It’s no secret that we here at Teton Science Schools have a special place in our heart for our natural world. Inspiring curiosity for and fostering a strong connection to nature is something we aim to achieve with all of our students. Whether it’s stopping along the trail to explore the whorls in a Lodgepole Pine or watching in awe as a mother Grizzly Bear and her cubs traverse a hillside, we’re here to encourage all to slow down, appreciate, and celebrate the bounty of Planet Earth. So, if you’re looking for meaningful ways to connect with nature, not just on Earth Day, but everyday, we’ve rounded up seven of our favorite nature-based activities.
1. Go for a hike
Secret’s out. You don’t have to live near a National Park to get outside and go on a hike. Local nature areas, parks and even urban streetscapes can provide the perfect outlet for an afternoon jaunt through nature and place. A quick search for “hikes near me” can also turn out some hidden gems you might have never imagined were in your neighborhood. Our suggestion? Take time to experience your hike with all of your senses: touch the bark on trees, take notice of the different smells and sounds, and open your eyes. The more you look, the more you see, after all!
2. Get yours hands dirty
Digging your hands into the earth is one of the best ways to connect to nature (literally) and the garden is a great place to do it, especially when you get to reap the rewards at the end. If you’re lucky enough to have a yard where you can plant your own garden, make a plan to spend an hour each day tending to it. If you don’t have a yard, snag a plot in a community garden or find a family member or friend who would be willing to save some space in their garden for you. And if all else fails, bring the nature inside and create an indoor garden.
3. Get creative
You don’t have to paint an outdoor mural to get creative outside, but if the opportunity presents itself we say, “do it!” Naturalists and artists alike have been using nature as inspiration for their creativity for thousands of years and we don’t see that stopping anytime soon. Take a few colored pencils, maybe some watercolors, and a journal with you next time you head outside and spend a few minutes getting creative with your surroundings. Another idea? Take some inspiration from Andy Goldsworthy and create art with things you find in nature!
4. Give back
Stewardship and giving back to your local community is not only a great way to get outside and connect with nature, it’s also a great way to make meaningful connection with your neighbors and build your sense of place. Not to mention, you’ll be doing something positive for your community! Giving back can be as easy as finding a local environmental organization to start volunteering with or hosting a neighborhood cleanup. Or you can contribute to ongoing citizen science by collecting data and contributing your findings. A couple of our favorites include iNaturalist and NestWatch.
5. Go on safari
We would love it if each and every person could come and experience wildlife and wild places on our Wildlife Expeditions, but the reality is we all have these things waiting for us in our own neighborhoods. They might not be as charismatic as wolves, moose and bears or the Grand Teton but they’re there, living and breathing and growing, right in our own backyards. Go on a micro-safari and explore the tiny, wild things living in your garden or take a biking safari through your community. What kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, plants, and insects do you notice? We have a funny feeling you’ll discover more life than you ever expected!
6. Make a sound map
Have you ever noticed how many sounds you’re surrounded by on a daily basis — the constant din from a nearby roadway, airplanes soaring above, the friendly return of springtime chirps from migratory birds, the clatter of dishes at your local coffee shop, conversations, ambient music…even silence? It’s pretty amazing what our brains can tune out and we’ve always been fascinated by just how many sounds we can tune back into when we become mindful. Sound mapping is a great way to practice mindfulness and tune into our natural surroundings. Next time you’re out in nature, take ten minutes to sit in silence (close your eyes if it’s helpful) and make a note (mental or in your journal) every time you hear a new sound. At the end of ten minutes, review all of the sounds you noted. Even better? Sound map with a friend and compare notes when you’re finished.
7. Make contact with the earth and play
It’s been said that even just a few minutes of direct contact with the earth each day is enough for our bodies to absorb some of earth’s natural energy and enhance our connection to nature. And what better way than to play? Whether your idea of play is simply a walk through the yard with your shoes off or frolicking and cartwheeling through a field of wildflowers, we’re here for it. Embrace your inner child, dig your toes in the dirt, get grounded, and rejoice in some playfulness.
Happy Earth Day!