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5 Great Nature Projects

During the past few weeks we have been sharing that there is more to nature study than just spending time outside. We’ve looked at Charlotte Mason’s ideas about

  • why to do nature study,
  • when to do nature study,
  • what nature study looks like, and
  • how to keep a nature notebook.

And most recently we’ve been discussing how Charlotte supplemented nature study with living science books and object lessons in their natural settings. Today let’s look at one more way to supplement nature study: nature projects.

Charlotte described at least five great nature projects that you and your children can do together to learn more about God’s creation.

  1. Ant Farm

    Charlotte described how to make a glass container to hold the ant farm in Volume 1, pages 57 and 58. These days you can also order ready-made ant farms in the traditional style or the new cool gel type that costs a bit more but is easier to care for.

  2. Caterpillar to Butterfly

    Watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly is a wonderful experience that every child should have the privilege of observing. Charlotte talked about this nature project in Volume 1, pages 60 and 61. You can do this nature project with something as simple as a glass jar or as elaborate as a Butterfly Pavilion.

  3. Pressing Wild Flowers

    Collecting and pressing wild flowers is another great nature project that you and your children can do together, whether you use heavy books or an authentic Hiker’s Plant Press. See Charlotte’s comments in Volume 1, pages 63 and 64.

  4. Tadpoles to Frogs

    As Charlotte mentioned in Volume 1, page 56, you can scoop up tadpoles in a nearby lake or pond and watch them turn into frogs. If you don’t live near a pond, Frog Hatchery Kits are available, complete with tadpoles.

  5. Bird Stalking

    “Bird ‘stalking,’ to adapt a name, is a great deal more exciting and delightful than bird’s-nesting, and we get our joy at no cost of pain to other living things. All the skill of a good scout comes into play. Think, how exciting to creep noiselessly as shadows behind river-side bushes on hands and knees without disturbing a twig or a pebble till you get within a yard of a pair of sandpipers, and then, lying low, to watch their dainty little runs, pretty tricks of head and tail, and to hear the music of their call. And here comes in the real joy of bird-stalking. If in the winter months the children have become fairly familiar with the notes of our resident birds, they will be able in the early summer to ‘stalk’ to some purpose. The notes and songs in June are bewildering, but the plan is to single out those you are quite sure of, and then follow up the others. The key to a knowledge of birds is knowledge of their notes, and the only way to get this is to follow any note of which you are not sure. The joy of tracking a song or note to its source is the joy of a ‘find,’ a possession for life” (Vol. 1, pp. 89–92).

What nature projects have you and your children been able to experience together? Leave a comment about it on this post.

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6 Responses to “5 Great Nature Projects”

  1. Nancy Schwab September 6, 2007 at 7:23 am #

    Another great project is an insect collection. My daughter is 7 and she is constantly finding the most interesting dead bugs every where we go. I make sure we have some sort of plastic container in the car for these “finds”. Then we go home and stick a pin through them and keep them in her box. We also get out “handbook of natrue study” and read a little about this particular insect if we can. I have enjoyed this project as much as she and it really requires little effort.

    Nancy

  2. Angela Belle Gamble September 6, 2007 at 7:29 am #

    Last year we picked one particular spot on our property and drew a picture in our nature journal of that same spot in all 4 seasons. It was like taking a snap-shot of the same area in each season, and it’s amazing to see how much changes from one drawing to the next (i.e. the trees look different in each season, the plants on the deck were covered in snow in one picture and in another one were in full bloom while in another were withered, etc).

    Angela Belle

  3. Anon September 6, 2007 at 8:30 am #

    The frog hatchery sounds cruel- what do I do with the hatched frogs that are simply going to die if I release them? Please don’t tell me frogs make great pets, smile. I like all of the other ideas, but to get something just so we can see it happen and dispose of living creatures like trash is not the message I want to send to my kids.

    • Karen September 6, 2007 at 8:25 pm #

      Anon, The projects listed in the post are just suggestions to get you started. They may not work or be appropriate for everyone, depending on their location, climate, etc.

      We’ve never used a frog hatchery kit, so I don’t know what instructions they may give. I’m guessing they assume you will keep the frog as a pet.

      We’ve raised tadpoles many times. They came from a local pond, which is where the frogs were later released after we tired of catching bugs and worms for them to eat.

      Rather than cruelty, it can be a great opportunity to teach our children about caring for nature. The more we understand them, the better we can care for them. Our children have taken the time to learn what to feed them and how to maintain their environment.

      When well-cared for, the rate of tadpoles surviving to become adult frogs is actually greater than what it would be in nature. And unlike many larger animals, frogs raised in captivity readily adapt to living in the wild when released.

  4. Amy September 6, 2007 at 1:49 pm #

    Last fall, my boys and I read together a Jim Arnosky book about animal tracks in winter (can’t remember the exact name of it.) About a week later, we had a big snow here in Colorado. As is usually the case in Colorado, the snow was followed by plenty of sunshine and blue skies and fairly warm temps. Before it melted, we strapped on our snowshoes and went for a hike in our backyard, which borders 75 acres of open space owned by our city. We are home to tons of wildlife. As Arnosky recommended in his book, we took rulers, pencils, paper, and a camera. We sketched the tracks we saw, measured their size and distance apart, etc. Then we used the book to identify some of the tracks. We were surprised to find that sketching them revealed more about them than just looking at them, and some of what we thought (when just looking) had been one animal clearly turned out to be something different. We had fun finding out where tracks crossed and wondering if the critters actually met and crossed paths or if they were all at different times. We have very sweet memories of this nature study day.

  5. Emily September 6, 2007 at 10:37 pm #

    I was recently turned on to this site shortly after my daughter commented on how all the night noises keep her awake!

    http://www.musicofnature.com/songsofinsects/iframes/twentyspecies.html

    You can discover which insects live in your neighborhood. Fascinating!