“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” ― Oscar WildeNature studies are probably my favorite part of homeschool. Enjoying the outdoors, learning about the world around us, hiking through forests. Not many other things take my mind off the worries of this world the way nature does. But there are a few tips to a successful nature study.
1. Use the Handbook of Nature Study. Written by Anna Comstock, this book is the most comprehensive book on the subject. The first few chapters explain the how-to's and why nature study is important. The rest of the book is broken down into sections: sky, earth, animals, plants, etc. Another exellent resources is Barb's blog at The Handbook of Nature Study. She encourages with Outdoor Challenges and has some really creative ideas. (I'm pretty sure she has memorized the book!)
I also use The Young Naturalist's Guide to Florida because we have a unique environment here. Our weather patterns, seasons and even animals and insects are quite unique. I sometimes find it difficult to share along in some of Barb's challenges because the animal or plant doesn't exist here. Or perhaps the study is about snow! Using this book, I can adapt or even do a study from scratch!
2. Always have a camera on hand and let the children use it. I think moms have a gene that compells us to take pictures of our kids. It's great to get pictures of the kids on a study. What memories you're making and preserving! But remember that the children need to document their work too. Photos are an excellent tool for documenting what they see and learn. They can keep them in their journal and study them again. They can also sketch from the photos. As well, I like the insight into my children's minds. When I look at the photos they take, I can see the world from their point of view. What interested them? What did they see that I missed? Where was their unique, individual focus?
3. Keep a Nature Journal. Keep it simple. The more difficult it is for you or the children to document your nature studies, the less likely you'll do them. (Yes, mom, you should be keeping a journal, too) Don't make it rocket science. You can find some ready made Nature Journals at Amazon.com or simply use a binder or sketchbook (you really should have heavyweight paper for these).
4. Put together a backpack for nature studies. Keep this backpack somewhere you won't forget to take it along on nature studies. The trunk of your car or back of your van/SUV are perfect place. The bare essentials for this pack are:
- Nature journals
- Magnifying glass
- Sketching pencils, colored pencils, writing pencils, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener (pencil boxes recommended)
- Field guides
- Sandwich bags or some other way to collect specimens
Do you have any tips for nature studies? What is your favorite thing about going studying nature?