Outdoor Hour Challenge #2: Using Our Words


Bad weather and illness delayed our second Outdoor Hour challenge – we did Challenge #1 over a month ago and it’s supposed to be a weekly challenge!


But yesterday we were – and we still are (knock on wood) – healthy, and the temperature deigned to rise above freezing (though only barely), and the sun shone so brightly on the fields of snow. We were sitting at Amie’s desk, looking out her big window and practicing writing, when I couldn’t resist the urge to go for a walk. Amie is always up for a walk in the snow, so we went out for about half an hour, until our fingers grew numb inside our gloves from the cold wind and the chunks of snow we were carrying…

I love the (apparent) paradox of the second challenge: it is about keeping quiet in nature but also about “using your words”. The idea is to be quiet while out there, and to use the words once you’re back inside for discussion.

Now, keeping quiet is hard to do with Amie, indoors or out. Ever since she could, she has talked nonstop. She can whisper, and does so with a lot of theatricality, but she can’t keep it up for long. Also, part of our walk, around the block, is via a street that gets busy with cars and buses around that time, when school ends.

I decided not to initiate talk but to let her talk if she wanted to, and then to guide the conversation toward words (adjectives and verbs) for what we were seeing and hearing and feeling.

Snow was, of course, the main attraction. It was everywhere!

  • The snow looked white and clean or dirty and brown/gray.
  • It sounded and felt either crunchy and icy or slushy and wet.


  • It looked and felt either frozen and slippery, or melted or something in between. We discussed what made the snow melt and how one thing (water) can  look and feel so different! We studied tiny rivulets underneath thin ice sheets. I mentioned – totally off the cuff ;) – that dark things get warmer in the sun, absorbing more heat, than white things, which reflect the sun rays.
  • We deplored that the snow wasn’t fluffy like before and that all the snow has hardened into rock solidity. This made for interesting track-making: you could stand on top of it, making hardly a dent, or crash through the frozen surface taking whole chunks down with you.


  • Also, we discussed how throwing a snowball made from this kind of ice-snow would hurt if you threw it at someone, because it was as hard as stone.
  • And that brought us to what kind of snow you need to make a good snowman (unfortunately not a snow Amie has experienced yet: a couple of weeks ago it was too light, now it is too hard). We talked about “dense” and “condense”.


  • We brought two “snowballs” home, though they were more chunks than balls and more ice than snow. Amie declared one a boy and the other a girl, adding that “it’s nice to be a girl” and that she would ask Baba if it’s at all nice being a boy.  Keeping in mind the melting  danger, she hurried me up as I transferred them from outside to the freezer.


We immediately indulged in some hot chocolate and some “honey cake” that my parents brought from Belgium (I need to find a good recipe for it, it’s always gone so fast).


Then we sat down to draw and Amie drew herself picking up snowballs (lo-ong arms) and holding hands with Lumpy (the Heffalump from Pooh). Nothing to do with the snow, that one, but she got the trunk right. She also gave herself some “earmoths”. “You mean earmuffs?” “No, ear-moths, Mama!”


Barbara, who started and runs the Outdoor Hour Challenge, just added another challenge specifically for winter, called Winter Wednesday, using the book Explore Nature in Winter by Elisabeth P. Lawlor as a guide. I’m thinking of joining that too, for obvious reasons.

Join the Conversation


  1. I absolutely loved what you said in your comment on my blog about this challenge, “It’s natural for us humans to go out and name things, and I strongly believe that if we develop words for nature, we develop love of nature.”
    Very nicely worded. May I include that in a future post?

    Your world looks so cold and snowy. My world is just cold at the moment. I think you and Amie did a great job on using your words. My daughter can with vocabulary too so I totally understand what you are living with as far as having a girl who always uses her words. (My Amanda is an English Lit/English major. No surprise.)

    In the book Discover Nature in Winter, one of the activities is to use different colored pieces of paper and put them out on the snow in the sun and see which ones melt the snow the quickest. I thought of that when you talked about your melting snow…dark and light. I thought you might like to expand on your idea if the opportunity arises.

    Thanks for the link to your challenge.
    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  2. Thank you: we’ll try that experiment tomorrow if it’s sunny. It might snow again. We like snow, we do, but one more load might max out our long and steep driveway’s capacity, or rather, the space underneath our car, between the tires, you know? Don’t relish shoveling that hard hard icy snow away…

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