Thursday, August 25, 2011

Exploring outdoors with children

It is no secret that I love working with kids of all ages. I've either been teaching art or nature to kids since I was just past being a kid myself. I love both art and nature and I want kids to know they don't have to study them or be perfect in them or any of that....both allow and encourage exploration and that is what I emphasize in my own classes. Don't know something? Ask or look it up. In the meantime, learn everything you can about by doing...watch, listen, experiment, be brave...
As adults it is important to pick places that are safe for kids to explore. If going out in a field be sure you don't pick a field full of poison ivy or prickly vines. That will ruin the fun real fast. Also, let them know ahead of time if they might see a snake or bees or anything that might cause them a bit of alarm. Let them know what to do to be safe.
These young men and I were on a mission this morning--to catch grasshoppers and other insects we could take to a class I was teaching later in the day at the local library.
Good nets are great if you can get them--and if you are going to teach kids how to catch butterflies, dragonflies, etc. these nets shown here are too shallow and not very good at all. They were fine, however, for catching grasshoppers and crickets and other little jumping insects.

You can use plastic peanut butter jars with net or screen covers or invest in one of the commercially made plastic or screen bug houses or carrying cages. The one I have has an opening on top which is very handy for transferring grasshoppers from a net to the cage.

We took our catches to class but then we let them go afterwards. Kids, especially little ones, want to keep everything for pets but I remind them that even insects are happier in their own homes where they can find their own food and hang out with their own friends and families. That always seems to satisfy them and if possible, let the kids come with you when you let the critters go.

Kids love to explore. These boys learned that we have many different grasshoppers on the Cape and they also learned how to tell the male crickets from the females. They even caught a few small butterflies that we looked at and then let go. One of them said on the way back home, "That was awesome!" and that's what it's all about.

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