Winter always seems to be the time a year when you look out your window and think, “Ugh, there is nothing out there but cold!” It’s the time of year when most of us are tired of the gray sky and short days, while we desperately await the arrival of warmth and greenery.
However, what if the barren landscape you think you see is actually a perfect time of year to learn more about your environment. Instead of shutting your eyes and going into full hibernation mode, stay curious and ask yourself, “What’s going on out there?” Here are some ideas on how to stay engaged with nature, even during the toughest and seemingly bleakest time of the year.
Winter is an excellent time to study trees! Take some time to sketch silhouettes of different types of evergreens and deciduous trees. This practice will help you focus more on general shapes of each species and help sharpen those identification skills by learning what makes each tree type distinctive. Specifically focusing on tree bark patterns is another great winter activity for becoming tree identification experts. How does pine tree bark compare to oak tree bark? What about birch bark? If you are not sure what tree species you are observing, sketch it anyway! Include as many details as you can and research it later.
Winter is also a great time to learn more about the native animals that are living near your home. Record the different animals you see throughout the winter, which one sleep some of the time, or which animals may be hibernating. Come to Sheep Pasture and look for evidence of animal activity, whether that may be tracks in the snow or cracked open seeds that were left behind. Challenge yourself and your kids to write a creative story from just those tracks or seeds that were found!
Position a bird feeder outside a window and get yourself a backyard birder field guide. Take some time to sketch your avian visitors and become an expert on the birds that stay here during the winter. You could even make your very own bird seed treats to hang around the backyard to attract blue jays, cardinals, juncos, nuthatches, woodpeckers, robins, and much more! For some fun and easy recipes for the whole family, visit http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,peanut_butter_bird_seed,FF.html, or simply search “homemade bird feed recipes”!
If you are looking for more ideas for not only discovering your winter world but gaining a wider appreciation of nature throughout the entire year, pick up a copy of Keeping A Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth. This book is full of creative assignments and tips for different sketching techniques and keeping a nature journal. So get your hands on a notebook and look out your window, explore your backyard, or come on down to Sheep Pasture! Let the wonders of winter begin!!!
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