With many families starting this school year in a way they never imagined, nature studies can fall low on the priority list. However, getting outside and exploring our natural world is a wonderful way to reduce stress and support a love of learning in these difficult times. Whether you have decided to do homeschool, online school, in-person school, or a hybrid option, we have put together a list of nature-rich distance learning and homeschooling resources to get your kiddos learning and having fun in the outdoors.
If you have decided to keep your kiddos home this year or you are hoping to supplement their current education, there are various curriculum options available that integrate nature and the outdoors into the learning experience. For full, nature-rich curriculums that include all main subjects, our Hike it Baby community recommends Blossom and Root, Torchlight, Global Village School, and Earthschooling.
If you are looking to supplement your current distance or homeschool curriculum with more specific subjects, programs such as Wild Math and Supercharged Science have more specialized lesson plans for the math and sciences. In addition, Exploring Nature with Children is a wonderful option for families that wish to bring more nature concepts into their child’s learning experience. For some interesting, unique unit studies, The Waldlock Way offers curriculum units ranging from Bear Grylls Survival Skills for Kids and Studying the National Parks to using the Harry Potter book series to increase literacy and science skills.
Supplemental resources are a great way to get kiddos outside and having fun while they continue to learn. These can help complement your set curriculum and current lessons with nature learning. Here is a shortlist of options to consider:
The National Park Service has done a phenomenal job of putting together programs for kids to learn about what makes the National Park lands special and important. These programs involve completing activities (the number of which usually depends on the child’s age) to earn badges. While completing these activities within the park can enhance the experience, many parks now offer online options so that kiddos can earn badges from the comfort of their own home. The majority of the parks offer this program for free, with a few charging a nominal fee (around $3) for materials.
This digital download provides a practical guide to including nature experiences throughout the year. It combines nature journaling, nature seasonal activities, tracking outdoor time, and more. This handbook is a great option for families that are looking to add the free play and outside time that is lacking from many traditional school settings. The digital download is $25.
If your family enjoys outdoor challenges, the 52 Hike Challenge has come out with a new kid-centered challenge. For this challenge, there is a list of 52 outdoor activities to complete within one year. You can swap out activities that may not be age-appropriate or difficult for your family to accomplish at this time. This challenge is FREE, but you can purchase additional fun stuff such as the 52 Hike Challenge Kids Activity Book Digital Download (which is loaded with fun outdoor activities for $7), patches, and more.
Geocaching or Letterboxing Challenges
Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? Both Geocaching and Letterboxing require you to follow GPS coordinates or a list of clues that lead you to a box hidden on a trail. Inside the box, you will find a wide variety of things from tiny trinkets, a stamp to put on your personal “passport,” postcards, etc. Not only are kiddos getting valuable time outside, but they also learn valuable navigational skills (and direction-following for our younger hikers). You can learn more here: Geocaching: A Search for Treasure on the Trail.
State and Local Parks Programs
Many state and local parks offer fun activities for kids, from letterboxing to scavenger hunts, to activity sheets. You may even discover a park challenge you can complete with your kiddos. The best way to find these activities is to search online or consult your local Hike it Baby community to learn more.
Your Local Library
Last, but definitely not least, check out your local library for surprising resources. Many libraries offer museum, state, zoo, and other passes that you can check out. When they are able, many libraries also offer fun programs, workshops, and guest speakers to help you learn about your local environment and wildlife.
Check out these articles for more resources and fun ideas for utilizing nature in your child’s education:
- 10 Ways to Combine Nature and Virtual Learning
- 13 Books to Help You Bring Nature Into Your Child’s Education
- 9 Diverse Children’s Nature Books to Add to Your Collection
- Bring the Outside in with These Nature-Inspired Activities for Kids
ABOUT HIKE IT BABY
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.