“It is in nature, among the things which God has created, designed and brought forth himself, that we are in the most natural atmosphere to be inspired. Creative ideas are apt to flow in the midst of the creativity expressed in God’s creation, as one is temporarily from the confusion of conflicting voices…”
This quote, by Edith Schaeffer in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, expresses the value of nature study as a family activity. Her basic premise is that through experiences in nature, children develop creative skills that cross all educational parameters. Time spent in nature results in creative children! Nature stimulates creativity, refreshes one’s ideas, and stirs productivity. And it all simply ‘happens’ without specific energy and instruction on the part of the teaching-parent.
The best way to get out into nature is by using your own two feet! Nature study differs from recreation in the great outdoors. Motorboats, jet skis, ATV’s, and motorcycles might be great tools for exercise and recreation, but when it comes to studying the natural world, a good pair of walking shoes and ample energy are the best resources. Observation happens best during quiet times like a walk in the woods, a hike through the field, or barefoot on a sandy beach. Tools, like a walking stick, binoculars, magnifying glasses, a zip-lock bag to gather things in, a camera, and field guides can all work together to enhance observation. Studies and inside chores for long time-spans in the day can result in restless children. But, in nature even the tired become refreshed. Stress and fatigue dissipates and perspectives change. Time in nature heals weary hearts.
With gentle and quiet guidance, a teacher-parent can direct children to creative ventures that result from time spent in nature. Nature’s color schemes can be used to study the color wheel. Primary and secondary colors are all around in every type of landscape. Principles of design can be studied by observing how God used balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and unity in His creation of the earth. Ideas for writing a story, verse, or poem are readily found through nature study. One of my sons once wrote a sweet poem about raccoons after an evening observing them. Subject matter for sketching and watercolor is found in woodland and field. Collecting objects and organizing them into sets and then counting, adding, and subtracting from them helps develop math skills and apply it to real life. Driftwood, pine cones, and seed pods can be fashioned into marvelous sculptures for a spontaneous art project. The ways nature can be used to enhance learning is endless! Best of all, time in nature allows for parent and child to spend time in deep communication with God. Through nature He speaks to our hearts and minds in gentle ways that develop character’s and a generous spirit.
God’s universe, His creation, is personal, alive, vibrant, and ever-changing. By spending time in nature with our children, we foster creativity and appreciation for the Earth and all of the creatures therein. Education, in it’s highest sense, is gained as we spend time with our children enjoying all it shares with us. Through nature individuals gain an understanding of an infinite God and all of His glorious works!