Nature Study Ideas
When you have little children it can be difficult to get out of the house. Here are a few nature study ideas that you can begin from your own home.
Using Nature Journaling
Your children can naturally learn the scientific principles of observation and recording.
Nature notebooks are for children to do on their own but it is quite reasonable for you as the parent to guide and suggest various inclusions. The parent provides the activities and the field trips which is the scaffolding for the nature journaling.
What is Nature Journaling?
Nature journaling is a form of notebooking.
Excerpt taken from Nature Journaling With Children
“Nature journaling is simply keeping a journal about nature.
You may read many different terms such as; nature diary, nature calendar, nature study, nature notebook and logbook. All of the terms have the same common theme, though they may have specific definitions. A journal is a record of events, observations, and feelings. It is a place for writing and drawing over a period of time. The word journal comes from ‘diurnal’ meaning daily, a diary implies a daily event, so does log book. This is not our aim. Our idea of journaling is that it does not have to be done daily, though a regular pattern of observation will help to establish a habit, improve observation skills and an awareness of seasonal changes.
We want to encourage children to observe and record what they see for the pure pleasure of it and to enjoy their environment and try to capture the memory – how they feel; of what they are reminded; or an expression of poetry may come with time. What they need is practise and inspiration. This is a complex skill to develop and your children may or may not be ready for it. Start with simple observations of colours, textures, patterns, shapes and movement and watch their skills grow.
Well known journals, like A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady or Beatrix Potter’s notebooks are the works of adults. They are essentially a form of nature journaling. What they include are illustrations, observations, poems, reflections of mood and feelings. An example of an Australian nature diary that we are aware of is, Amy Mack’s A Bush Calendar.
The advantages of Nature Journaling come from the habit of observation:
Children will benefit from journaling by becoming attuned to their environment, the wonder of creation, and the refreshment that comes from outdoor activity.
They will be encouraged to make accurate observations, and exercise their written and artistic skills. Countless artistic works have been created in the hearts and minds of people inspired by the wonder of nature.
They will also acquire:
- a knowledge of scientific names;
- basic researching; first hand observation skills;
- improved concentration and inspiration;
- captured memories;
- shared family experiences, etc.
Only the simple observations need to be recorded and this should be a delightful natural experience of learning and precious sharing of the moment.
Many of the positive outcomes of journaling will not be fully realised until adulthood, like the serenity and satisfaction that comes when you remove yourself from the bustle of everyday life and reflect on the beauty of creation.”
Nature Study Ideas & Journaling From Home
Nature journaling can be incorporated into your homeschool. Here are some ideas to help you begin.
1. Start A Nature Notebook
We started our nature journaling in a simple blank notebook. We aimed to make one entry in our nature journal per week. Each child had their own notebook.
2. Backyard Scientists
A trip outside is all we could manage some weeks but there was still much to learn.
Our small suburban backyard was still a good place to make observations and put an entry in our journal. We had birds (and a nest), lizards, spiders and butterflies. We had flowers, leaves and trees. We could look at the sky, feel the wind and temperature. We could observe the change of seasons.
Since the kids have become more aware of their surroundings they also created opportunities. I remember there was great excitement when one of the kids discovered a praying mantis on the back porch, everyone was called and pictures were taken.
From all these observations we can make a nature notebook entry.
3. Nature Readers & Nature Stories
First-hand experience with nature is wonderful but we all know we can’t see it all. Trips to the zoo to see giraffes and monkeys are a special treat rather than a regular event, so we used living nature books for learning about the nature’s wonders in other lands and habitats that we cannot directly observe.
Over the years I have collected a number of books that are good for nature study. I also have a number of drawing books that teach my children how to draw different animals.
After reading about some of these places or animals we would also add an entry into our nature book. Other times I asked the kids to narrate from a nature book and gave them pictures to sketch or cut out, to help them create their nature pages.
Nature books can also help develop a desire for more nature study. However don’t read too long. You may need to skip over some bits if they seem a bit boring.
The Wonderland of Nature was our ‘bread and butter’ resource for nature study when we started. We would read the a page and then go outside on an expedition in search of our specimen. We read how aphids are ant cows, so we went looking and found them being ‘milked’ in the mandarin tree. We read about what clever engineers spiders were and we went outside to examine a spider’s web—with each lesson we discovered something different.
Likewise A Bush Calendar was a catalyst for our own case study and seasonal observations.
Here are some nature book lists
and Australian Nature Stories that will inspire you.
4. Nature Walks & Collections
Whilst it can be very hard to get out on a nature walk when you have small children see if you can schedule some on the weekends or with friends when you can have some adult help.
On these outings if making an entry into your journal is too stressful I suggest you collect specimens that you may be able to use for a home lesson.
Make nature journaling a part of your homeschool! Find out how to Nature Journal With Kids.