Finding Symmetry in Nature (Outdoor Math Activity for Kids)

We turned a recent walk in the forest into a lesson on symmetry- such a fun, hands-on way for kids to learn math! We searched for symmetry outside and even created our own symmetry art using nature we had found on our walk!

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 Learning Symmetry Using Nature~ Buggy and Buddy

Learning opportunities are everywhere you look. Even as you’re taking a walk outside, you are surrounded by boundless possibilities! As our family took a short stroll in a nearby forest, we spotted all kinds of interesting shapes and patterns in nature. Since Lucy and I had recently been reading some books on symmetry, we thought it’d be fun to examine the natural objects and see if we could find any that were symmetric. (This post contains affiliate links.)

 

Finding Symmetry in Nature with Kids

Finding Symmetry in Nature (Outdoor Activity for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

Lucy thought this flower might be a good example of rotational symmetry.

 

Finding Symmetry in Nature (Outdoor Activity for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

This fall leaf is a good example of reflection symmetry.

Finding Symmetry in Nature (Outdoor Activity for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

Lucy was pretty sure this stump was not symmetrical. We decided to take a photo of it to test it out with a mirror at home.

 

We took pictures of various items we found on the walk: leaves, sticks, tree stumps, and pinecones. We made guesses on if we thought they were symmetrical and talked about why. When we got home we printed out our photos onto paper to study them more closely.

From our previous readings, we learned about the various kinds of symmetry. We decided to focus on rotational symmetry (where an image can be rotated on a central point and still looks the same) and on reflection symmetry (where one half is a reflection of the other half.)

 

Finding Symmetry in Nature (Outdoor Activity for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

This pinecone was a challenge. What do you think? Symmetrical or not?

 

Finding Symmetry in Nature (Outdoor Activity for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

Poison oak was abundant on our walk. It provided a good example of reflection symmetry.

 

After printing out our photos, we got out a little mirror (like this one) and tested out each image. This leaf was a good example of reflection symmetry.

Symmetry in Nature~ Buggy and Buddy

 

It took Lucy a few tries to find the line of symmetry for this group of leaves. She loved seeing all the different ways she could make image look in the mirror!

Finding the line of symmetry with a mirror.

 

After testing the pictures with the mirror, we sorted them into three different categories: images that were not symmetrical, images that were examples of rotational symmetry, and images that were examples of reflection symmetry.

Symmetry in Nature~ Buggy and Buddy

 

When we were done sorting the pictures, we stuck them up on our wall with poster putty. Now we can add to it with examples we find on future walks!

We also thought it would be fun to make our own examples of symmetry with nature. Have you heard of sun sensitive paper? You can place objects on the paper, and then expose the paper to light to create designs and artwork. We love creating with this!

 

Making Art with Nature~ Buggy and Buddy

Here’s my artwork on the sun sensitive paper.

 

We walked around the yard and collected some natural materials. Then we used the collected items to create a rotationally symmetric design. It was such a great way to use what Lucy had learned about symmetry to create art!

 

Using Sun Sensitive Paper to Create Art

Here’s Lucy’s finished symmetrical art on the sun sensitive paper.

Children’s Books About Symmetry

Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy

What Is Symmetry in Nature? by Bobbie Kalman

 

Is It Symmetrical?  by Nancy Allen

 

You may also be interested in this previous post using art to create symmetry: Monarch Butterfly Symmetry Art for Kids .

monarch butterfly art for kids

 

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Comments

  1. Love, LOVE this idea! Can I come live at your house? I think it would be so much fun :)

  2. This is a FABULOUS post, Chelsey! Can you be my mommy, too? 😉

  3. Fantastic post! My daughter has loved science ever since she picked out a book on symmetry at the store. Finding symmetrical objects and plants are her favourite part of nature walks. :) I love the sun sensitive art!

    • Thanks, Kristan! I agree~ it was so much fun to do on a walk. And I think learning it in such a way will really help her remember all she’s learned!

  4. I love your symmetry in nature ideas! And the link party is very interesting, I have fopund some very good ideas!

  5. This is awesome! I love how you find the flow.

  6. So fun! Great idea to go on a nature walk, take pictures, then print out pics at home! Love this lesson!

  7. I love your photos. What a beautiful way to explore symmetry. We love sun sensitive paper too. Thank you for sharing this idea.

  8. Brilliant idea. I think that I will have to find 20 little mirrors to take outside with 20 kindergarten kids.

  9. This is fantastic! SO MUCH FUN and tons of learning too! We will definitely be doing this on our next nature walk – thanks for the amazing inspiration!

  10. I love this idea. Thank you so much for the post. It will make nature walks that much more fun!

  11. This is such a cool activity! I love how you incorporated the camera into it…this would be so engaging for my son.

  12. I love this lesson and the craft you created. Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

  13. Nature is full of learning adventures and opportunities. I think I will take a walk with my children soon and test them on symmetry now. Thank you for linking up this week to the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop :-)

  14. I love the stump and the pinecone looks like a Fibonacci Spiral.

  15. Thanks for linking up this post at the Hearts and Home Blog Hop. I chose your post as one of my featured favorites, so be sure to stop by and grab the “I was featured” button if you’d like: http://learningtable.blogspot.com/2013/09/hearts-for-home-blog-hop-34.html

    This is a neat nature study activity! :)

  16. What a lot of learning from one very simple walk, great idea, I’m going to pin it as a reminder. Thanks for sharing at the Outdoor Play Party

  17. What a wonderful lesson!! I love it!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!

  18. FABULOUS, Chelsea! What a great way to teach symmetry to young kids – something I haven’t done with my kids yet. This is definitely something to do on our fall walks. Featuring you at After School on Monday!

  19. What a wonderfully beautiful craft! I love your final product. I pinned this post.

  20. Suddenly a boring nature hike becomes a study in the details of plant-life. I love it! I’m featuring this activity on my blog at tomorrow’s After School Linky. Stop by and, of course, keep on sharing!

Trackbacks

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