There’s no doubt we all benefit from outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. Leisurely strolls in woods and along the beaches, while observing nature, help us relax and inspire meditation. Physical activity, including gardening, also sends endorphins to our brains, warding off depression, and makes us fit and healthy. During Great Outdoors Month, get moving and explore some of the U.S.’s national parks, urban centers, oceans, or even your back yard. The following resources offer some suggestions for appreciating the outdoors:
Ecosystems in National Parks
In any trip to a national park or forest you are likely to encounter flora and fauna that comprise an ecosystem. Get a better understanding of how all these organisms—predators, prey, and producers—interact and coexist. Try keeping an ecosystem in balance with the Ecology Lab from The Habitable Planet.
Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)
Find pictures of Yellowstone in the archives for America’s History in the Making, unit 13. For example, see a painting done by Thomas Moran as part of a U.S. Geological Survey expedition. Moran’s watercolors of Yellowstone were later used to convince Congress to establish Yellowstone as a national park.
Central Park (New York City)
Escape the hustle and bustle of New York City by ducking into Central Park. Learn about how Central Park was designed in 1857 and the design’s influence on urban natural spaces throughout the United States thereafter in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”
Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface. As the school year ends, many head to the seaside to relax in the sun and frolic on the beach. Explore and appreciate the ocean using the following resources:
What is the structure of the ocean and what causes that painful “ear squeeze” in scuba divers? See The Habitable Planet, unit 3, “Oceans,” section 2. Sections 6 and 7 describe the biological activity of the tiniest forms of ocean life, plankton, that form the base of marine food webs.
Dive into Earth Revealed, program 4, “The Sea Floor,” to learn how scientists use technology to study the geology and biology of the bottom of the sea.
Explore the relationship between rocky landmasses and the energy of the ocean. See illustrations of wave movements and their impact on the shores in Earth Revealed, program 24, “Waves, Beaches and Coasts.”
Use cyclic functions to track the height of tides as they come in and go out in Learning Math: Algebra, session 8, part A, Cyclic Functions, Tides. At the bottom of the page, watch the video clip to see a “real world” example of how to calculate tides from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Peer into the future of energy by examining how experimental ocean power systems harness energy and the challenges of using such systems in The Habitable Planet, unit 10, “Energy Challenges,” section 8, Hydropower and Ocean Energy.
Do you have a green thumb? Why not use that thumb to help track the migration of monarch butterflies? Journey North provides schools and individual citizen scientists tools and information for planting butterfly gardens and monitoring butterfly activity. The data collected and posted on the Journey North website is used to track seasonal change. This page lists the types of plants you will need to host both monarch caterpillars and butterflies.
You can also attract hummingbirds by growing plants with their preferred nectar. Find instructions on the “Unpave the Way for Hummingbirds” page of Journey North.
Visit a virtual garden in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.” Find a photo of the gardens created by Henry Hoare II and Henry Flitcroft at Stourhead Estate in Wiltshire, England. Be inspired by the symmetrical arrangements that reflect a nature-taming approach to gardening.
How will you enjoy the great outdoors this month and this summer?