Nature Study with Young Children

I recently listened to a discussion on the iHomeschool network over on Google+ about incorporating nature study into a school routine. It was very informative and got me thinking about how we do nature study at home.
We’ve done nature study in some form or fashion since we started homeschooling three years ago, and I think it is an important part of our schooling. Families do nature study different ways and I think knowing the needs of your particular family and the learning style and personality of your children makes a difference in how you do nature study. How nature study looks in your home may also depend on the “season” your family is in.
Local Classes
Classes are an excellent mixture of nature study and science lesson. There are often excellent classes offered at local nature centers, through a city’s Parks and Rec department, museums and botanical gardens. We often participate in homeschool classes at our Botanical garden and at the various natural areas around town. There is usually a lesson and some crafts/activities, as well as an guided nature walk through the gardens or natural area.
The resources listed below are specific for San Antonio but many cities will have similar programs available.
One program that we have participated in at our local parks is Growing Up WILD/Project WILD. I have even gone through training for this curriculum, and its great! It would be worthwhile to see if there is a Growing Up WILD or Project WILD program in your area.
Preplanned Nature Study Topics
There are wonderful resources available for planning nature study topics. One of my favorites is the site Handbook of Nature Study.
This is the home of Barb McCoy’s Outdoor Hour Challenge, a weekly “challenge” to get outdoors and do nature study.
McCoy has put together awesome nature study resources using Anna Comstock’s The Handbook of Nature Study as a guide. This book is wonderful resource and can be found free online. However, I think purchasing the book would be a worthy investment because it is a big book, and the free domain version is a bit cumbersome.
McCoy’s Handbook of Nature Study site uses this book as a guide to plan and organize topics of nature study. There is an abundance of activity suggestions and nature study notebooking pages available. Many of the resources are free to download as well as purchase in ebook format for a small fee.
Unscripted Nature Study
While we have enjoyed taking classes, as well as planning out what we wanted to look at on any given outing, Kyri has expressed interest in doing something a little less structured lately. She loves being outdoors, and wants to be able to just explore and follow where ever her interests lead her that day.
We are putting together a field kit for these unscripted nature study outings. A few good field guides (we will be including Trees, Insects, Birds, and maybe Texas Wildflowers), a hand lens, a small notebook and colored pencils, and some bags and containers for (non-living) sample collections. A simple pair of kid’s gardening gloves, along with forceps and a small terrarium will round out our kit.
I have laid down some basic rules, especially as they apply to live specimens. The terrarium isn’t in the kit to start a collection of creatures at home. It is to hold a specimen for a short while to examine it, take some pictures, and possibly a simple sketch. Then, whatever she finds has to be released.
Between the natural areas, the botanical garden, as well as the parks around here, we have plenty of places to explore!

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