There are definitely stereotypes when it comes to gifted kids. For instance, people might might picture an awkward boy or girl with glasses who plays chess and cello and snorts when he or she laughs.
Parts of that may be true for some gifted kids, but they’re often not at all like people expect them to be. Some have glasses, some play instruments, some are more interested in video games than chess, and some have incredibly off-the-wall interests that you’d never imagine could be entertaining!
These kids are wonderfully unique and sometimes frustratingly difficult, but always fantastically engaging. Their brains work differently and their ability to process information quickly means that their education best serves them when tweaked and fine-tuned to meet these very real needs.
One thing that’s super important when tweaking the education is to make sure you set aside stereotypes and expectations about about what gifted kids “should” be doing and learning. Giftedness is way more than simply excelling at book learning. In fact, some gifted kids won’t even begin to excel in book learning, but instead have unbelievable natural drive and talent for dance, art, music, technology, and even nature study.
When we are sensitive to their passions and watch carefully for their frustrations, we can tailor their education perfectly.
Since nature study is incredibly important to me, I’d like to focus on that to see how a subject can be stereotyped just as much as a child can. For instance, some people think nature study isn’t rigorous enough, structured enough, or scholarly enough to be considered real science. And still others think that nature study is a poor fit for gifted kids. These beliefs couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nature Study Offers Hands-On Learning
While each gifted kid is different, as a group they benefit greatly from hands-on learning. Without the need for much repetition or review, they are ready to move on quickly, and learn as much as they can.
A hallmark of giftedness is the ability to form connections and draw conclusions easily, so the opportunity to experience as they learn is most ideal. Rather than being bound by whatever is printed in a textbook, nature study allows for wide-open minds to learn in wide-open environments and never reaches a limit to what can be studied.
The hands-on experiences enjoyed through nature study provide for layered learning, taking what is read about to what is felt, seen, heard, smelled. Being able to handle mushrooms that were previously only read about promises to form a connection that is real. By walking among the trees described in a book, the gifted child experiences what is learned, rather than memorizes it.
With the ability to form connections between what is read and what is real, then leap forward to what can be concluded. Nature study is perfect for gifted kids, providing 3-D learning that their incredible brains can process in ways we still can’t fully imagine. For brains that need to move quickly and absorb more, what could be more fitting than a limitless supply of subjects and experience?
It Provides Plenty of Room for Exploration
Parents of gifted kids will likely nod their heads and chuckle in understanding when I mention how obsessive they can become. Interest-led learning is a fantastic model for these kiddos, and they thrive while doing unit studies. No one can embrace a rabbit trail like a gifted child, with their studies – or obsessions – sometimes lasting for years. Nature study is, naturally, ideal for them, offering a limitless supply of information, possibility, experience, and curiosity.
By embracing nature study in the homeschool, gifted kids can follow every rabbit trail they happen upon, both metaphorically and literally. There will never be too few animals to observe, not enough plants to study. What begins as a leisurely walk can turn into a year-long journey, and the deeper that study becomes the more branches pop up, promising further study, more to learn, more to research, more to look for. It’s the one small step that leads to a giant leap in understanding of their environment.
Gifted kids can choose to either focus and submerge themselves in a topic they find fascinating or move on to another species, variety, or occurrence that holds their interest more. There is no end to options and no limitation to the learning opportunities.
Nature Study is Calming
While again recognizing that every gifted child is unique, there are still trademarks, quirks, or experiences that are known to be shared by a large portion of the gifted community. One of the most profound and misunderstood traits found in gifted children is the intensity with which they experience emotions and the world around them. Often plagued by perfectionism or anxiety, these kids have feelings that are bigger than themselves and find themselves in need of mindfulness techniques, calming tools, and plans in place to help them de-escalate or breathe deeply.
Fortunately, nature study has been proven to be incredibly beneficial for mental and emotional health. By combining learning with the calming powers of fresh air and the regenerative effects of the sun, children are able to work their minds while relaxing their bodies.
There are no answers to get right, no chapters hanging incomplete over their heads, just pure exploration. Curiosity is fed rather than fear. Instead of worrying about what might go wrong, children are allowed to wonder what lies beyond. Beyond the tree line, beyond the bee hive, they are free to explore and learn in an environment that nourishes as much as it teaches.
Nature study can be designed to be as structured or as relaxed as your child needs, providing either a safety net or an open door. Simply put, nature study offers something that cannot be quantified to children who often cannot be measured themselves.
Creative Curriculum Makes Nature Study Easy
As a mom of gifted kids and a former public school teacher, I have always written curriculum to include lots of creative learning ideas that can spark the interests of gifted kids and not-so-gifted (or even remotely interested) kids alike. There’s wiggle room (and even prompts) for investigations, nature journaling, research, hands-on activities, reading, and more that can take a student further during a nature walk or later at home.
With more than 30 topics and a handful of learning style options, you can help your nature lover to “dig deeper” or expose your kiddo who doesn’t know they love nature yet to the incredible world of science waiting for them.
With all those options, how do you know where to start? Read through the descriptions below to see which style is most likely to interest your child.
- Does your child want to dig deep into nature study topics with creative nature walks, hands-on activities, kid-friendly research projects, literature, poetry, artist & composer study, and printable notebooking pages? You’re looking for the NaturExplorers series! (Christian)
- Do you want a grab-n-go curriculum guide that simply gives you quick, easy, and meaningful nature walk ideas that get you out the door without much effort – yet still pack a lot of punch? You’ll probably be most interested in 100+ Creative Nature Walks! (neutral)
- Do you want print-n-go curriculum that includes everything you need on simple, yet powerful nature notebooking pages? You should check out 40 Nature Walks: Science Labs On-the-Go! (neutral)
- Do you prefer to take a non-traditional approach to nature study and learn around the kitchen table with your entire family using exciting multimedia? Then No Sweat Nature Study DIGITAL curriculum is probably your style! (neutral)
- Would you rather ME teach science through nature study to your children for you? Then No Sweat Nature Study LIVE is your go-to choice! (neutral)
Nature Study is a Truly Magical Way to Learn
Combining the wonder of the unknown with the knowledge achieved by study makes for remarkable experiences that go far beyond naming plants. Nature study is flexible enough to be made as rigorous as needed, vast enough to allow for limitless small interests, and healing enough to provide more than knowledge.
Gifted kids who are fortunate enough to participate in nature study find themselves in the perfect place, between knowing and experiencing, unexplored and documented. With the intensity of both feeling and curiosity, nature study is the perfect way for gifted kids to learn.