Connecting with Nature: Challenge #1

pomegranate Many evenings when the girls and I go for a walk, we cannot help but to be captivated by the brilliant hot pink blooms cascading down from the dense, impressive bushes along the fence line of our neighbor’s back yard.  Dacey, my four year old, had asked me several times what kind of flowers those were, but I had no idea.

Late last week our neighbors pulled into their driveway just as Dacey stopped to pick a bloom off of one of the lower branches.  Their gracious response eased my embarrassment as they assured us it was perfectly fine with them if the girls wanted to take home a pretty pink flower.

“Hey, do y’all like pomegranates?” they asked as we started to walk away.  When I told them, yes! I do, they told me those magnificent bushes were growing pomegranates and that when the fruit started to fall, we were welcome to take all we wanted.

I was so delighted!  Pomegranates are such a fun and, well, challenging fruit.  It occurred to me that evening that as many times as I have enjoyed cutting into a pomegranate and unearthing the sweet seeds for snacking, I had no idea where or how a pomegranate grew!  To be able to put a name to these beautiful flowering bushes that grow throughout our neighborhood and to connect that bush to the somewhat exotic fruit (that no longer seemed quite so foreign) was a highlight of my week.

I’m going to sneak into Last Child in the Woods for a minute to draw out one of the points Richard Louv addresses early in the book on our collective ignorance of the things of nature.  He shares the wisdom of teacher Elaine Brooks who had stayed intentionally connected with nature wherever she could find it – even if that meant seeking it out in what essentially amounted to a vacant, overgrown lot.  On speaking of the bulldozer destruction of parts of the land, she says

“Much of this destruction comes is done out of expediency and ignorance,” she said.  She believed people are unlikely to value what they cannot name.  “One of my students told me that every time she learns the name of a plant, she feels as if she is meeting someone new.  Giving a name to something is a way of knowing it” (p. 41).

As I read, I was convicted of this truth.  I have never invested much time in learning the names of the plants and wildlife of the nature with which I am surrounded.  How can I teach my children that which I do not know myself?

I wonder if anyone shares my newly kindled desire to learn and know the names of what we come across in nature.  I’m issuing a challenge to myself this week – find five objects outdoors that I don’t the know the name of and learn them!  Would you care to join me in this?  Maybe you already know the common names of the plants and wildlife in your area, and so perhaps your challenge would be to learn the scientific names of some of your favorite objects.

Let’s go outdoors this week – whether to your backyard, your patio, your local park . . . wherever nature waits to be discovered and let’s learn all meet someone new this week!  We’ll meet back on Saturday to share what we’ve learned.  Happy learning!

photo by ZeePack

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  1. I bought some Audubon field guides recently to help us with this goal, b/c like you I never learned the names of common things outdoors. It has been fun for me to learn these along with the children.

    Often when we see something new, one of my three will say, “Let’s go look it up in our flower book!”


    steadymom’s last blog post..Staycation Day Two

  2. I don’t have a good book for plants and flowers yet, but I have found this very very useful for birds…

  3. okay, count me in. I try to do this anyway, but this will make me actually think about it and put some effort into it. 🙂 We have the Smithsonian Bird Guide and I love it. Came with audio files to listen to the bird calls. the kids love it.


    lunzy’s last blog post..Love me some yard sales

  4. Dena Vieira says:

    Oh, how fun. I can’t, though, ’cause I’m in a foreign country but I’ll do that this summer when we come back home. When I was growing up, my mother took time to get books from the library and we would go out every Saturday to the parks and identify trees and flowers and birds. We would get leaves from trees and put them in between wax paper and iron it to make them stay and we would dry flowers in a press. What fun!

  5. kristina says:

    how fun!!! we moved to a new part of the country last summer, so a LOT of the birds and wildflowers are new to me! i’ve heard the peterson guides are great for identifying! love this challenge…consider it accepted!!! 🙂

  6. We just started doing a nature study we are on challenge #2, but your blog has inspired me to find out about the rose bushes in our backyard we have 3 different types of roses growing and I would love to know what they are. That’s our goal for the week.

    Rana’s last blog post..Nature Challenge #2

  7. oh! I’m so excited about this. I’m counting the fact that very recently learned that the gorgeous but short-lived white blooms in my patio are Gardenias. (Which is what I suspected, and was glad to be reassured.)

  8. I love this! I just wrote yesterday about God’s creation and how a year ago I would’ve said I was not interested in flowers, animals, all the outside stuff! But this year has been different, I am realizing how happy it makes me to enjoy these things God created. I have so much to learn so I am up for the challenge!! Thanks!!!

    Chele’s last blog post..A Flexible Summer Schedule

  9. I’m up for the challenge too! My husband and I keep those simple laminated folding cards for identifying birds and trees with our hiking packs at all times, but why not try to identify trees and flowers and birds on all of my daily walks? I also wanted to share a great find on Etsy. One night, I was browsing around when I came across these beautiful “Playground Scavenger Hunt Cards” by a mom/artist who goes by blynkenandnod with original illustrations of things like “a jagged edged leaf” and “a living creature.” I haven’t bought a set yet since my baby is only about to turn one, but I might just need to and set them aside. They look like so much fun. Here’s the link:

    Looking forward to more discussion of Last Child in the Woods. Thanks for all of the thoughtful ideas!

    Kelly Feinberg’s last blog post..Barefoot Books

  10. What fun! Count us in…

  11. I have the fondest memories of my grandparents and my great grandmother telling me about each plant not only in the garden but all the different fields around our family farm. It quickly became a game between my brother and I as we drove around to name what was growing in the fields first. I name everything I know as we drive up to the family farm with our Katie. She has a passion for the outdoors that makes me so happy.

    I really feel that children are connected to nature in a way that most of us have grown away from. I can remember going to the Redwoods in Mendocino County CA with my niece and her standing amongst these huge redwoods and ferns looking upward and stretching her arms wide. Then exclaiming, “IS THIS GODS HOUSE?” Still makes me teary-eyed to remember that.

    Yes indeed nature is God’s house I believe. If only we would care for it as it is worthy of being cared for.


    Julia Janzen’s last blog post..I Think I Want Chickens….God help me.

    • @Julia, I have to say that made me a little teary-eyed, too! I absolutely agree – and I find such pleasure and peace in learning more about the amazing world that surrounds us – starting in our little backyard! What gorgeous memories to have from your childhood . . . memories that will inspire and motivate the direction you take in parenting, I am sure!

      Megan’s last blog post..postponed


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