-amazon.html

Canadian National Parks http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/index.aspx

National Parks of Japan: https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/

Korea National Park Service: http://english.knps.or.kr/

South African Nation Parks https://www.sanparks.org/

Swiss National Park Service: http://www.nationalpark.ch/en/

Thai National Parks https://www.thainationalparks.com/

UAE Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve http://www.ddcr.org/en/index.aspx

United Kingdom Parks: http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/

United States National Parks http://findyourpark.com/

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