The best classroom in the world is available to everyone. It costs nothing, and is open all year round. Applied properly, the great outdoors offers perspective and life lessons. All you have to do is show up.
Getting Close To Nature
My kids and I are perfecting the art of bogging. It's really very simple. To bog, one leaves home equipped with rubber boots or aqua socks. You will want bug nets and boxes. That will cost you $4 from the dollar store, so budget accordingly. Obviously standard clothing (pants and a shirt) is required as well.
Next seek out a local conservation area or park. Even country roadsides can work. Use common sense. Think nature. Commence walking, getting dirty and wet, explore and see what you can find. Pursue, capture, tally, then release anything that fits in your bug boxes. Watch the knowledge add up.
Your kids will learn there is nothing to fear about being outdoors and close to nature. They will learn that it's better to learn and discover, than to worry about what they look like or whether their pants are wet. They will learn that springtime mud can suck a rubber boot off your foot faster than you can say squelch.
You will learn, too. I can more easily draw my kids into conversation when we are ambling along a forest trail than I can at home with the phone ringing, lawn growing and laundry piling up. I never see more clearly than when we are exploring, that children do as they see. When I have no trepidation about picking up a frog or a crayfish, and show genuine excitement about the little wonders that abound on our hikes, my kids are watching. Now they point things out, pick things up. They look forward to bogging and have been proud to show friends our favourite bogging spot.
Our Planet Needs Their Help
Our kids are being handed a planet that looks like a club the morning after a rave. She's tired and dingy, there's damage we can't see with a quick glance. It rests on us to teach the next generation how to live with less impact on earth's resources. Taking our kids out and letting them get up close and dirty with nature equips them with respect and awareness about the importance of conservation and moderation. It teaches them confidence and life skills like spring time water safety and paying attention to where you're putting your feet.
My daughter has started a new tradition when we go bogging. She happily walks out past the top of her boots. It's not that she hasn't learned the water will fill her boots and make gigantic sucking noises when she walks. It's that she likes it. She likes when we hang on to each other and lift each foot so the water pours out of our boots. She likes that she then peels off sodden socks, which are often thrown out for being so black and destroyed. Maybe factor that into your bogging budget. I have found it worth a couple pairs of socks to teach my kids about nature.
A final note: of course when bogging we leave only footprints behind. Naturally.