It may be hot outside, but that doesn't mean that nature is taking a holiday. Despite what may appear to be Mother Nature's laziest season, there are all kinds of things, plants and wildlife that are busy and active right through the summer. You can learn and see for yourself all sorts of fascinating things that may be going on right under your nose!
This activity is best done either in the early morning or later afternoon, outside the hottest part of the day which is generally between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. You will need a notebook, to write down your observations, hand lens and binoculars if you choose, and sturdy walking shoes.
Start your walk by getting loose with a series of animal pantomimes. Hop like a frog, duck walk in a circle, flap your arms like a bird. Be creative when coming up with movements. You can even incorporate Simon Says into it.
"Simon says scratch your belly like a monkey. Simon says to pounce like a cat." You get the idea.
Once everyone has loosened up, the pure silliness of it should have smiles on everyone's faces. Now it is time to walk.
As you walk take careful notice of sounds. Is that a frog, a cricket or a bird? How can you tell. Kids can write down what they hear and what they think makes the sound and then check online for their answers later on. Practice repeating the sounds you hear, you may just get a response!
For little children you can continue the Simon Says into the walk, having them twirl like a leaf, waddle like a penguin, slither like a snake or creep like a sloth. To help them learn, you can use specific animals from your region, and explain what each might be doing during the warm summer months. Are the birds feeding young, the bears getting fat on berries and fish to prepare for winter?
You can use the hand lens to show how ants and other insects continue to stay busy, building their homes and carrying food to their queen or young. Binoculars will help you to spot birds high in the trees. Try to learn the sounds they make and write down which birds appear to be making the sounds.
If you live near a creek or a pond you can see all sorts of wildlife that manage to stay busy during summer. You may see turtles, fish leaping into the air to catch insects, birds dining on fish and bugs and frogs.
By the time you have finished your walk you should have lots of observations written down. If you want to make a habit of the walks, you can have kids create a nature journal where they write down what they see and what they think about what they learn. In time as you become more familiar with your area kids can draw maps and come up with new routes, designating on the maps where certain animals can be found, certain sounds heard. This becomes a great way to learn about your region.
Older kids can use nature journals to create a scavenger hunt for the whole family. draw a map or create a list of things, sounds to hear, plants to find, animal activity...this is fun for kids and parents alike.
Remember to enjoy the outdoors safely. Use sunscreen, bug spray and make sure you know what poison ivy looks like so you can avoid it. If you are walking in the woods check yourself for ticks when you return home.
Have fun out there!