[Ed. note: this article is part of our series of weekly family activities called Family Fun, published on Fridays]
Swallowtail butterflies, purple coneflowers, cherry tomatoes, blueberry stains on a toddler’s chin. Seems like a world away at this time of year, but now ‘s the time to start dreaming!
Your yard is pared down to the bare bones in winter and it’s easy to see the basic structure and boundaries. In this activity you’ll create a map of your outside space and get ready to envision Eden.
Start now! Give yourselves time to plan new ways to to care for your patch of God’s earth this year. Whether starting from scratch or not, whether just one small change, whatever you wind up planting, you’ll all be learning hands-on about creation along the way.
Think you can’t grow anything? Not true! Everyone can learn to tend a garden, God made us that way. It’s often best to start small, just be sure get started!
Think of landscaping for food and wildlife. Creation’s beauty and bounty is part of God’s witness – let the message radiate from your yard! Welcome wildlife and grow some groceries, and you’ll also have a garden you love to look at and spend time in, and your children and neighbors will too.
Gardening for food and wildlife is a great way of being a faithful steward, whether patio pot or woodland acres. We wind up learning more, hands-on, about how God’s creation works and how our actions help or harm.
Supplies: Clipboard, pencil, graph paper, yardstick or tape measure
1.Measure & sketch: Go outside and measure the perimeter of your yard – both front and back – and make a sketch on the graph paper, labeling the distances. Then measure and mark locations of the structures inside the perimeter: house, shed, deck, driveway, swing, birdfeeders, trees, bushes, flowerbeds, etc.
2. Draw the shapes in on the paper. Try to keep things to scale. You’ll probably have to do a draft or two before coming up with a nice clean map everyone is happy with.
3.Copy: take it to a copy place and make two enlargements of 18 x 24” or so.
4.Mark one copy a “Before” map and the other an “After” map.
5.Label: On the “Before” map, label the structures and as many species of plants as you can remember. The children may enjoy coloring parts or all of the map.
6.Photograph: Kids age 6 and up can usually take photos, so have them photograph some areas of your yard to help document the changes.
7.Store or Display: create a hanging file or scrapbook dedicated to your garden’s evolution. Alternatively, frame the map and the photos. Why not include a photo of your family the day or week you do it?
Next week, we’ll talk about the next step: dreaming up your own Eden, with inspiration about the changes you might make.
The National Wildlife Federation Book of Family Nature Activities, by Page Chichester (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1997)
The Backyard Naturalist, by Craig Tufts (Vienna: National Wildlife Federation, 1993)