20 Nature Aware Winter Family Activities and Insights

SUGGESTED WINTER  ACTIVITIES For the WHOLE FAMILY

Why would anyone go outside when it is cold? It’s fun, interesting, relaxing, great exercise, fun to share. There is no such thing as bad weather, only not dressed properly for the weather!  Put aside your technology and tune into Nature with all of your senses while walking in an urban park or in the woods. With the leaves missing there is a whole new landscape to discover.

  1. Take deep breaths to smell the air in different places to become more aware of your surroundings. You may be surprised by the variety of smells. Try to identify the sources of the smells.
  2. Enjoy the sounds of silence interrupted by nature sounds like rustling leaves, falling water, birds, and chattering squirrels. Pause breathe deeply and enjoy!
  3. Look up for bird and squirrel nests among winter branches. Clumps of leaves wedged high in the tree branches are squirrel homes. Look for finely woven nests in bushes and trees.
  4. Admire the myriad shapes and heights of trees, many varieties with distinctive silhouettes.
  5. Imagine how these huge structures are supported by tiny fibrous roots wrapped around soil particles and occasionally rocks, often defying gravity by their lean in a single direction. (engineering feats!) Look for trees that defy gravity by their lean!
  6. What kinds of leaves and nuts do you see on the ground? What can you name?
  7. Become more aware of the weather by noting wind direction, velocity, changing temperatures, cloud shapes and become a weather predictor rather than depending on your weather app.
  8. Watch snow falling, sometimes driven, sometimes dancing, other times fluttering, tiny flakes, huge clusters of flakes (Watch outside or from inside!) (I love watching the snow fall – so relaxing especially if clusters of flakes are lazy, and dance in all directions.) Did you know that snow flakes float up some of the time? 
  9. Eskimos have about 50 names for different kinds of snow. How many english words for snow can you name?
  10. Walk together when it is snowing to experience different kinds of snow – lightly falling snow, driving snow, icy snow and more. How does each kind feel on your face? What impact would it have on local wildlife? 
  11. Note the shapes and patterns (opposite or alternate) of different kinds of tree buds. How many can you identify? Keep watching until spring when they burst into leaf or check a guide book.
  12. Catch snowflakes on your tongue and marvel how far those frozen drops of moisture have travelled through time. 
  13. Enjoy the beautiful patterns of ice on puddles and at water edges
  14. Notice the variety of shapes of weeds in winter. How many can you name? You may see milkweed pods or goldenrod.
  15. Notice maple sap icicles hanging from branches. Throw snowballs to knock them down and enjoy maple sap stalactite popsicles!
  16. Learn to identify several bird species with a guidebook or knowledgeable walking companion.
  17. Make snow angels together ( Fall back on the snow and move your arms and legs to create a snow angel imprint in the snow!)
  18. In winter cut branches of several kinds of deciduous trees. Make a fresh cut with a sharp knife and place stems in a vase filled with warm water. Place in a sunny area and watch leaves and often flowers unfold in your living room in January February March. Try apple, dogwood, maple, willow, tamarack or whatever is available. 
  19. Make learning about Nature not just a science class activity but a lifelong journey. Grow your curiosity about, for example, how trees work, and where does the rain come from.
  20. More Nature knowledge helps you make more earth friendly choices.

Join nature and trail organizations to learn more about Nature wherever you are.

JoAnne Fleming is a dynamic speaker and facilitator who passionately shares Environmental Insights.

Changing How People See Their Choices.

EnvironmentalInsights.com

joanne@environmentalinsights.com

Celebrate a Dandelion Spring

Canned, frozen and fresh dandelion greens are available at some of your grocery stores. Dandelion seeds are offered in some seed catalogues. Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine sells more than 700 pounds of dandelion seeds each year. Considering a single round dandelion puff may contain 200 seeds, each with its own wings, that is a LOT of dandelion plants to add to a world obsessed with getting rid of dandelions.

So why would we want to get rid of them? Not everyone does. For centuries, people have used dandelions for medicinal and culinary uses. According to herbalists, dandelions have more medicinal and nutritional properties than any other single plant on earth. For some people, they are plants of last resort to provide nutrition and medicines during times of scarcity, depression or war. Yet people spend billions of dollars trying to get rid of them at great hazard to people, pets and ecosystems. Instead of listening to advertising that tells you how offensive they are you could change how you see them.

Fresh dandelion leaves collected in the early spring before the flowers show colour, are the mildest tasting, served steamed or in a salad. Yet, flowers, leaves, and roots offer endless possibilities for the creative cook or natural healer. With unusually high levels of Vitamin A , it is a cost effective supplement. Look carefully at the leaves in a package of mixed salad greens and dandelions will likely be present.

By changing how you see dandelions, not as a weed but healthy and useful, you have eliminated a ‘problem.’ There is no need to get rid of them from your lawn, you save money not purchasing weed control products and services, and you have reduced the toxic hazards to your family and pets. The first sunny dandelion faces remind us spring has arrived at last. It is so much easier to just appreciate them!

Welcome to My Nature Centered Blog

June 23, 2018

Welcome to ‘Nature Centered’, a Blog to share my excitement about the amazing beauty, magic, mysteries and myriad interconnections of Nature. I hope that each posting will grow your awareness of Natures amazing systems that make all life possible.

You may feel disconnected from Nature when you live in urban areas. Yet Nature surrounds you wherever you are. The O2 you breath was created by photosynthesis in leaves of trees, and seaweed. The furniture you sit on is usually made of wood from trees. When you gaze out a window you are looking through sand that has been heated at very high temperatures to create a liquid. The asphalt roads and walkways you walk, cycle and drive on were made from the waste from refining crude oil and mixed with sand gravel and crushed stone. The crude oil was made from trees and vegetation under great pressure for millions of years. All of these materials were created by Nature.

Spring! Have you noticed what has happened in the past month. In my corner of the world in Canada on the south shore of Georgian Bay, our world has transformed from bare branches to masses of green leaves everywhere. The tree buds for flowers and leaves were formed last summer, endured the long cold winter, and waited until they got the spring signals. The messages of the rising sap, more light with longer days, and warming temperature work their magic. Life is bursting everywhere in a million shades of green!

For weeks I could feel the anticipation of leaves and flowers about to burst. I could see deep into the woods at the side of the road with no leaves, then a very fine green lace of tiny new leaves, then suddenly one morning great change. The leaves were full size and the inner woods was no longer visible.

Imagine large maple and oak trees capable of creating 200,000 leaves that burst into full size within a few days. Each is a mini bio-degradable solar panel that will shift with the rotating earth to maximize continuous exposure to the sun yet allow leaves around them access to the sun too. This is cooperation on a level we humans could learn a lesson or two.

Imagine being the event planner for spring and all that must align for Spring to happen. Earth must move closer to the sun on its elliptical path around the sun to bring warmth. That warmth thaws the snow and frozen ground, releases the activity of billions of organisms and chemical reactions in the soil and activates activity to make moisture and nutrients available to the countless roots hidden from our sight of trees to the tiniest plants

On our Nature Centred journey together I invite you to look at the seemingly familiar in new ways. I invite you to see with new eyes. The sun is not really rising in the morning. The speed at which the sun appears to be rising is really the speed at which planet earth is rotating every day.To improve the health of Nature we must see and better understand what is happening around us. Take the time to notice and appreciate the nuances of the changing seasons, the sound of birds, the sight of the our turning planet. When we are more aware we can make better choices.