Rather than gifting a material object this holiday season, opt to give an “experience” gift. Not only will it help minimize waste and clutter, but an experience gift can also be wonderfully green and intrinsically fulfilling. How so? Experience gifts, for instance, lead to quality bonding time, new skills and shared memories, all of which are priceless. Here are our top suggestions for nature courses and classes for the whole family, and be sure to check locally for nature courses near you.

shelter made from tree branches in forest

Wilderness survival

There are various experience gifts out there, and Inhabitat celebrates those that teach about nature and cultivate an appreciation for the outdoors. Sometimes being in nature calls for wilderness survival skills for better preparedness, adaptability, endurance, resourcefulness and resilience in improvising during unexpected situations. Survival might require knowing how to tie knots and cordage, as well as knowing how to fashion and utilize stone tools. Wilderness survival classes will teach all of that and more.

Related: 5 common weeds you can make into healthy (and free) teas

group of people climbing snowy mountain

Ice climbing and mountaineering

The outdoors are best enjoyed year-round; even the winter can be an excellent time to commune with nature. What better way to do so than by partaking in ice climbing or mountaineering? Find a course near you to learn the skills needed to succeed in these athletic activities.

people in boat on lake fly-fishing

Fly-fishing

Fly-fishing appeals to many outdoor enthusiasts. This skill isn’t the same as catching fish with a simple fishing pole or net. To learn the angler intricacies of this pastime, check out Blue Quill Angler, Cabela’s Fly Fishing University, Fly Fishing Coach International, Lillard Fly Fishing and Orvis’ Fly Fishing Learning Center.

falconer holding a bird

Falconry lessons

Falconry has been known as the “sport of emperors,” for it has long been a passion of many monarchs and historical figures. Modern falconry mainly cultivates a bond between falconer and falcon, birder and raptor. In other words, modern falconry is about avian stewardship, especially because one has to be licensed with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife or a similar local organization, such as a state wildlife department or agency, depending on your location. But the experience is a rewarding one because of the meticulous care that must be given to falcons and raptors. To learn more, contact the North American Falconers Association (NAFA), which has been protecting and serving North American falconry since 1961.

Zodiac globe, vintage map, ship lantern and compass

Celestial navigation

Seafarers have been known to orient themselves in the open ocean by the night sky. The night sky and its stars are all part of the natural world; hence, learning to identify the constellations and other astronomical wonders will instill a deeper appreciation for nature. You can learn how to orient yourself by stargazing, thanks to resources offered by the American Sailing Association, The Great Courses and U.S. Sailing, just to name a few.

chanterelle mushrooms and wild berries in bowl on forest floor

Foraging

Foraging is all about searching for food and particular plants. One can forage for savory spices, edible mushrooms, herbs and even medicinal plants. Foraging courses abound including at establishments like Backyard Forager, Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, forageSF, Grow Forage Cook Ferment, Herbal Academy and Wild Plant Guide. A directory of foraging organizations is also available here.

Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food

person holding plant guide and touching plants

Identifying trees and shrubs

Woody plants, like trees and shrubs, come in all shapes and sizes. You can expand your knowledge of them by taking courses on identifying their characteristics and learning about the landscapes in which they can be found.

bird tracks in snow

Identifying animals and their tracks

Besides identifying plants for foraging purposes, there are also courses that assist with identifying mammals, birds and other animals, not just by their appearance but also by their calls and spoor. Some of the best places to learn more about obtaining these skills include Adventure Out (which also offers programs for corporate retreats and team-building events), Earth Skills, Earthwork Programs, Natural Awareness Tracking School, Nature Tracking, Naturalist Ventures, Tracker School and Tracker Certification from CyberTracker North America.

fermented food in glass jars outside

Homesteading

Homesteading is essentially a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, with reliance on subsistence agriculture and permaculture, preservation of food via canning and drying, a return to simple textiles and an affinity for the traditions of earlier eras. Modern homesteaders also tend to rely on renewable energy, be it solar or wind power. Courses on homesteading include aquaponics, beekeeping, bread and cheese making, organic gardening, permaculture, homemaking and farm management.

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