November 6, 2013

Our Alternative to the Nature Table

When we were using our school room down stairs, and had a whole room just for schooling, we had a dedicated nature table and quite enjoyed it.  But now that we've chosen to school up in the sun room, which is a big improvement in terms of natural light and internet connectivity, we don't really have a place for a full out nature table.  It's not a room just for schooling, so I try to keep it clutter free and presentable and our nature table used to get pretty grimy with dirty nature things coming and going all of the time.  Still, what's homeschooling without a nature table?  Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason - they all love the nature tables!  So we came up with a cute and workable alternative.

A small portion of the desk, beside the kids' computer, now has a nature display.  So as to not overcrowd the desk surface and leave the kids with no workable space, I decided to build upwards, using these unfinished wood squares from Michael's.  They are super cheap, and if you balance things just right (that's a lesson all on its own) you can kind of off set them and display small items outside of the boxes as well.  It's not all directly from nature, but it's inspired by nature.  I think the importance of the nature table, for us, is to spark our interest in nature, to rekindle our sense of wonder, and to bring a small amount of the outdoors in. This table totally does that!  Here's a peek at what we've got there right now.

I got this little nature boy at a little shop on Apple Hill in Northern California years ago.  It's funny, Hunter hadn't shown himself yet to be the nature boy that is (he was just a toddler then) but for whatever reason, this little figurine felt like Hunter and I bought it even though it was not normally the kind of thing I'd pay gift shop prices for.  But I have loved its magical presence on our table each fall, and it really is just Hunter in a nutshell.  Beside my little nature boy, I have just a wooden block (again, Michael's, 2 bucks for 10 blocks) that I sawed a groove into to display various whimsical pictures.  I've always loved this vintage picture of a little boy on a snail-drawn sleigh.  So magical!

Next we have out calendar nook, with a water colored month card in another sawed block, and then the changeable date cubes.  We threw in some felted acorns for fun and to cover the top surface numbers on the date cubes.  That was actually a bit confusing for the boys.  "Is it the number on the front or the top?"

On the bottom we have moss from a nearby creek bed, real sprouted acorns, and a prism.  We noticed a few months back when we were meeting a friend in the McDonald's parking lot, that they have tiny oak shrubs in their landscaping and acorns were everywhere.  When we wouldn't think of what to add to the bottom space, the kids said, "Let's go back to McDonald's and see if there are still acorns there!"  There were acorns everywhere, but their tops had all come off and they were split open, beginning to sprout new little oak shrubs.  This was surprisingly thrilling for the kids.  They've never seen an acorn in that stage of development, so they all pocketed a few extra to keep for themselves and crack open to see what's going on in side.

The bag beside the acorns has lavender in it, freshening up our work space.  And when the sun is just right, the prism casts rainbows across the desk.  

This little space has become quite wondrous for the kids, with the rainbows and scents and proud little forest boys.  When the weather is too uncomfortable to go outside to nature journal, we over analyze something in our nature zone, and that causes us to rotate what's in it with some degree of frequency.  So, you don't need a big space to get the nature table appeal.  A small patch of computer desk will do just fine!

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