Written by contributor Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Though we’re not always consistent with including it, nature study is one of our favorite ways to spend some of our homeschool day.
It’s fun, relaxing, interest-led learning in a real-world, hands-on environment.
Following are five tips for making nature study an anticipated part of your family’s education (because you’ll be learning, too, Mom):
1. Utilize The Handbook of Nature Study – The Book and the Blog
The Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Comstock is the comprehensive nature study book. Written by the late founder of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University, this detailed reference guide was originally written for elementary school teachers.
The first few chapters explain the how’s and why’s of nature study. After that, the volume is broken down into sections on animals, plants, earth and sky. The sub-sections and the index make it easy to find information on nearly any nature-related subject imaginable.
The Handbook of Nature Study blog offers fantastic direction for getting started, from the Outdoor Hour Challenges, which encourage you to get out and study nature as a family, to notebooking and journaling pages. It was the blog’s author, Barb, whose passion for nature study ignited the interest in our family.
Photo by Kris
2. Keep a Nature Journal
Yes, this means you, too, Mom. When your kids see you getting excited about nature study, they’ll get excited, too. I modeled my nature journal after a picture of one I saw in The Handbook of Nature Study.
I did not put any expectations on my kids’ journals. I wanted it to be something they wanted to do, not something they had to do. I encouraged them to draw pictures, make rubbings of leaves, tape leaves to the pages, or even include quotes or poetry, like I enjoyed doing, but I didn’t require it.
A good resource for getting started with a nature journal is Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles Roth.
3. Give Everyone a Camera
This may not be feasible in every family, but at this point in our family’s lives, each of my kids has their own digital camera – either a hand-me-down or one they’ve received as a gift. We all see the world differently as evidenced by the variety of photos we take.
My kids seem to enjoy nature study more when they are encouraged to photo journal our outings with pictures of the things that catch their interest. We rarely go on a nature walk with a detailed agenda. I may encourage the kids to look for things like different types of tree bark or a variety of mushrooms, but generally I like to just let them look for things that catch their attention.
Photo by Kris
4. Pack a Nature Backpack
We keep a nature backpack in our van so that we don’t have to worry about forgetting something and so that we’re prepared for impromptu nature walks. Included in our backpack are:
- Nature journals
- Pencil boxes with colored pencils, writing pencils, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener
- Magnifying glass
- Sandwich bags (in case we find an interesting specimen to bring home)
- Field guides
5. Join a Nature Center
Some of you may be blessed with great places to observe nature in your own backyard. If, however, you’re like us and live in a subdivision, you may want to join a nature center. We have a couple of options in our area and the inexpensive membership was well worth having a place where we knew we could go hiking and be sure to see different types of plants, animals, and birds.
Don’t overlook nature preserves or national parks in your area either. These are typically free and offer some great opportunities to observe nature.
Photo by Kris
Nature study doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – a complicated undertaking that adds more stress to your life. I encourage you to utilize these tips to get out and see how enjoyable and relaxing it can be to explore the world around us.
Do you include nature study in your homeschool? What tips would you add?