nature is the other classroom.

As a Little Gate teacher, one of the goals I hope to accomplish by the end of the school year is to develop a viable school program that introduces the natural world as an important component to a child’s learning environment and engages both parents and kids in fun and exciting ways.

Nature Explore is one of the online tools we use at Little Gate to help us enhance our nature-based outdoor spaces. As I researched different programming ideas, I discovered that Nature Explore provides all the resources and tools I would need to create the Little Gate Nature Families’ Club. Perfect.

The Little Gate Nature Families’ Club is an opportunity for our families to get together once a month, have a great time outdoors, meet new friends and explore nature in new ways.

Our first Families’ Club adventure was in our own front yard at McGehee, where we are surrounded by all sorts of trees. We searched for the tallest tree, the shortest tree, the most colorful, the widest, the tree with the most twisted roots. We compared sizes, colors, textures. We peeked inside some of the places where animals had burrowed in the tree and imagined what creatures might still be living there.

We’ve had three meetings so far and they just keep getting better. Our most recent “Art with Nature” meeting was a huge success. We began our adventure at Audubon Park with a reading of Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert:

Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Is he drifting east, over the marsh and ducks and geese? Or is he heading west, above the orchards, prairie meadows, and spotted cows? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.”

Leaf Man is full of beautiful illustrations of people and animals made from leaves, acorns, and other natural materials. In the spirit of Leaf Man, families were given bags to gather some of the materials mentioned in the story and then invited to create their own “leaf men”. It was amazing to watch. We weren’t just exploring nature, we were experiencing it.

Developing the Little Gate Families’ Nature Club program has been quite a learning process for me: figuring out what parents and children like, how to spend the hour, what materials are needed, where to meet and choosing topics that are fun yet meaningful. I can’t wait to share some of these ideas with you and inspire you to start your own Nature Families’ Club in your neighborhood, school or organization.

Stay tuned for “Tips on starting your own Families Club” coming out next month!

Do you explore the great outdoors? Where is your favorite spot?

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Written by Meredith Duke-Brown

I am a born and raised NOLA girl! As a middle school and high school athlete, I have always loved being outdoors. Nowadays, I spend most of my time with my husband, my daughter and our two dogs. We love going to the park, having dance parties and playing hide-and-seek anywhere we go. Along with my full-time job teaching two-year olds at McGehee’s Little Gate, I head our Outdoor Committee – a volunteer opportunity for teachers to help enhance our school’s environment. It also appears that I am now the co-chair of our newly minted Little Gate Nature Families Club!

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