- Baths: splashing, floating, dropping things in the water, kicking, and more.
- Food: smearing it, fingering it, smelling it, wiping it on one's face, and sometimes, eating it.
- Dropping things, over and over and over and over and over and over and over....
- Throwing things over and over and over and over and over
- Bumping into things.
- Getting hurt sometimes.
- Exploring, crawling in and out of cupboards and closets and losing things under the couch and feeling things - sharp things, soft things, pointed things, round things, angular things, faces, hands, puppies, water, ice, things that squish and things that don't, things that are smooth or gritty, silky or prickly and more besides.
- Outdoor play in the wild- not on equipment at a sterile park, but play with mud puddles, ponds, dirt, trees, and the risk of skinned knees, bug bites, and splinters. Play transitions into noticing- listening- smelling- seeing- feeling- wondering. "Oh, look at this caterpillar! I love that colour. I wonder what it those bits that stick out are for?" "Wow, this weed looks beautiful, but it stinks. I wonder why it smells?" "See those tracks in the mud by the creek! I wonder what made them? Do they remind you of anything? They kind of look like two crescent moons to me. Let's look these up when we go back home."
- You'll transition to sketching, and let me stress here that it does not matter that you cannot draw, that you hate to draw. The goal here is not to produce lovely drawings (it's nice if you can, bonus! But that's NOT THE POINT!). No, all you are trying to do is two things:
- ~Produce enough of a rough draft to serve as a reminder of what you saw to help you look it up later.
- ~ Notice details. Try it and see. Pick any two objects on your next nature exploratory, the leaves of two houseplants if you need to, or slice two different fruits into a cross section and sketch one, and take a photograph of the other to put in your nature journal. Set them aside. A week later think about them, compare, write a description from memory. Look at them and write a description. See which one has resulted in clearer, more detailed recollection *in your mind.*
There is a deep, important relationship, a connection (or multiple connections) made in the brain that happens when you combine these experiences- seeing something wonderful, experiencing awe, wonder, curiosity, and then reprocessing that by recording it (by hand, not machine!) and putting it into words, words on paper, words you exchange with others- your kids, your parents, your classmates.
I was in the sixth grade and we had a series of science assignments where we had to find short little science experiments or demonstrations to present to the class, and also write about them and give our written work to the teacher. Each part of the assignment was half the grade for the assignment, which was a substantial portion of our class grade. They could be very, very simple, but we had to write at least a paragraph about what we'd done. It isn't really science, said our teacher, until you've communicated about it. One could nitpick the finer points of that, but essentially, he was right.
- Outdoor play, and lots of it, followed by first informal and later some more formal Nature study is building an important foundation for later formal science. Your child is stocking his mind with an incredible collection of real, concrete experiences with the physical world and how it works. These experiences are vital to a later conceptual understanding, to the later ability to translate those experiences into the abstract concepts he learns of. IT will enable him to more accurately hypothesize and predict results.You want "to stimulate observation and to excite a living and lasting
interest in the world that lies about us" (Home Education by Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 of her 6 volume series, p. 267) Miss Mason is quoting Edward Holden, author of The Sciences there. Nobody has any business asking 'but what about STEM' if they haven't been out in the great outdoors getting gloriously dirty- the outdoors can be your backyard, the neighbor's yard, the empty lot up the road, the back corner of a park, a 3rd story balcony with a variety of potted plants, possibly a bird feeder, and inside a goldfish bowl with a water snail and a couple water weeds to observe.
While the science is important, as is the appreciation of the natural world, we actually are also looking for something more, something deeper- a type of sanity, common sense, and level headed approach to life which flourishes best in minds and hearts which regularly have the cobwebs brushed away by time in the natural world contemplating a larger world and the Creator who formed it.
In the Parents Review article "The value of Scientific
Training", Prof. J. Logan Lobley says:
"So wondrous, too, are the revelations of natural science in opening to the view illimitable fields of knowledge, that instead of generating conceit or hateful priggishness in the youthful student, they suffuse the spirit with awe and reverence for the majesty of the universe, and modesty and humbleness from the consciousness of the little that is known and the boundless extent of the unknown.
With the increase of the habit of observation comes an increase of the power of observation, that is, in fact, the power of accurate observation. More is seen, and the ability to discriminate between similar objects rapidly develops. Use of the power increases the power, even as the muscles of the body are developed by their frequent employment.
Beyond this development of the observing and discriminating powers, which is most valuable in itself, thought, consideration, deduction, and analytical and synthetical mental processes, are begotten, encouraged, and developed, with the result that mental activity becomes usual and normal instead of being merely occasional and abnormal. Thus the mind is both fed and stimulated, developed, strengthened, and enlivened, its range of vision is vastly enlarged, and its activities largely increased. It is consequently less liable to be unduly influenced by those small considerations and allurements that in so many cases most injuriously and sometimes disastrously affect the life."
Nature study, outdoor time, is absolutely unconditionally, irrefutably valuable for building up the foundation for future science learning. IT's also good for the soul.
It is not that nature is some minor deity. It's not magic, it's not a replacement for other things (teaching, heart, the Holy Spirit, a relationship with God)- but it is a tool, and a highly effective one, for resting the fractious soul, renewing vigor, strengthening the will, building relationships both God-ward and with other people, for informing the conscience. A child who has spent some time really observing an ant hill and watching them work, who has watched a nest from building season to hatching season and beyond, who has put food in a bird feeder and filled the bird bath regularly is less likely to be a child who cannot put himself in the place of creatures smaller and weaker than himself, less likely to be a carelessly cruel child (this happens over time, don't despair of your small 3 year old psychopath who stomps on caterpillars).
There's a Reason for this.
- I will look up to the hills, from whence cometh my strength. Consider the lilies. Go to the ant. Ask the birds and they will teach you. The Heavens declare the glory of God. The sky proclaims His handiwork. His invisible attributes.... have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things which He created. Ask the beasts, and they will teach you. Speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you...*
- The same Creator who made the world made us and put us in it- the first place he chose for mankind, made in His image, was a garden. There is already a connection. Some of us need more effort to winkle it out and strengthen it because it's been squelched by years of air conditioned, sterile, insect free, indoor living.
Not every child is going to grow up to be a scientist. But every child should be somebody who can find delight in science in both childhood and as they become adults. Every human should be able to read the science and technology sections of a paper or news site with some basic ability and interest- especially interest.