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Nature Study, part 3: Getting Started

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 24, 2010

     How can you get started with nature study?  Why not start in your own backyard? 

     The first step is going outside with your children.   See what your children notice, and then talk to them about it.  When they get excited about something they see or find, take advantage of their interest by learning more about it through field guides or other books.

     Some of the things you can observe in your own yard include the changes in the seasons; natural objects such as seeds, pods, rocks, and critters such as insects, toads, and birds.  You can study animals–their habitats, eating habits, behavior, and so on.  It’s always fun to study plants.  How fast do they grow?  Do they change in appearance as they grow?  How do they change seasonally?  You can observe this sort of thing even in a small yard. 

      Some of the best ideas to help you get started come from books.  There are many helpful resources available.  You can use the book “Backyard” from the One Small Square series, and see what you can find in one small area of your yard. Start with the soil.  Dig up a small section of loose soil, put it on top of white paper, and then look at it with a magnifying glass.  What is the soil made of?  Do you see any insects or grubs?

       Using ideas from the book, Kid’s Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats,   you can learn how to add simple things to your backyard that will attract wildlife to your backyard.

 Extending Your Learning

      Here are some specific ways to take advantage of your children’s interest, and extend their learning:

 -Encourage your children to show you what they find, and talk about it with them

 -Use a concordance to look up what you are studying whenever you can.  You will find many references in the Bible to bees, ants, rocks, birds, stars, and so on.  You can also use Bible gateway.com.

 -Identify plants, animals, and insects you don’t recognize in a field guide.  There are even field guides for rocks, minerals, and animal tracks.  After you identify your finds, read more about them in books.

 -Encourage your children to start collections of natural objects—pinecones, rocks, shells, etc.  Think of it as your own “natural history museum.”   (Remember:  Collecting specimens is forbidden within state/national parks, and NEVER pick wild flowers unless you can leave many specimens behind.)

 -Start a nature journal.  Draw what you see, and write a few sentences about it.  Some children might like to write a story about what they saw.  Identify what you draw with a field guide, and write down its name.  Be sure to date your journal entries, and note where you made your entry, as well.  You can use a fancy, pre-made journal, or you can use a sketch book or a composition book.  Some families add poetry to their journals.

 -Make a lap-book or scrapbook about whatever you learn in your nature studies.  Add pages from resources such as Considering God’s Creation to your lap book or scrap book, as well.  ****

 -Bring wildlife indoors via critter cages, aquariums, and pets.  The book Pets in a Jar is a wonderful resource for this.  You can also grow avocado pits, carrot tops, sweet potato vines, etc.

 -Plan simple backyard lessons using the following resources:

  Nature in a Nutshell for Kids, and Science in Seconds for Kids, by Jean Potter (very short, simple experiments/planned nature studies) OR Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.

     Next time:  Moving beyond the backyard/tips and resources.

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.   


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