Tag Archives: Nature Study

Keeping a Nature Journal

Keeping a nature journal

Recording and collating is an important part of nature study, as it’s where your child can journal the things they have investigated and experienced.  With a little guidance, their nature journals will become something to treasure in the years to come and a wonderful resource to look back on.                     

Ideas on Getting Started

You can simply use a plain unlined spiral-bound notebook, although I love to print pre-designed notebooking pages as they make a lovely end result to look through.  It also helps with my children’s interest level when the pages are bright and engaging.

I prefer to take paper and clipboards on our walks, and then paste into our journals when we get home.  This way their journals are kept nice.

What to Record in a Nature Journal

Nature journals don’t need to be a place of facts and exact scientific names.  In fact, I prefer not to go overboard with learning all the correct scientific names with my young children yet.  But rather, let them creatively record their observations with sketching, pastels, diagrams, words and short sentences, poetry, and simply their thoughts if they’ve been stirred by something they’ve seen.

You like might to encourage your children to keep a simple list of things observed in the back of their journal for each season, and date each entry.

For Younger Children

My 4 year old daughter has a giant scrapbook that she uses for her nature journal.  At her age, I encourage her to simply draw what she sees and hears, and I label and date it for her.  If she’s not interested, I don’t pressure her to draw.  If she’s interested, we might talk about what she notices, thinks and feels.

Once your child is writing more competently, they can record what they see and hear in just a couple of words, or you could also write what they tell you.   Encourage them to observe for about 10 minutes first, and ask them questions about the environment they are seeing, hearing and touching.  You could collect things like leaves and flowers, press them, and add into their journal.

A fun thing to include is their photos, which you can just print onto paper and glue into their journal.  Let them take photos of your walks out, things they’ve grown in the garden, or of each other holding some of the treasure they’ve found.

For Older Children

Nature Journaling is something to grow in over time, and eventually you’ll find your child will be ready to record more detailed observations as their written language develops.  Encourage them to research the names of flora and fauna, and to research things further that they have interest in.

Let your child experiment with using coloured pencils, soft pastels, watercolour paints, and different ways of presenting their work.  If you make this a regular event in your homeschooling, in no time your child will have a beautiful journal filled with their own observations.

The natural cycles, rhythms and seasons speak and have the handprints of Creator God evident.  Encourage your older children to write scriptures and record their thoughts in their journal on what they see and hear God saying to them through his creation.

Lastly…

For all ages, the most important thing is to encourage a love for God’s creation and be enthusiastic yourself about the experience.

We find we go through seasons where we do very little, and then find our enthusiasm again once we jump into the experience and realise how much we enjoy it.  I know all the core subjects are important to get through, trust me, I know the struggle of juggling essentials and electives!  But if you make nature study and journaling a priority in your homeschooling, you might find that the rest just falls into place.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series.  I would welcome any thoughts you have, and further ideas for making nature study fun.

Further links

Nature Study: Out and About

Nature Study Out and About

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
  • Aquarium
  • Quarry park
  • Beach
  • Trails
  • Wetlands
  • Caves
  • Tide pools
  • Desert
  • Botanical gardens
  • Inner city community gardens
  • Planetarium
  • Observation decks
  • Orchards
  • Farms
  • Mangroves or swamp
  • Garden centre or nursery
  • Forest
  • Historic sites
  • Science museum

Getting Equipped

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
  • Compass
  • Binoculars
  • Magnifying glass
  • Containers
  • Paper bags
  • Camera
  • 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.

Summer

  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Ocean life
  • Trees

Autumn

  • Harvest and crops
  • Rocks and minerals
  • Mammals
  • Leaves

Winter

  • Stars, planets, constellations
  • Weather/climate
  • Invertebrates
  • Landscapes

Spring

  • 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.

{Shared at Hip Homeschool Mom, Teaching What is Good}

Connecting with the Creator Through Nature Study

Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study

Nature study is simply the practice of observing and recording our time in the outdoors.  It’s one of the most well known areas of learning promoted by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, although any style of homeschooling can enjoy the study of nature.

Nature study lays the basis for much of formal science study, particularly so with life science and earth science.  I’m of the belief that science shouldn’t just be learned from books, and children will learn and retain better with a hands-on experience or encounter, and by observing and recording the experience.

For us, nature study is also creation study.  It’s about intentionally looking at the handprints of our Creator all over the created world.  Consider these:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. – Romans 1:20

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  – Psalm 19:1

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? – Job 12:7-9

The Creator speaks to us through the work of his hands.  How much more, as Christians, should we be connecting to the visible created world, and listening to His voice speak to us of his invisible attributes?

Sow a Habit, Reap a Character

Charlotte Mason said this: ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worthwhile.”Charlotte Mason

God’s voice is heard in creation – doesn’t that in itself make the act of connecting with nature worthwhile?  I believe nature study also stirs the desire to seek out answers, and awakens a sense of stewardship towards the world we’ve been given.

We really desire to foster the desire in our children to worship God as their Creator, as well as the other aspects of who He is, and to know and understand this side of Him they have to encounter Him in this way.

Getting Outdoors

As a culture we have become more inclined these days to be indoors, so it can be a discipline at first to get used to having time outside every day.  Perhaps many of us do not realise just how disconnected we have become with nature.  It’s amazing how some sunshine, fresh air, and a walk in the sand can lift our spirits, especially when we’re with our loved ones.

A good goal to set for getting outdoors is an hour a day, plus some time in the weekend as a family.

Can I suggest that this becomes about something you all do together, and not just sending the kids outside while you are indoors doing something else?  You’ll be glad you did!  Watch and listen to what He is speaking through creation together.

Nature walks and study can form some of these times outdoors, at just once or twice a week where you plan something specific to do that your children record in their journals.

Next time I’ll write on some ideas and topics for your nature studies, and places to visit that you may find in your local area.

{Shared at Roadto31, Hip Homeschool Mom, Teaching What is Good}