Transforming science education through research-driven innovation
April 15, 2020
BSCS Science Learning has developed this resource to help students, parents, and teachers get away from technology and formal learning and spend some time connecting with nature. Spending time connecting with nature and experiencing the life going on around us can give the brain a rest. Even if you don’t have access to much outdoor space, you can still connect with nature.
NOTE: When considering spending time in nature, we urge families to carefully follow regulations and public health guidelines that apply to their locations.
Why It’s important to spend time in nature: As the recommended resources below explain, there is evidence that spending time in nature is good for the immune system and the nervous system.
Forest Bathing by David Sobel
Recommended Individual Practices and Exercises (approx. time needed): We recommend the following activities that can be done daily as an anchor during this time of uncertainty (or any time).
Sit Spot (10-20 min) Find a spot (ideally outside, on a deck or porch, or by an open window) that you can visit daily. Sit quietly in that spot for 10-20 minutes and notice what is happening there. Just notice. Who moves through? What sounds do you hear? Is the wind blowing? What shapes and shadows exist there? What else do you notice? Every day will be a different experience. After you are through noticing, you may want to journal about what you noticed.
Watching Sunrise and/or Sunset (10-20 min) Go outside or watch through a window. Do not look directly at the Sun while any part of it is visible above the horizon. Do look at different parts of the sky and your surroundings to observe the patterns of light. Do nothing but pay attention to the changing light. Use it as a time to pause and notice. Reflecting on the day just beginning or ending is an additional bonus.
Orienting to the Four Cardinal Directions (3-4 min) Go outside if you can, but inside is OK, too. You might need to initially orient using your phone’s built-in compass or a handheld compass if you have one. Start with east and face your body in that direction. Notice what east feels like. Turn to the south; same thing. Turn to the west; same thing. End by facing north. This can be paired with watching the sunrise or sunset. You might want to do research on what other cultures or traditions associate with each direction and bring that into your experience. If you feel like it, you can journal about what you learn and experience.
Soft vs Focused Visual Attention (5 min) This can be paired with the Sit Spot activity but can also be done on its own. In the space (ideally outside) you find yourself, sit down on the ground and look in one direction. Focus your visual attention on something within 2-3 feet of you. Then, release that focus and let your eyes go into “soft focus.” You’ll still have the thing you were focusing on in your field of vision, but it might be fuzzy. Go back and forth between sharp focus and soft focus. What do you notice? If you like to journal, you can record your experience.
Tree Talk (open-ended, but 10 min at low end) Go outside and find a tree that you can sit nearby and feel undisturbed for a while. Sit facing the tree at a distance that feels good. Talk to the tree (either out loud, in thought, or via a journal). Tell it something you are struggling with, worried about, or want to celebrate. Get it all out in the open. Then sit for a while. What do you imagine the tree would tell you if it could talk? What insights come about your struggle, worry, or celebration? Feel free to journal about this experience.
Resources and Organizations to Help You Learn More
Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, Evan McGown
How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren
On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation by Alexandra Horowitz
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
Field Notes on Science and Nature - Ed. by Michael Canfield
North American Association for Environmental Education - COVID-19 resources for educators and parents to facilitate environmental learning from early childhood through higher education
Citizen Science Association resources related to the current COVID-19 pandemic - Resources for supporting participation in citizen- and community-based science through data collection, analysis, and sharing
Children and Nature Network - Resources for helping children stay connected to the natural world during COVID-19
8Shields Resources Page for Nature and Community Connection Tools - An organization working to help heal the widespread disconnection with nature and loss of connective cultures worldwide. They provide courses, events, and mentoring. The Jon Young books listed above can also be purchased through 8 Shields.
For more information, please contact Anna Switzer.