Outdoor Learning at Home: Week One

Getting outdoors in Winter can feel tricky. It’s not easy to motivate yourself when it is warmer and drier at home. But spending time outdoors has proven benefits to both physical and mental health, it can boost your mood and boost your immune system. Both essential in this period of Lockdown.

Even though I have been working outdoors, throughout the seasons, for nearly a decade, I still feel it is much easier to get outdoors when I have something to do. I like a task and so do the children that I work with. So I am creating this weekly newsletter for you which will contain ideas for outdoor activities that will enhance your home learning and, most importantly, purposeful reasons for you and your family to get outdoors every day. These are all activities that you can do in your garden or on your daily outdoor exercise. Please just stay safe and follow all the social distancing rules.

Lets go!

Snails hibernating behind a plant pot in Rachel’s garden

Go on a hunt for hibernating snails. 

Winter is a time when many creatures go in to hibernation, a long deep sleep. They do this to conserve their energy when there isn’t much food available for them and also to protect themselves from the cold and the frost.

Did you know there could be creature hibernating in your garden? Many of our land snails hibernate in the winter. Why not go on a snail hunt in your garden or local area? 

See if you can find gangs of snails gathered in disused plant pots, in crevices in walls, holes in trees and other sheltered places. 

Snail’s bodies are mainly made of water, so they hibernate to stop their bodies from freezing. Snails make a lid out of their slime  and put it over the mouth of their shell, which can protect them for several months. They find suitable nooks and crannies in walls, under stones or deep in leaf-litter where frost won’t penetrate before sealing themselves in for a good long sleep.

If you find snails hibernating, please leave them where they are. They’ll wake up when the risk of frost has passed.

A rain jar from Hattie Garlick’s book ‘Born to be Wild’

Measure the rainfall

Here in East Kent, our winters are less white and more wet. But the rain can still be a lot of fun! 

Try making your own rain gauge and train to be a weather forecaster. You will need an old jam jar, paper, pencil, scissors and sellotape.

  • Cut a strip of paper as tall as your jam jar and use a ruler to mark centimetres on the paper.
  • Sellotape your strip of paper up the length of jam jar. You might want to cover the paper entirely with sellotape as it is going to get wet!
  • Leave your jar outside for a predetermined amount of time. You may want to try an hour or even a whole afternoon.
  • Bring your jar back in and, using your paper measuring tape, check how much water has fallen in that length of time.

Need a bit more challenge? Become a meteorologist – a weather and climate scientist. Repeat this activity for a whole week and make a bar chart showing how much rain fell every day. 

Rachel’s daughter walks on a path through some Ivy

Look for evergreens

Sometimes it can feel like winter is quite grey. But there is some bright colour out there – the evergreens! Deciduous trees shed their leaves all at once to adapt to the cold seasons. But evergreen trees and plants lose their leaves slowly through the year, which means they are green all year round, even in the winter. Hence the name – evergreen!

The World Health Organisation says that greenery in towns and cities can promote mental and physical health by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation. 

Why not go for a walk and see what evergreens you can spot in your local area. Common evergreens are Ivy, Holly and Pine. Ivy, in particular, can be found growing in most urban areas, it even grows up walls. However be careful picking Ivy and Holly, as their berries are poisonous to humans.

I am Ivy, I cling and bind, evergreen vine of the forest

My leaves gleam with a leathery sheen and have delicate tendrils that grow and cover earth or tree.

I can grow old and strong, weaving my way up trees to the sky. Sometimes I smother but rarely so; my way is to weave and climbing grow.

In winter I shelter the birds that bravely stay in this land. I am food for deer and sheep who have few greens to keep them strong.

(from The Children’s Forest by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson & Helen d’Ascoli)

Phases of the moon from Nat Geo Kids

Keep a Moon Diary

When the days are short, it can feel like there are not enough daylight hours. But we can make the most of the longer nights by enjoying the wonders of the night’s sky. Whether we are in a town or the countryside, we are all looking at the same glowing Moon. But the Moon doesn’t emit any light itself. What we can see when we look at the Moon is the sunlight reflected off its surface. as the Moon orbits the Earth, the Sun lights up different parts of it, making it seem as if the Moon is changing shape. In fact, it’s just our view of it that’s changing…

 If darkness has fallen, see you if you can spot the Moon. Maybe you could draw or what it looks like, find out what phase it is in and keep a Moon diary (top tip – the next new moon is on 13th January).

If you are going on a walk after dark always take a responsible adult with you. You should wear warm, waterproof clothing and you might want to take a torch and ask the adult to take a fully charged mobile phone.

I really hope your enjoy this week’s activities. Please let me know if you try them. You can tag me on Instagram and Facebook @holdfastbeachschool

Speak to you next week.

Stay safe, Rachel

Published by Rachel Stevens

Nature Lover. Educator. Fascinated with people, spaces and places. Lover of life.

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