Life lessons learned from nature

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Beth Pinyerd

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Yay! Spring is bursting and young children welcome the sunshine and being able to play outside. God gives us beautiful nature lessons for children and families to explore.

Children love to observe in order to fulfill their curiosity. Spring break is here for Auburn this week and Opelika next week, so families have time to explore right outside their front doors. Too, we as a community are so blessed to have beautiful, breathtaking spring flowers to celebrate the arrival of the new season as we leave winter behind.

A lesson that young children quickly pick up on is what Jesus teaches us in Luke 12:27 (KJV): “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” This teaches young children and adults not to worry about little things such as what we will eat or wear. God takes care of us!

One science project my class enjoyed each and every year was ordering butterfly kits, which we used to observe the stages of the life cycle of the butterfly: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Inside the chrysalis, so many things are happening that by naked eye we cannot see, but God sees all. This past year, with losses we all have experienced with friends and families, I can personally identify and empathize when we have to enter God’s chrysalis or cocoon of healing. God will meet you in the cocoon to love you (2 Corinthians 1:3); to carry you because God sees the trouble of the afflicted (Psalm 10:14a); and you can “pour out your heart to Him” (Psalm 62:8) as you talk about your hurts to our Heavenly Father. It takes time for a caterpillar to change into a beautiful butterfly. Just like the change inside the chrysalis takes time and is gradual, so is healing of the heart and spirit after loss of a loved one. This healing gives way to a beautiful butterfly of hope.

Another insect that provides so many valuable life lessons is the ant. We do have to practice common sense safety interacting with ants. Young children need to understand that they are only to observe the ant colonies. Purchasing inexpensive magnifying glasses at the dollar store is a real plus. Too, putting out small crumbs of sandwich meat invites the ants to work hard in getting the food to their colony. Point out to your young child that ants are insects with six legs and three body segments. Show them that the large ant is the queen ant. Talk about how the tunnels the ants are making are like rooms in their homes. Compare the different jobs the ants are doing to jobs or responsibilities your child can do in your family.

The character traits that young children learn from observing ants are spelled out in the Bible in Proverbs 6:6-8.

Ants work so hard. Children like to be on a schedule and routine as they engage in projects and activities that they enjoy. Ants are self-starters and so are children.

Ants work busily, and they cooperate with each other. What a wonderful lesson to point out in teaching your children to get along with others.

Ants work so very hard in the summer as they prepare for the winter. Ants provide our children a lesson on how to plan ahead in getting chores done.

During spring break, your child will love looking for doodlebugs. Young children from toddlers on up absolutely love bending down to look for doodlebugs. This activity teaches us a lesson of patience. When I take my class of little folks out to the playground, we look for little clearly defined circles where we know doodlebugs reside. They are called doodlebugs because this little animal makes a track that zigzags in every direction as it crawls across the dry sand looking for a place to dig its pit. The children and I carefully slip down a long piece of pine straw into the hole, keep it down in the hole for a few minutes and gently pull the pine straw up. It’s like going fishing. At the end of the piece of pine straw you will be pleasantly surprised to see a little doodlebug curled up at the end. After taking a few minutes to observe, gently lower the doodlebug back down into its hole on the piece of pine straw. This is so fascinating to little ones and even to us grown-ups. This is a wonderful family science activity.

Continuing on with bugs, I am personally a big fan of ladybugs. I have used pictures of ladybugs to decorate my spring bulletin boards. Here are a few fascinating facts about ladybugs:

There are 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs worldwide; 400 are in North America.

Female ladybugs will lay more than 1,000 eggs during their lives.

Ladybugs beat their wings 85 times a second when they fly.

Ladybugs chew from side to side, not up and down like we do.

Ladybugs protect themselves by making a chemical that smells and tastes terrible so that birds and other animals that might prey on them stay away.

My late husband and I loved to plant gardens up at a local nursing home we lived near. The residents in skilled care were able to enjoy the summer activities of tending a courtyard garden with many different vegetables. The residents could tend to the garden in their wheelchairs and walkers. One special gift my husband ordered for the residents were containers of ladybugs to eat the aphids off the vegetables. The day we were supposed to do a Ladybug Flying Celebration for the residents, my husband suddenly passed away from cardiac arrest.

On the evening of the day he passed away our precious church youth group did the Ladybug Celebration party as the youth and residents came together to honor my husband’s triumphant entrance into heaven. My husband’s wishes would have been to go right ahead and do this celebration. His favorite verse, which he quoted all the time, was 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

During this season of spring, we can teach our young children that God gives us such a beautiful world. Too, He gives us the gifts of seasons as He provides His world of nature to teach our children that they are truly loved. Happy Spring Holidays, everyone!

Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer

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