Walk The Pond Downloadable Activities

Walk the Pond Goes Virtual!

Thank you for supporting our first ever virtual Walk the Pond! We are excited that you’re here. While Walk the Pond is usually a nature-focused family event in Lincoln Park, this year it will be a month-long experience so that families anywhere can get out and experience the wonders of nature, whether at North Pond, another pond, or your own special place in nature.   

The Lincoln Park Conservancy is currently engaged in a three-year restoration of the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. Walk the Pond is a way for families to explore North Pond or to use our nature play activities in your own neighborhood. We’ve compiled a variety of activities and resources to use as you see fit in your family’s nature explorations. For participants who are short on time, we offer a variety of Quick Nature Play activities. For those with more time or interest, or participants looking for a structured curriculum to support home-schooling or augment classroom learning, we have a series of more detailed nature-based activities focused in four key areas:   

  • Environmental explorations related to our North Pond restoration 
  • Nature crafts activities 
  • Engineering challenges 
  • Loose parts 

We also have a variety of additional resources to help you explore topics further.

All participants will receive regular emails throughout the project with helpful tips and resources. Those interested in deeper participation can earn virtual badges and prizes related to the activities you do and your sharing them on social media. Here’s how it works: throughout the month of Walk the Pond, complete at least 2 activities per week to earn a weekly virtual badge. Choice of activities include:

  • Downloadable nature play programs (below)
  • Social media posts showing you experiencing nature near you. Please tag the Lincoln Park Conservancy and use hashtag #WalkThePond
  • Creation of a North Pond crowdfunding page (Choose “Create My Own Fundraising Page!”) here.

Your fourth and final badge earns you a physical prize of your choosing: Conservancy water bottle, Conservancy picnic blanket, Walk the Pond youth t-shirt, or canvas bag.

To be eligible for badges and prizes, you must log your completed activities weekly over the four weeks of Walk the Pond. You can do this in the surveys below.

Thanks for “Walking the Pond” with the Lincoln Park Conservancy. We look forward to ‘seeing’ you online as you experience the wonders of nature!

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We’re so excited about the restoration of the North Pond!

We’ve completed many studies of the health of the North Pond Nature Sanctuary in general and the Pond specifically. The following activities are a way to help learn more about the studies and to think about the results. Many of these are more geared towards elementary age children, or children working more closely with adults. All activities can be simplified to where younger children can simply observe and have fun!

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time or want to do an activity on the go. Here are some of the other activities we’ve done this year. Each of these can also be extended and expanded if you want to spend more time with it.

In Week One of Walk the Pond spend a little time learning and looking deeply at the Pond or other natural area near you. The activities below all help guide you in taking your observations and turning them into craft projects to share, take with you to the field, or continue learning.

Children are, by nature, scientists, engineers, explorers, and artists. The actives in Week Two draw on children’s natural creative instincts. These activities are not limited to children, as many adults make and sell art using these techniques.

Children are curious about and want to understand their world and how it works. We often lose some of that curiosity as we age. In Week Three we explore more activities connecting science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), with a couple of challenges for participants of all ages.

In Week Four we are stepping back a little and encouraging free play with loose parts. These activities can be a starting point for projects that can last for hours. Take some time this week to let loose and just create.

For grownups who want to learn a little more about the educational theory behind loose parts play, nature play, STEM, and STEAM here are a few short articles summarizing things and giving you a couple of starting points for your own explorations.

Children and Nature

Research increasingly indicates that time in natural environments has tremendous mental and physical benefits to both children and adults.

In children these benefits include advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility; greater resistance to illness; increased language, social, and collaborative skills; and improved awareness, reasoning and observational abilities. Children who play in natural environments demonstrate more diverse, imaginative, and creative play, as well as greater independence and autonomy.

Urban children spend very little time in natural environments and tend to view nature as exotic and irrelevant to their lives. Programs encouraging children to make observations about local plants, animals, and the outside world, encourage them to associate nature to their own lives. Also, important to developing a positive relationship with nature is time spent with parents and other adults that encourage children’s basic curiosity and connection to the natural world. As John Burroughs said, “Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.”

For more information:

The Theory of Loose Parts

Loose parts can be anything: the pinecone, rock, or stick you found on your afternoon walk. Loose parts play is highly imaginative. That pinecone can be anything: a magic passage to another world, a tea cup, food for an imaginary creature. Loose parts play works best when children direct the activity and adults are strongly encouraged to stay out of the play activity, unless invited by a child, and then allow the child to direct adults’ activity.

Manipulating physical materials stimulates children’s curiosity and allows them to become engrossed in their own imagination and creativity. Encouraging them to make observations, ask questions, develop hypotheses, and potentially explore answers or ways to test those theories, can make them more active (rather than passive) learners.

Remember to be a good steward of nature and only take things that are loose on the ground. Also, don’t take the only one of a thing: Make sure to leave some for the local wildlife.

For more information:

Learn More About STEM and STEAM

Children are, by nature, scientists, engineers, explorers. They are curious about and want to understand their world and how it works. The addition of the Arts (including liberal arts, fine arts, music, design-thinking, and language arts) to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and elements of loose parts play, encourage children take ownership of their own learning. STEAM activities reinforce the idea that thinking creatively is critical to innovation, and that incorporating artistic and design-related skills helps students to learn and apply STEM concepts as well as think more broadly about real-world problems.

Increasingly, students believe that asking questions indicates a lack of understanding, rather than a curiosity or desire to learn more. Art encourages students to ask questions, make connections, integrate differing ideas, solve problems, think creatively, and innovate – essentially to ask and answer questions based on their own natural curiosity without fear of judgment (there are no right or wrong answers in art!). Additionally, investments in the arts encourages students to not only internalize their learning, but also to share what they learned by applying it to their own artistic expression.

The natural world provides nearly endless opportunities for students to ask questions, explore, and develop new ideas and understanding. Asking them to explore in a context of artistic and creative projects stimulates children’s curiosity and allows them to become engrossed in their own imagination and creativity.

For more information:

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