Nature Study Help!


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  • Francis2911

    So, I’ve never been good at nature study. I love the idea of it, I love being outside with my kids. However, I just don’t understand how to do it productively and, at this point, my kids aren’t really enjoying it. So, I know I’m doing something wrong. Could someone give me some pointers on how to start? Should I create topics that we need to cover? Or should it be more loose? I have a 9th grader, 7th grader, 3rd grader, 2nd grader and Kindergartener. Any advice would be great!! Thank you!


    I had the same problem for many years: I wanted to do it but it seemed kind of unorganized. So what I did was this: I picked something to look for every time we went out. One day we looked for pine cones, another day birds, another day wildflowers, etc. We did that for the first science lesson of the week. Then the second lesson per week, I would find a lesson about whatever we looked at in one of the science books I already own, and read a lesson about it. So after finding pine cones, we’d learn about seeds and how they’re dispersed from The World of Plants. That kind of thing. We really enjoyed that year of science and I plan on doing it again with my youngest kid.


    We have A Modern Charlotte Mason’s nature study on insects, and she just came out with a new one on birds and butterflies (I was thinking it would actually be a cool one to do while reading Burgess Bird Book, too.). She lays things out based on a lot of research into how CM spent days, plus has book recommendations, what to do when you go outside, etc., but of course it’s flexible, too. Just a thought.  🙂

    This is the new one (They’re called Shared Wonder), but there’s also one on astronomy and insects.

    Karen Smith

    When you go out to do your nature study have a focus of what you want to look at. One week it might be clouds, another a tree, the next week might focus on ants. Throughout the year observe a variety of nature. Remember that nature study is a lifelong endeavor. Each time you observe something in nature, try to learn one more thing about it.

    Our Journaling a Year in Nature gives you help with focusing on what to observe in nature in the different seasons.

    I looked at the sample of the Shared Wonder Birds and Weather curriculum. There may be some good things there but I didn’t see a lot of direction for what to do with your time outside or nature journal. I also found it odd that yoga was scheduled and can’t see how that has anything to do with nature study, birds, or weather.

    It would be hard to tell much more without a deeper look at the recommended books.



    The year I did Exploring Nature with Children was our most successful year with nature study:


    We also had a great year when we did the SCM Pond and Stream Study.  I find a guided study works best for us.


    Karen Smith,

    This is helpful.  I’m trying to start a nature study with my daughter.  (grade 5)  I feel so lost on how to get started.  Funds are limited after we’ve purchased so much for this year.  I’m going to start with a blank notebook.  Can you go a bit further with your advice?  I really appreciate your response here.  🙂  Thank you, Cassy

    Karen Smith

    Here are several things to remember about nature study:

    1. It is easier than you think. Nature study is not difficult. It is simply observation and recording in some way what was observed. Take the time to really look at something when you do your once a week nature study. Choose a tree to observe throughout the year. Notice the tree’s shape, leaves, buds, flowers, fruit, and bark. Try to identify the tree. If insects are your focus, find one to observe. Notice what you can about it in the time you have for nature study. The next time insects are your focus observe the same type of insect or find another type to observe.
    2. Curiosity is what fuels the observations. Learn to wonder and ask questions about nature. What birds migrate through your area? When do they migrate? How does a bird’s beak shape determine what it mostly eats? What do different clouds indicate about the weather? What does the insect do when I put a stick in its way? Why is the squirrel gathering leaves?
    3. It is a life-long endeavor. Your child does not need to discover everything about nature this year. Take your time. Try to discover one new thing each time you are out. Over time you and your child will build a wealth of knowledge about nature.
    4. Your child’s nature journal is her own keepsake. She can draw what she sees, write her observations, journal about what she did and where she went for nature study, add a poem or Bible verse, or a combination of any of those. Whatever and however she records her observations, they are not to be critiqued or graded.

    You may find these articles on nature study from our Learning Library helpful.

    Doing Nature Study in Your Yard

    Have a Purpose in Mind

    Nature Study in a Nutshell

    Natural Object Lessons

    Karen Andreola’s book, A Pocketful of Pinecones, is an excellent book for you to get a picture of what nature study is and how it can done.

    Ellie’s Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell by Judith L. Li, is a wonderful book for children about children doing nature study.


    What we do for nature study (and I do NOT claim to be an expert) is that I just provide my children with guides. Bird books, foraging guides, snake books, flower and tree guides. They find things and try to identify them. They bring caterpillars in and we look up what kind they are. They have about memorized the “Idiot’s Guide to Foraging.” They spend a lot of time outside and when they find something that they can’t identify but that catches their interest, they look it up. And they can identify so much more than I can!

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