Would someone please explain the Outdoor Hour Challenge site to me?

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  • I thought I looked at this site years ago, off and on, and I’ve certainly heard CM people reference it from time to time. But I was trying to check it out this evening and I just find it confusing now. It doesn’t look the way I remembered it (although maybe I’m remembering a different site entirely??), and is just so…busy to me. Plus there are these membership options that only further muddle my brain. 

    I feel silly asking because — gee, really? I need someone to explain a website to me?? lol — but maybe if anyone wants to chime in on how you use, favorite parts, if you need a subscription for those favorite parts, ages you use it with, thoughts on the subscription options, how does it enhance your nature study vs add busywork, did you try it and not like it (and why), etc.

    Thank you!

    Alicia Hart



    Well, I signed up for her emailings – and now I get a link to the Outdoor Hour Challenge pdf booklets that she makes.  I download and save them.  I print out certain pages for us to cut and paste into our Nature Journals.   I dream about actually cracking open my copy of that awful-thick Handbook of Nature Study Book by Comstock.


    That’s how I use her site.  I haven’t ever actually used anything.  Not because I don’t want to.  But because we run out of steam.  Or we forget.  Embarassed


    The website has changed. I find it a somewhat busy and confusing now, too, but maybe because I was accustomed to the old way! When my oldest was just a kindergartner, I followed her series of Getting Started. It helped me dig in to the Handbook in small increments and helped me feel “productive” in our family nature studies. I signed up for the newsletter (free) which is an email with a link to a PDF filled with ideas for the month. It also includes some printables, which I used occasionally. I do like the grid that is included each month in the newsletter with interesting activities. At times I printed out the grid for each child to paste in his or her Nature Journal and check off activities as completed. Other times, I printed out the grid and cut it into individual squares, placed in a pretty “nature” jar, and we pulled out one activity to complete together on various days.

    The greatest benefit of the site to me personally, was that it helped me feel comfortable with that large Handbook.

    Too much information and choices overwhelm me, however, so I do not go to that website very often now. I guess we’ve found our own groove with Nature, and I think that was Barb’s intention- to get families comfortable with nature study.


    Hey, MLIP – I just spent some time on there looking around. I like the color choices and I thought it looked less confusing to me than before.  lol  

    I skipped the Membership stuff and I looked at the pink Outdoor Challenges bar…starting with NS 101. Here Barb is encouraging everyone to start NS, not matter their circumstances.  I appreciated the Getting Started page (tab next to NS 101). It was loaded with ideas about how to keep all kinds of different records of nature study. This was helpful because some people are turned off by drawing, yet know NS is important. I am going to read more of her getting started series. I was getting excited to add another layer to my personal studies, lol.

    Under the other pages titled “insects”, “summer”, etc. are specific ideas for those critters or seasons. She references the pages to read from the Handbook of Nature Study and then gives a variety of ideas and things to do to help you start your study of _____. I specifically looked the cricket, the sunflower, the woodchuck, and the Summer yellow jacket page.

    Her general pattern for each challenge is basically this:

    • choose a topic
    • read about it before you go out
    • do a walk with that specific thing in mind to hunt down
    • come home, make your notes, and do a follow-up lesson.

    For someone who is not overly-comfortable with nature, someone who wants specific things to check off, someone who wants references already to go, or someone who loves having plans, this is the site for them. There are even notebooking pages available through the journals page. 

    We tend to be a bit more laid back, I guess. I have all the notebooking pages and own the Handbook. However, we go out and observe whatever we find. The girls choose something that they are interested in that they saw, and we look it up when we get home – watch videos, look at pictures, read about it. Then we draw it in our journals. We also record what we saw or heard on our walk. This works for us, mostly, I think for several reasons: 1) we are actually studying some thing we saw,  2) the kids are interested in whatever we saw so they WANT to learn and journal about it, and 3) it is a lot less prep for me, so the chances of it happening are way better. We have learned a lot this way!

    Something else we just started in our new school room is a nature study table and I love how often they pick things up throughout the week for the table. We have an empty turtle shell, snake skin, bones, feathers, rocks, seeds and nuts, flowers, an empty bird nest with bird shells that we have collected, etc.

    If you think that you need something extra to get started with Nature Study, ODC is an excellent place to learn about it. If you already do NS, you can find addtitional info on making it more meaningful or adding another element to your NS.


    We have been using an artist sketch pad for our Nature Journals and making one entry per page. I was reading through the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and decided to divide the pages into fourths so that they are more “readable” and we see a bigger picture of a month. I think that the journals will mean more and last longer. 😉

    Yay! I think I understand it better now, thank you!  All of your comments were so helpful, and the details of where you go on the site and what you found useful…exactly what I needed to hear to wrap my jumbled brain around the busy aspects of the site. It’s still a bit overwhelming, but I feel like it’s much more doable now. THANK YOU!!

    I dream about actually cracking open my copy of that awful-thick Handbook of Nature Study Book by Comstock.

    Karen — lol!!  Too funny. It’s a good dream. 🙂  


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