Educational Outdoor Activities to Build Nature Smarts
Rising temperatures. Melting snow. Crocuses and tulips peeking out of the soil. Spring cleaning. Yard work. Spring fever. Signs of spring can make students and Learning Coaches feel restless. When the sun comes out, take advantage of the opportunity to build nature smarts.
What Are “Nature Smarts”?
The concept of nature smarts comes from naturalistic intelligence, which is part of psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. These intelligences, or strengths, are not fixed like a standard IQ. Each intelligence can grow and develop throughout a person’s life. He or she can build number-logic smarts, body smarts, and other competencies. One way to develop nature smarts is to explore and learn about the world outside the schoolroom windows.
Children who have innate nature smarts enjoy working with nature and studying the environment. Some topics that often interest a budding naturalist include:
- Botany and gardening
- Hiking and camping
- Repurposing and upcycling
Get creative during the spring and summer to find nature-based learning opportunities for your child. It’s easier than you think. Consider the ideas listed below.
Nature Activities for Spring and Summer
These activities will encourage children of all ages to have fun outside.
- Explore nature on a spring field trip.
- Do spring activities and crafts outdoors.
- Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd.
- Try our Leaf Symmetry Craft.
- Make your own fossils in the backyard.
- Stay busy with summer break activities.
You can expand this list with your own ideas.
Teach Your Child Outdoor Chores
The following chores show children how nature affects our habitats. They also teach responsibility!
- Plant a flower or vegetable garden.
- Weed the garden.
- Water plants regularly.
- Harvest delicious fresh foods from the garden.
- Mow the lawn (for older children).
- Collect rocks or create a rock garden.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Pick up twigs and other debris.
Add outdoor chores to the family calendar to stay on track.
Bring the Outdoors Inside
A strong naturalistic intelligence can thrive indoors, too. Some outdoor activities adapt well to an apartment or other indoor environment.
- Grow small pots of herbs for cooking.
- Maintain indoor plants such as spider plants, ivy, and flowers.
- Separate garbage and recyclables.
Critical Thinking: Nature Quotes
Older or more advanced students can discuss these quotes to exercise both their nature and word smarts.
Compare the quotes below. What does each author mean? Which quote do you agree with more, and why?
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”―Gary Snyder
“The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.”―Michael Pollan
“There are two … dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”―Aldo Leopold
Compare the following quotes. In your opinion, which quote gives the best advice? Which one describes you the best?
“The earth has music for those who listen.”―George Santayana
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”―Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”―Rachel Carson
“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.”―Chad Sugg
How do you build nature smarts? Please share your ideas—and your favorite nature quotes!—in the comments.