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Writing Club Idea: Encouraging Kids to Write from Nature....
Susan Richman, 4/4/2010

Susan Richman, editor of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, has been leading a homeschoolers' Writing Club since her almost 33 year old son was 11 -- and she highly recommends this simple idea to other homeschoolers everywhere. Just find a group of kids of all ages, and arrange to meet at least once a month for about 2 hours at someone's home -- and of course the idea would work equally well at a homeschool co-op program. Here's an idea especially suitable to our spring weather right now, when everyone wants to get outside anyway:

leah photo.JPG

(Our grandkids at the beach-- lots of nature observing there!)

Nature Observations…

I want you to go outside—you are going to be really observing outdoors…. I don’t want you to do this just ‘from your mind’, but instead from genuine real experience.  I want you to look around and find something that just seems to call out to you, to pull your attention and your wonder, and then I want you to take an even closer look. And by looking, I mean that I want you to have your eyes and your mind be very active, really searching and thinking about all aspects of what you are looking at—don’t just immediately go to your ‘automatic pilot’ IDEA of what it is you are looking at. Instead, really look, look all around at this natural thing that’s pulled your attention to it.

It could be one leaf that’s already fallen to the ground, or an insect busy at its work, or a bird you can see hidden in a tree or bush or flitting about, or the whole shape of a unique tree in your yard, or the pattern of a wildflower—petals, leaves, stem—as it sways in a light breeze. You might look at the clouds and see how they slowly almost imperceptibly shift and change shape as they make their way across the sky above you. Or you might notice the pattern of shade that a tree makes on your grass, and how this quivers and changes with the wind. Or you might see the ‘drama’ of all the competing wild plants and weeds growing in a clump. Or you might see the patterns on some rocks or the way the soil on a pathway is different from the rest of the yard. Just find something that somehow seems fascinating…to you!  Then start writing, telling us about what you are seeing, sharing the richness of all the details you are now noticing, and letting us know perhaps what this all reminds you of… And if you might be able to, could be fun to take a few digital photos and email them on to me—I’ll then be able to share them on my computer at the meeting after we’ve read all the pieces aloud!

Here’s one example of this type of nature writing, from a homeschooled 7th grader who I evaluate—this was published in the Backpack, the student writing section of our PA Homeschoolers Print Newsletter. Maybe your nature writing will be in the next issue!

A Dragonfly Hatching

By Olivia Cockley

Today when we were camping, I found a dragonfly that was hatching out of its larva shell. It had climbed up on to our tent last night. The dragonfly’s legs were all bunched up next to its stomach and its wings were curled up as small as one-fourth of a pinkie nail! Then all of a sudden, the dragonfly swung up and grabbed onto its shell. It pulled its tail out of the shell. After that, the dragonfly hung there resting. The dragonfly’s tail and wings were getting bigger. Its wings looked like flower petals because they were so white, but they slowly turned clear. The dragonfly hung on the tent for a long time, resting. After a long time, it opened its wings to normal dragonfly size. We had to go home, so I didn’t get to see what happened next. I had fun watching it!


And if your kids do some nice nature writing, post their pieces as 'comments' here!


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