Nature Study for Wimps

Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom

Spending time with your children in the great outdoors can be a wonderful learning experience. Not only are fresh air and sunshine essential to good health, but exploring God’s creation firsthand can be a fantastic way to solidify what our kids have read and studied about nature in books and videos.

If you didn’t grow up as an outdoors person, however, then creating hands-on experiences for your children may go against the grain. That’s okay. Just take baby steps and learn together.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Visit your local nature center.

Most cities, counties, or states provide some kind of program for learning about local ecosystems. Many have programs especially designed for children and are often free of charge. You may be surprised at the wealth and breadth of flora and fauna growing in your own backyard.

2. Go for walks.

Whether on designated nature paths or simple, concrete sidewalks meandering through your neighborhood streets and parks, you and your children are sure to discover new and interesting creatures and critters. Don’t freak out if they pick up bugs, worms, or feathers. Take a deep breath. Relax. You’re learning, too.

Make observations of the birds and trees you see and talk about them together. Make guesses about what the birds might eat, what their habitats look like, if they migrate or stay put. Then go home and see if you can identify your feathered friends on the internet or in a bird guide book.

3. Visit lakes, mountains, and nature preserves.

State parks and national forests are great places to explore. Talk with the docents and rangers and ask for more information about the surrounding area. Not only are you learning about nature together, but your kids get to practice interacting with other adults besides their parents as well as give feet to inquisitive minds.

4. Begin a nature collection.

Take a bag along on all these adventures. Collect shells, stones, leaves, and flowers — as allowed by local law. Take your treasures home and identify your specimens with the help of nature books and internet study.

Consider different ways to document your findings: create a shadow box, start a nature scrapbook, or make a photo collage of the things you find and their identification information.

5. Collect field guides.

Check out field guide books from the library or buy a few copies to keep. You would be amazed at how absorbing these books are for children.

My eldest would take his bird book outside with him on a regular basis to see what he could see. The book became so tattered and worn, it lost its usefulness, but it had done its duty in teaching him much about the world around him.

6. Learn with your children.

So what if you’re not an expert outdoor adventurer? Your kids won’t mind. Set your sights on educating yourself as well as your children and explore nature together.

You’ll make wonderful memories — and a few mistakes —  just enjoy the journey.

Are you a great outdoors person or a nature novice? How does that play out in your homeschool?

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About Jessica

Once a public high school teacher, Jessica now homeschools five of her six children, covering 2nd through 10th grades. Her oldest is in college, so the experiment appears to have worked! Grab a copy of Jessica’s new cookbook Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less and the accompanying monthly meal plan to help you save money, eat well, and enjoy some freer time.


  1. I did not grow up as a nature study person but have embraced this philosophy as an adult, especially since having children. Helps of course that my husband is such an outdoors guy.

    Learning together is definitely the name of the game around here.

  2. i need this post. i am not outdoorsy, i hate bugs, my idea of an ideal nature study is the watching the discovery channel, while i sit on the couch, in my air conditioned den…but i am working on it…for the kids. i did buy some magnifying glasses and notebooks for them on a recent trip to the dollar store…

  3. I’m an outdoor learning consultant – Your tips are as relevant for me as they are for a beginner or wimp. Thanks for sharing them.
    Juliet’s latest post: Wonderful Willow Ideas from The Coombes School

  4. The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids by Todd Christopher is a great book for Nature Wimps (like myself). It expands on the ideas in Jessica’s great post!

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