There is a lot of science going on in your backyard or local park. As children learn more about the habitants of these spaces, the more they will appreciate nature and have a greater respect for all living creatures.
Let’s explore the wide world of plants, the magical discovery of birds, and the delicious rewards of a backyard wildlife habitat.
As we go through our daily routines, we may miss the elements of life that are so important. Plants are one of those elements. They capture the energy of the sun, take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and turn it into oxygen for us to breathe. Taking a closer look at the plants around us creates a better understanding of why we need to nurture them.
🌱 🌿 Time to get a little dirt under your fingernails! 🌿 🌱
First you will want to get some sort of guide for local plants in your area. This may be a book from the library, a field guide from the local bookstore, or an online source. Be sure that you have good images so your child will be able to identify the plant.
A chart can be created on poster board, where they will jot down information about the plants. It should have columns for the name of the plant, a description (type of leaves, color, etc.), habitat (where it was growing), and a column for additional notes. Maybe you saw a butterfly or bees on the flowers, or that it was doing great in the shade.
Start a collection of five different specimens. This could include leaves from different trees, bushes, flowers, and even weeds. Only take one leaf and please be gentle so the rest of the plant stays happy.
You have the option to draw the leaf on your chart or tack it there with a spot of glue. Fill in the columns with as much detail as you can think of.
As you walk around town you now have an understanding about at least ten specimens. Why not go to the park and do the same?
Having a field guide that shows birds in your region, and a set of binoculars, will be important as you head out to identify birds. Since it can be important to be quiet while birdwatching, the activity can have an added benefit of calming a restless soul.
Spring migration is a great time for spotting birds in Canada, according to Emily Rondel, president of the Toronto Ornithological Club. Spring brings the highest diversity of species all decked out in their breeding plumages.
No need to travel far to find our winged friends - your backyard has a diverse assortment of bird species.
Look for movement in the tops of trees or listen for their song, and then you can zoom in on the birds themselves. Cornell has an app called Merlin that you may find helpful for identifying bird species while out and about. (1) If you can, take a picture and look for the breed later. Enjoy the walk outside!
Backyard Nature Habitat
Imagine a space in your yard that is filled with colorful birds eating seed, bees buzzing and pollinating flowers, butterflies sipping nectar, and dragonflies maneuvering their way through the maze of beautiful plants.
Once your space is created, you can have your backyard habitat certified by the Canadian Wildlife Federation if you are able to meet their requirements. (2)
According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation there are four basic needs to create space for wildlife: food, water, shelter, and space.
🌷 Plan your garden with your children while learning some basics about ecology. Instead of hanging up a birdfeeder, design the space to include trees and wildflowers that provide foods for wildlife such as seeds, nuts, fruits, and berries.
🦉 Birdbaths are important to attracting birds but be sure to change the water daily or every other day to keep the mosquitoes away.
🏡 Animals need shelter to raise their young, stay out of bad weather, and to hide from predators. Trees and bushes are good for this, but piles of rocks and logs are also good.
🏞 When considering space, have a variety of layers in the habitat. Think about having tall trees and short bushes with wildflowers and groundcover scattered about.
Another great benefit is that your backyard wildlife habitat will be chemical-free. Animals don’t wash off their food before they eat it like we do.
All of these activities encourage activity outside where children gain the best health benefits, while also learning to appreciate the world around them.