Over the past few months we have been striving to focus on God in nature by spending more time outdoors, due to the convictions I shared in this post. It has taken some thought, planning, and much prayer as to how to develop a “curriculum” based on nature from a Biblical standpoint. The main thing we have been striving for is to instill a love for nature, and inherently, nature’s God. I believe the more we understand something, the more we can appreciate its beauty and character. Therefore, we try to make nature a big part of our learning in a living way. While not an all-inclusive list, these are a few ideas that have helped us connect with nature, have more compassion for all things living, pay closer attention to God in nature, and relish our time outdoors.
Read Nature Stories
The best and most meaningful stories have been those that talk about an individual creature rather than just facts about a species. Some of our favorites are the Living Forest series by Sam Campbell, Owen and Mzee, Winter's Tail (the true story book), Herbert: The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog, Pale Male Citizen Hawk of New York City, Knut (the polar bear), Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends, Balto ... any true story about animals. We also love the nature stories from My Bible First. Really, it can be anything that awakens compassion about nature as being real and full of unique, individual creatures who think and feel, and who reflect the character of God in so many ways.
Name the Critters
We enjoy giving names to each of the birds that frequent our feeder, wild turkeys, deer, and whatever other animals pay us a visit. It helps us personally relate to each individual creature. A few of our feathered friends are Rhett and Scarlet (cardinals), Tootie and Hi (tufted titmice), Nutsy and Nutbird (white-breasted nuthatches), Woody (yes, the woodpecker), Downy (woodpecker), Big Hop and Big Terrible (bluejays). We also have a couple of flocks of wild turkeys. One group we call the Turks, the other the Nomads, which includes a stray peafowl hen whom we lovingly call Princess Pea. This fall there appears to be a new group of young 'uns, whom we have thus far called the Whippersnappers. Remember, one of the first things God had Adam do in the Garden of Eden was to name the creatures. It really helps to foster a love and empathy for them in a way that is hard to put into words. Simply by naming them, we feel as if we know them better, like they are our personal friends, and that helps us feel closer to our mutual Creator as well.
Create Service-oriented Goals
Everything is more meaningful if there is an end-goal. Here are a few ideas to give an others-oriented purpose to being outside: look for treasures to collect (rocks, feathers, leaves) to share with someone, look for alphabet letters shaped by nature objects and help a younger sibling find their letters, try to see how many squirrels you can count (and help someone else see the squirrel), walk across a fallen log (and help or encourage someone else walk across), walk to get the mail, pick up litter along the road, go foraging for wild edibles to share with our family or another family (as long as you know it really is safe to eat). Anything that creates a sense of purpose in helping someone, no matter how seemingly small, can keep us from becoming too self-focused and increase our family tie through camaraderie in nature. Not long ago, we laminated a few of our pressed leaf and flower treasures to make bookmarks. They turned out beautifully and are a fun way to share a little piece of nature with others as well.
"Seeking God" Game
God promises that “You will seek me and find Me if you search for Me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13. I personally challenge myself to look for God in nature throughout the day (and at times share it on my Instagram page and Facebook page). That way I'm reminded of God’s character and can more readily see how He is constantly trying to reveal Himself to us and bless us. It helps me keep my focus on Him and be prepared to share object lessons from nature with my children. I like to hear their thoughts and see what they come up with as well. God speaks through nature.
Record Their Findings
This can be either on a camera or nature journaling/drawing. My kids are a bit young to enjoy the nature notebooking idea yet, but they do love to take a camera out and take pictures. It’s really fun to have a slideshow later (we project them on the wall), and have them show-and-tell what they captured.
These are just a few things that have helped us enjoy being outside and learn to love God’s creation more. There are no bounds to the learning that can be had in nature, and I’m excited to continue delving into this world of rich and abundant treasure. I’d love to hear how others have developed young nature lovers as well. What are some ways you have encouraged your kids to enjoy being outside more or cultivated a love for the things of the nature?