family explorations…a summer throwback + a fall activity.

This was a summer post sitting in my drafts…I got so caught up in exploring our summer, I forgot to post it.  This pretty much reflects the type of summer we had this year.  I also added a little fall activity at the end that continues our theme of exploring the world around us.

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We are loving Keri Smith’s book:

I have been a big fan of her work and her blog for the last decade, waiting with a maniacal anticipation for the day that the kids would all be old enough to join me in all her suggested adventures.

We started having fun with this book a few summers ago:

Can you imagine the children’s utter shock and complete confusion when I said that we had to WRECK this book with reckless abandon and destructive joy?  BURN this page!  Now poke holes in this one with whatever you find!  Smear some condiments on this page!  (Enter the diabolical laugh here.)


You may think this is crazy.  If you are wondering what the point of this is, then you are too focused on the result, the outcome, and the logical reasoning for spending time destroying instead of creating.  (Actually, we are creating through destroying, but that’s a whole other blog post.)  It is all about the process – the playful nature of the whole activity. Wait, you are not only giving us permission to do these crazy things but actually encouraging us?  Is this a trick?  Your mind also shifts creatively.  How can I completely obliterate this page in the coolest way?  There is a fun in the randomness too.  We each take turns picking a page, especially when there are energies bouncing off each other in this house, and we go about the normal business of ruination and destruction.  I remember how shredding a page to bits felt so gratifying and it was just what I needed that day.

This summer we are attempting to explore the world around us using her suggested explorations.  Again, we randomly pick one and interpret it in our own way.  Here is one of them that is inspired from the book…and of course, we can’t start at #1.

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It was a comparison activity.  Here was #5’s picks:

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#2’s picks:

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#4’s pick:

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#3’s pick:

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We all sat on the porch and talked about their choices.  We agreed that all their nature choices could be used in countless ways in their play.  But I pointed out that some of their own choices also could be used in different ways – the lego, the makey makey kit, the box with holes, and even the volleyballs were sometimes used for other sports and not just volleyball.  The little gnome, canoe, and owl could be used for different scenes too.  The baseball glove was pretty much the single use object until someone pointed out that it could also be a hat.  A little bit of a stretch, but ok.  We talked about the physical attributes of the actual objects themselves – their texture, what they were made out of, the markings on them, and even the colour.  We talked about similarities and differences.  We talked about how to integrate the natural and the manmade and how that happens in everyday life.  We talk about hundreds of ways to use a stick and a gnome.  And a gnome with a stick.  And then the baseball glove came into play – you can bat the gnome with the stick and catch him in the glove.  On and on and on it went unit they decided to go and try out their ideas.

A simple exploration of the objects they use.  A closer look.  An attention to something that can easily be overlooked.  A stretch of the imagination for things found in nature.  And for me, a snapshot of what they like to play with right now and a chance to see ordinary things in a different light with some or all of our senses.  The magical thing that happens with these explorations is what they lead to – a keener and more curious eye, and further questions and imaginings.

On page 1 in How To Be An Explorer of the World, there is a quote from T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets:

We shall not cease from exploration

and at the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started

and know the place for the first time.

Exploring, experimenting, wandering, questioning, postulating, guessing, observing, creating, destroying, imagining all that is the world around us.


For Fall, I wanted to continue this theme.  I was especially inspired by a documentary that a friend had recommended: Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers and Tides.  Andy Goldsworthy is an environmental artist who collaborates with nature.  He makes breathtaking pieces of art with natural objects in their natural landscapes.  I didn’t watch this with the kids but we watched the trailer online and look at some of his pieces online.  (I highly recommend watching the doc because the beauty is mainly in his process and afterwards as the piece is transformed by nature itself.)

As part of our ongoing explorations with the world around us, we had some school lessons outdoors and made some pieces using elements in nature as a warm-up to the lessons.  This worked particularly well with #4 and #5 who went off on their own to make things as I worked with the older ones.

Rock arrangements by colour…

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Finding rainbows…

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A rainbow flower out of sumac branches…

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And we ended with #5 making a home for his new friend, “Mr. Cuddly Marshmallow”…

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Use what’s around you.  Do a grouping of similar items by size, colour, or shape.  Create a picture.  Circles and spirals are always a hit.

And don’t forget rainbows. They are best made during this season. And as my 4th says, “Blue is hard to find but there is always the sky.”


Please share any ideas for your own explorations!  My gaggle would love to hear what other families are up to!!




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