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Learning with Nature Idea Book Review by Kim Kargbo

Arbor Day Foundation
211 N. 12th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

The Learning with Nature Idea Book is a guide to setting up a natural outdoor learning environment for children. Although it was written for institutions such as child care centers, schools, or nature centers, the book has ideas that can be adapted to the home environment if the family has the space and resources needed. The book begins by explaining why interacting with nature is important to children and how children today spend far less time outdoors than children in the past. The book then develops the "Ten Guiding Principles" to an outdoor learning environment or classroom and describes how (with photos and diagrams) to construct a variety of activity areas in the learning center.

While most of the learning center areas are a bit elaborate, some of the ideas can be downsized a bit for a typical backyard. Granted, homeschooled children probably interact with nature quite a bit more than their traditionally schooled counterparts, but there is always room for improvement. Families implementing a Charlotte Mason approach in their homeschool would probably find this idea book particularly inspiring, since nature study is such a core concept in the CM style.

I plan to use some of the ideas suggested to enhance my own children's nature learning. The website for the Arbor Day Foundation has many other ideas and photos that can be utilized as well. The book costs $19.95 and is 52 pages long (soft cover). Many homeschoolers might find the ideas presented in this book redundant to things they are already doing, and implementing the ideas as presented would be quite costly. However, for those wanting to increase their children's time outdoors or to enhance natural learning, there are some great ideas in this book.

Product review by Kim Kargbo, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2010