We recently completed a fun (and very well received - thanks for that!) series on playing and learning in the urban outdoors for Nature Rocks. Here's another idea that builds on the post we wrote about city greenways.
Taking sunset walks on our local greenway in Shelby Bottoms Park is one of our favorite family activities. We like to walk the greenway whenever we can, but sunset offers a vastly different experience than other times of the day. First of all, it's beautiful. The rich colors in the sky and the hyperbolic shadows and silhouettes cast across the landscape make the whole world look completely different. Second, there's a burst of life that you can only really see this time of day - deer in search of family dinner, frogs croaking extra loud and long, owls arousing and the ever quieting sounds of other people as they slip from the trailhead as the sun sets lower and lower. All these wonderful sensory experiences bring about an entirely unique and fresh set of teaching and learning opportunities. Here are just a few examples of opportunities that arose during our most recent Saturday evening sunset walk.
Colors - The colors of the sky were vivid, varied and provided us with plenty of chances to work on identifying those colors.
Sun - We talked a little bit about the sun and what it provides for us. Our daughter is two, so the conversation was basic and short, but there is definitely an understanding that the sun is important.
Storms - An extremely strong (and scary) storm swept across this part of the country Friday evening, leaving plenty of debris all over and around the greenway. It gave us the chance to talk about strong wind and to see how it affected the trees and plants.
Locating Sounds - The frogs were croaking loudly, but we couldn't find any to actually look at. We were able to work on locating the direction of the sounds, though.
Respecting Nature - We saw several deer foraging for food. We worked on staying quiet and just watching. All of our conversation while close to deer was done in a whisper. We were in their home and needed to be respectful of that. She responded to this really well. Just as we were about to leave the greenway, two middle-school aged boys began running after some deer in an open field. The deer responded by leaping and running away. We used this as an opportunity to expand on the idea of respecting animals in their homes.
These were just a few basic concepts we were able to begin working on or expanding on during a short 1.5-mile walk on our local greenway. These aren't all unique to sunset, but the world at sunset is remarkably different and provides some remarkably unique opportunities.
This was great night cap on Saturday. Sunday afternoon we went back to Shelby Bottoms Park to meet some new friends at the natural playground. We sure love that place, and it's all right there minutes from our house in the middle of the city.
What are some of your favorite things to do outdoors at sunset, and what kinds of teaching and learning opportunities do they bring about?
Thanks for reading!