Adding some green time into remote learning lessons can provide an opportunity for students (and parents) to get away from their screens for a short time to reset and refresh their minds. A “green break” can have a rejuvenating affect on mentally fatigued children and adults. Here are some suggestions for incorporating green time into remote learning.
Safety Note: Be sure to supervise children outdoors and follow all of the guidelines your government officials have issued for COVID-19.
Even the smallest green space contains natural wonders, and spring is a great time to observe them. Simple natural objects such as maple seeds, pill bugs, clouds, spiderwebs, flowers, and sunsets are full of wonder when you take the time to stop and really look at them. Choosing one of these to observe, draw or photograph, think about and discuss, can open our eyes to the marvels of nature that are just outside your door.
One way to take a short break in nature is to write a syntu about a natural object. A syntu is a 5-line poem where you record observations, write a thought or feeling about it, and come up with another word for the object. Parents and educators don’t have to be experts about the natural objects they share with children, instead we can focus on nurturing curiosity and learning alongside them.
“It’s a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it’s even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it’s a lot more fun.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Another way to incorporate green time is to read books together that inspire you to take a closer look at nature. For example, the Next Time You See picture books each feature an ordinary natural object with the intention that next time you see that natural object, you will see it in a whole new way. During this time of remote learning, NSTA Press has granted permission to share video read alouds of three of the Next Time You See books – Next Time You See the Moon, Next Time You See a Cloud, and Next Time You See a Pill Bug.
In addition to these, a video of Next Time You See a Sunset is available at storytimefromspace.com. This one is extra special because it is read by an astronaut on the International Space Station! The Next Time You See books are best shared after children have had a chance to observe the natural object first. For example, students can use an O-W-L (Observe–Wonder–Learn) chart to record their observations and wonderings about a natural object, and then write down their learnings during or after the read aloud. Free downloadable activities that go along with the Next Time You See books can be found at emilymorganbooks.com/resources.
After watching the free read aloud videos of the Next Time You See books, students might want to write their own Next Time You See book about a natural object of their choice by taking part in a Mentor Text Study.
A series of YouTube videos guides students through the practice of analyzing the NTYS books for author’s purpose and pattern and then outlines the process of researching, writing, and revising their own Next Time You See book. This multi-week activity was not originally written for remote learning, but could be adapted to be done at home.
I hope these ideas and resources help teachers and parents as they keep the learning going at home. And maybe some green time will be a source of relief and reconnection in this stressful time.
– Emily Morgan, Author of the Next Time You See series
P.S. If you are interested in more ways to incorporate green time, see my blog post from September about green breaks.