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Lessons Learned: Teaching in the Backyard

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Summer is in full swing, and the HRM has had some lovely weather! It’s definitely the time to soak up the sun! But why not take advantage of the warm temperatures and squeeze in some educational backyard activities? Your child is likely well into the summer slacking phase, but it’s important to keep their mind sharp during the two months of summer.

Science is everywhere! You don’t need to go to a zoo- you can find all kinds of science-related experiences right in your own backyard. Here is a super simple list of science activities that are both fun and full of learning.

worms

What Can We Find? This is pretty straightforward, but probably not as boring as you’d think. Grass and soil are full of worms, ants, and all kinds of little critters that you wouldn’t notice every day. Look under rocks, wood, and leaves. For smaller kids, focus on how individual critters use their bodies to get around (for example, having six legs, wings, or no legs at all). For older kids, bring a book to help them formally identify the creatures they find. You can also expand this activity to identify trees, birds, and other elements in the environment.

How Does It Fall? A backyard likely offers some high perches (a deck, for example) where you and your child can investigate how different things fall. Try things like balls, paper, a feather, leaves. Do they all fall the same way? Which items fall faster? What is gravity?

Shadow Shakers: If it’s sunny, encourage your child to experiment with their own shadow. What shapes can they make? Hand animals are always fun. Try incorporating items with interesting shapes and slowly rotate items to see how their shadows change.

shadows

Make It Grow: Get your child to observe and record the growth of a plant or animal. This can happen any time of year, especially if you plant something indoors. Depending on where you live, it may be tricky to find an animal to follow, but caterpillars or ducklings are often easy to identify. Growing veggies is also a really educational activity, and yields some delicious rewards!

Hot/Hotter/Hottest: When the sun is shining bright, different surfaces feel warmer or cooler. Metal slides, for example, are much too hot on a hot summer afternoon. How does the shade of a tree impact the temperature? How does a breeze impact the temperature? Use you hand or an outdoor thermometer to investigate what can impact the heat.

How Does It Slide? Find an array of materials (balls, blocks, toys etc) and see how they all go down the slide. Ask your child to make predictions about items before they slide them. Will the item slide quickly? Will it continue to roll after it rolls off the end? Why does it roll better than other things? This activity teaches about forces, gravity, and shapes. This can also be expanded to “How Does It Fly”, which is using paper airplanes and other items to test aerodynamics.

balance

Balance Challenge: If your backyard doesnt have a makeshift balance beam (a plank of wood laid on the grass, for example), head to the nearest park for some balance challenges. Dont just walk across the beam- make it tricky! Try walking the beam with a book on your head. Try balancing something on the palm of your hand while you walk. Try balancing something (a pencil, for example) on your index finger. How do you stay balanced? What are some tricks to make it easier? How does the speed of movement impact balance?

A Family Tree: Use flowers, rocks, or leaves to represent family members. Explain how similarly to trees, families branch out. Start with grandparents, use the materials to map out who is who in a family, and connect them all with branches. From grandparents, to parents, to aunts, nephews and nieces, demonstrate how they all intersect.

Keep your child’s mind active this summer and have fun while you’re at it! Your backyard has a lot to offer! These activities are extremely simple, but familiarize your child with many important ideas. Go online to find more backyard activity ideas, or get creative and come up with your own!

Written by Shila LeBlanc from Halifax Learning. With various locations in the city, Halifax Learning Centre offers many different programs to suit everybody’s needs – it’s more than just tutoring! For more information on programs like SpellRead, Momentum Math, French and more visit their website

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