Learning with Nature – Reflections, Thoughts & Reviews

“This book offers a chance to the youth of today and the nature of tomorrow. It has a wealth of structured, tried and tested projects, ideas and games all designed to allow children to breathe fresh air and engage personally with a real world where their minds and bodies can develop and bloom, burst into life and inspire them to love life.”
Chris Packham, BBC

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“This wonderful new book aims to connect children with nature. Through a broad range of outdoor activities and games, young people are encouraged to engage their senses and interact with nature. This not only leads to a better understanding of the natural world but can also contribute to much broader agendas such as personal and social development.

 

Most importantly, the activities are fun. It is through enjoyment and understanding that people will want to conserve and care for their environment and so I encourage everyone to give the book a try.”
Andy Naylor, John Muir Award England Manager

“Whether you are a parent or educator, Learning with Nature is full of ideas for fun in the great outdoors. It caters for children and young people of all ages and abilities – and comes with clear instructions and illustrations. So grab a copy, get your boots on, fill your backpack and head to your nearest wild (or not so wild) space for some playful adventures.”
Tim Gill, Author of No Fear: Growing Up In A Risk Averse Society

Learning with Nature, special offer available now!
“Learning with Nature is fittingly described as “A how-to guide to inspiring children through outdoor games and activities”. Featuring a foreword from Chris Packham, the book is packed with dozens of activities and games as well as survival skills and a brief note on looking after nature. The activities, some of which are split by season, are varied and suitable for families of all sizes.

 

We especially enjoyed the Walnut Boats activity and the Swallow Migration activity, which involves children simulating the epic journey swallows make with their own home-made birds.

The games section of the book is perfect for youth groups or schools, as the majority of games require 4 or more children to play and many are suitable for groups of 8 or larger.
Learning with Nature is an excellent resource for youth groups or schools looking for some inspiring ideas for outdoor pursuits. In terms of activities, the book is great for families, though some of the games will require your children’s friends to come along!”
Farming & Countryside Education (FACE)

“Beautifully presented as a ‘how-to’ guide to inspire children, Learning with Nature is aimed at families, schools, youth groups and anyone working with children. The activities are suitable for ages 3 to 16 and will help develop practical skills, awareness and respect for the natural world. An initial flick through reveals great images and a layout of activities that is easy to follow.
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The introduction gives context in the form of an intriguing diagram showing an ‘extinction of experience’ revealed by the decline in roaming radius from home of 8 year olds from the 1920s (6 miles) to 2007 (700 yards), followed by the benefits of increased time in nature.

 

There’s also advice on how to make the most of the book through the art of questioning to nurture curiosity, and a section on Looking after Nature which sets out the interplay between nature and people to allow both to flourish. I was thinking hard before I got to the activities!

The activities are set out in 4 themes: games, naturalist, seasonal and survival skills. There’s a large range and each activity has clear advice on resources needed (often none, which I like), number of people, age, duration and how to do it. A note on variations and links to similar or complimentary activities is helpful. A side box titled Invisible Learning gives an idea of what we might expect when using the activity, advice I found either reinforced my own ideas or alerted me to new possibilities.

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If the book lacks anything it’s the benefits of using the outdoors from a formal education perspective. However I think those working in this context will easily recognise ways of using these activities in their work. This book is much more than a collection of great activities. It has an aim we can all buy into to forge “a heartfelt relationship [with nature] that will renew and inform our culture, creating love and respect for the natural world.”

 

 

This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and youth leaders alike looking to inspire young people with nature. Get a copy and head outdoors!”
Graham Watson, John Muir Award Cumbria Manager

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“I picked this book up thinking that it would be another ‘nice to have but probably not essential’ addition to our Learning through Landscapes library. I glanced briefly at the introduction expecting to be presented with the usual list of academics’ justifications of why learning and playing outside is good, quoting myriad obscure references with long names and concepts that mean little when you are thinking – ‘shall we go outside today to do something?’. I was very pleasantly surprised indeed.

 

The book has clearly been written by people who have their own clear, well developed and straightforward understanding of why challenging, fun and educational activities in the outdoors are not only good, they are essential, enjoyable and inspirational.

Simple concepts presented in beautifully illustrated pages in a very non-patronising style. For example – there are assumptions made that practitioners already know how to make things like bread dough and if they don’t, they can easily look it up – we don’t want to spend money on a book that tells us how to make dough – we want to spend money on a book that takes bread dough outside for an interesting experience. This book does that. I have to confess I went completely off task at one point as I was trying to remember if I had any essential oils hanging around so I could try sniff-tracking with them or if we had any suitably shaped wood for the burning bowls.

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Many of these ideas are new or are presented in a new context which is a refreshing change from reading about 50 things I was doing ten years ago with children. Many of them use risk and adventure as vehicles for effective experiential learning meaning that these activities will appeal to older children as well as the younger ones and indeed many adults.  I can see these activities turning up in LTL training sessions.

Some activities will need to be delivered by people who have experience of the safe handling of tools such as bow-saws and palm drills. Others can be safely delivered by anyone who can be trusted with a spot of clay or some melted candle-wax.

Not all of the activities require resources or tools at all. Some make new games out of old concepts, others do require specific items but these are generally not hard to source. The language of the book is gentle and thoughtful, we are asked to harvest sticks of wood ‘respectfully’, one activity refers to the ‘heartbeat of a cow’. A bug hotel suggests that we make ‘diverse rooms for the insects’ rather like some sort of more boutique or art-house style bug hotel, a cut above your cheaper end motel. The references to invisible learning ensure that no activity fails to hold its own and everything can contribute to effective teaching and learning. The book has a sense of a refined collection to it not a random gathering of ideas. My over-whelming feeling when looking through the ideas is that I really, really want to try some of these. Some of the artistic creations are very beautiful.

And if I am this excited about it then I am sure others will be too. Be nice to yourself – invest in this harvest of ideas, it’s actually really worth it. Isn’t it time you got out more?” Juno Hollyhock, Executive Director, Learning through Landscapes

“By my bed I have a pile of books I dip into every now and then for a bit of inspiration. This book is now top of my pile; a must have resource for outdoor fun. Learning with Nature is full of activities, games to get children outside, keep them motivated and most importantly of all having fun. The book is split up into sections covering games, nature activities, seasonal activities and survival skills. The book is straightforward to navigate and gets the right balance of pictures and text, which can be all too often overlooked in books. This book gets in just right. The information is uncomplicated to follow and easy to digest, with top tips and interesting facts throughout the book.

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The activities are well structured, though some of the activities work best with groups, but can be adapted for the family. I like the extra  information provided on what’s being learnt and provides some inspiration on questions you can ask your child to enhance their learning. We decided to try out a few of the activities.

 

We had a great fun trying out these activities on a woodland walk and enhanced a walk into something much more exciting and educational for the children.”
Shell, Get Out with the Kids

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