Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Simple "How-to" Guide to Nature Study

{a guest post}

I grew up in the suburbs. My main memories of nature are crows and red-breasted robins. We had cats and a dog. I spent a lot of time indoors watching t.v. I knew things grew out there beyond the sliding glass door but I wasn't terribly interested. Then, in my mid-twenties, I married my Mountain Man and we moved to the island of Corsica, France also known as L'ile de Beaute or Island of Beauty. He loved the outdoors and inevitably, we spent a lot of time there. I began to realize what I had been missing. When we started a family, I knew time spent in nature was going to be a family value. But how exactly? Early on in our homeschool journey, I connected with the values of Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy. I kept coming across the term "nature study" and found it incredibly intimidating. It sounded ideal but I needed some practical application. I find it is more challenging to pass on something you never had yourself. Not impossible just more challenging.

"How-to" Guide to Nature Study

So, I wanted to share a few simple tips to how we do nature study in our home. My hope is the term will transform from feeling intimidating to being feasible and fun for you and your family as it has for us! I find when I participate right alongside my children, pointing out discoveries, wondering about what we've found and even recording them, nature study is a richer experience for all of us. So, don't stand back, jump right on in! Become child-like again! This year, my goals (the keyword here is goals :-)
  • Once a week, take a nature walk and bring home some special discoveries.
  • Once a month, spend an extra hour recording our experience through words and art.

Step Outside

Half the battle is just getting out the door and into nature. Once you're on a trail, observe. Ask questions (mom too!) Recognize beauty. Marvel at what you find. Need a jump-start? Read how our family turns a nature walk into a nature scavenger hunt to inspire observation and stir curiosity. It's easy!

Bring Home a Specimen

I only use the term specimen because it sounds more officially scientific. What I mean is gather a few samples of what you discover. A wildflower, pine cone, or a bug. Bring them home and display them on your nature shelf. I've cleared the top of a bookcase to showcase our weekly finds.

Use Nature Guides

Gather a collection of guides to use. The guides can assist you in answering some of the questions that came up on your walk. Also use them to identify the specimens you brought home. To compliment your nature walks, try Christian Liberty Nature Readers. They can be read independently around a 3rd grade level or you can read them aloud.

 My small collection of nature guides. Find them at garage sales, online or borrow them from the library.
I store ours within reach in a basket on our art shelf.

Record Your Discovery

This year, I've printed this free nature journal template. It can be folded but I put ours flat in a three-ring binder for use at home. Once or twice a month, we'll fill out the form in detail, recording our observations.

 The cover of Samuel's nature notebook.
Once a month, we draw or paint our specimen using any art materials we choose. There is a space for a drawing on the free nature journal template. However, you may choose to buy a special sketch book to accompany your nature study.

 Jesse's first grade drawing of a gumweed

About AshleyBrendle

Ashley is the proud mama of 6 boys (including 1 set of twins). She and her husband live on a small sustainable farm in Oregon where they love to integrate homeschooling, faith in Jesus, family, and ministry into one big, happy life! She believes God wants mothers to thrive in their homes. She writes at Tips4Mom and shares her journey via podcast at ChristianMommyMinute.  I've enjoyed and been challenged by her thoughtful writing and encourage you to check it out!

Related Posts on Cultivated Lives:
Why Nature Walks
How to Nature Walk
Nature Walk Resources
Nature Walking: Books that Inspire
Seven Ways to Take a Walk

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