There are so many different encounters awaiting you in nature, no matter where you live and what you have access to.
One of the things you might like to do, is plan out a year-long schedule, and spread out some of the bigger trips further afield, with the smaller and more accessible in between. Planning ahead also makes it more likely to happen amidst all the other commitments that homeschoolers have. You’ll also want to consider the different seasons, and what might make a fun nature study during those months.
Here are just a few ideas and topics for your nature studies which can be easily adapted for all ages:
- Nature scavenger hunts – especially great to do with younger ones, compile a list of small things to collect of different colour and texture.
- Beach walks – study the tides and currents, sand and stones, shells, tide pool life, plant life, erosion, things that wash up including driftwood, and birds.
- Cloud study – observe and record cloud types on different days. Note the seasonal differences.
- Gardening – teach your children about planting and managing a garden of their own, and sustainable practices for pest control, soil health, harvesting, and seed saving.
- Leaf study – collect leaves and bark to do leaf rubbings or sketch. Look up in your identity guide and record what tree they come from.
- River or stream study – observe and record animal life, erosion and soil, plant life, animal life in and around the water, habitats, and see what you can scoop up in your net. Collects stones and rocks to draw or photograph.
- Weather and climate – this is great to do all year around. Record the weather every day over a month, and note the differences in temperature, clouds, rain or sun, and wind.
- Erosion – find an area where erosion is prominent, such as by the beach, and record the different soil types in the layers, the effect on its surroundings, and the speed at which it is occurring (you’ll need to do this over regular intervals, every 3-6 months).
- Backyard birds – set up a birdfeeder and birdbath in your backyard to encourage birds. Identity your backyard birds using a field guide.
- Wildflowers – observe and record wildflowers and their growing conditions. Where permitted, dry and press, or simply sketch in your journal, noting how and where they grow, what the soil is like, and use a guide to find their identity.
- Tree – Choose a particular tree and record its changes through the four seasons. Note the changes in its bark, leaves, soil and whether there are blossoms or fruit.
Places to Visit
Your local town or region might have some of the following (some of these are indoors):
- Zoo or animal park visit
- Quarry park
- Tide pools
- Botanical gardens
- Inner city community gardens
- Observation decks
- Mangroves or swamp
- Garden centre or nursery
- Historic sites
- Science museum
You’ll probably find there’s very little you’ll need most of the time besides your paper and pencils, but here are some things that might come in handy depending on your nature walk:
- Nature Journal
- Magnifying glass
- Paper bags
- Field guides
- Pencil, eraser and coloured pencils
- Bucket and spade
- Butterfly net
Through the Seasons
In the course of doing our nature studies, I’ve found there are some things that are best studied at different times of the year. Below I’ve put some suggestions, based partly on what is in abundance through that season or where interesting and notable changes are taking place. It might vary in your area, so feel free to use this as a starting place, and adapt accordingly.
As a suggestion, you might like ensure you have spread different topics within life science and earth science over the course of the year.
- Ocean life
- Harvest and crops
- Rocks and minerals
- Stars, planets, constellations
- Wild plants and spring flowers
- Amphibians and reptiles
- Garden plants and soil
- Seeds and seedlings
So far I’ve shared on the ‘why’ of nature study, and some ideas for how to go about it. Next time I’ll write more specifically on keeping a nature journal.