One thing we are working on as a family is having more of a servant’s spirit. Service projects are a good way to keep that thought in the forefront of our minds. Of course I really wanted to stick with our outdoor nature theme even in the service opportunities. These are a few things we have done or plan to do in the future.
Visit an animal shelter to pet cats or walk dogs. Don’t you just feel so sorry for the poor little animals that don’t have homes? My heart aches thinking about the homeless creatures biding their time at shelters. Not long ago, we went to Safe Place for Animals in Gallatin, TN. My kids were too young to walk dogs, but we were able to give some love to the many cats who craved attention. We pet, cuddled, scratched, and played with them for quite a long time and still couldn’t satisfy their need for affection. We had cats jumping on us, climbing us, and following us around from room to room. It was a great adventure and simple outreach that was therapeutic for us too! In my opinion, there’s nothing better than running your hands through soft and fluffy fur. Purring never hurts either.
Set up habitats for the wild things. Put out a salt lick. Create shelters. Feed the birds. Even leaving shrubs and grasses untrimmed for the winter can provide shelter for God’s creatures in the cold winter months. There are many do-it-yourself recipes for feeding birds and other animals to be found on Pinterest. Also, we got a great little book from the library that had some simple but excellent ideas of things to do for animals in the winter (click).
Gardening... with the purpose of sharing in mind. What if you grew a sharing garden, planting an abundance to be shared with neighbors or whoever God leads you to? Or better yet, invite friends who don’t have space for a garden to come help and learn to grow food, giving them some of what they’ve grown as a reward. Either way, it’s sure to be a blessing.
Animal therapy. Another great opportunity to bring sunshine to someone’s life is through the power of pets. There is training and certification necessary to be able to take your pet to visit someone, but what a fun project and accomplishment that would be for a homeschooler. For more information about requirements to become a therapy animal handler, check out Pet Partners (click).
Pick up litter. This can be at a park or just along your street. Though not glamorous, this is one that can be easily done with all ages. It’s simple, doable, and we have even found a few treasures along the way.
Volunteer in nature. For older kids, nature-based places to volunteer could be a zoo, nature center, a ranch or stables, a farm, or a place that provides equine assisted therapy. Paradise Ranch is one such place that provides therapeutic riding for people with disabilities and accepts volunteers ages nine and up (no experience necessary) for various jobs. Check out more about Paradise Ranch here (click).
Lead a nature walk. My daughter came up with the idea to give woods tours at our home. While we still haven’t worked out all the logistics, it’s a great idea! Wouldn’t it be fun to reach out to families who don’t have the opportunity to live in the country and invite them to come on a woodland explore and share fun facts about what they see? It has also encouraged research and observation for my own children and working on presentation skills. Win-win.
Give a virtual nature walk. If people can’t come to you, why not bring nature to them via video chat? This could be an amazing opportunity to reach out to someone who is in the hospital, skilled nursing facility or is homebound and can’t get out in nature to enjoy it’s benefits. What joy can be brought simply by sharing the nature God has given us…even over the internet. For inspiration, check out Virtual Photo Walks, a unique nonprofit.
While nature itself is inherently giving, we can do our part of showing our love for our Creator by being of service to others through nature as well. I’m sure there are many more ideas I haven’t thought of. I’d love to hear from you … what are some nature-based service projects you have done or would like to try?