Nature studies are a fantastic way for your kiddos to learn about the beautiful world around us! They are hands-on, multi-sensory & a great way to get outside and enjoy the weather all while seeing wonder of nature through THEIR eyes. Why do a nature study? Nature studies can be done as a regular part of your homeschool routine or it can be a special treat for your children depending on where you live & what your schedule allows. Everyone can do a nature study. Whether you live out in the country or the middle of a large city, you can take advantage of learning from the outdoors!
Nature studies are beneficial because they:
- Allow children to learn with all five senses
- Break up traditional book learning or seatwork
- Encourage children to be creative & display personality through drawings & journaling
All children interact differently but allowing children to explore in nature encourages them to touch, smell, listen & even taste while learning. You will create amazing memories for your homeschool and your children will not even know they’re learning! Nature studies are great for breaking up the less fun traditional book learning and seatwork that sometimes accompanies our homeschool journey.
Studying Nature can be a complete unit study or as an addition to your routine. By using a nature study as a complete unit, you can take as long as your family needs by incorporating subjects like math by using the nature around you to sort, count, add & subtract. They can also be done with multiple-ages simply by adding in vocabulary and spelling. Try adding writing assignments based on what plants, animals & other items you find during your outing as well.
Depending on what your schedule allows, you could assign your children specific items to be on the lookout for. This could be done through a scavenger hunt for younger children or for older children from a list of topics that you offer for them to write about. Nature studies are also beneficial for science, history & geography. Your children can learn about the area around them, what types of soils are in the area, what is native to the area or not and even find a fossil or two! Nature studies hold endless possibilities!
Ideas to incorporate into your studies:
- Art show – have children use a sketchbook or paper to draw, color or paint various items they find/see on their nature walks
- Bird calling contest – this is so fun to watch and listen to and you’ll be surprised how good some kids are
- Photography challenge – this works great for kids of all ages, but the older kids really enjoy it. Give kids a list of items they must photograph and allow them to explore their creativity
- Nature journal or scrapbook – a fun option if you do nature walks regularly is to have each child keep a nature journal or scrapbook and allow them to use a variety of media to record their learning & memories. Overall, this is a great option and so fun to see how much they grow in their learning through the year. You can affix leaf and flower samples, have children draw & color or paint their samples and label and even add in their own photos they’ve taken.
Whether you are spending an hour out exploring or you’re planning an all-day hike, you’ll want to have some items prepared to get the most out of your learning. Here are some items you’ll want to consider to take along on your excursion:
- Small bag or backpack to hold your supplies and treasures
- Field guides
- Nature study books (nature anatomy, the nature workbook)
- Scavenger hunt (like the one found here)
- Insect box & net
- Magnifying glass
- Bug spray
Outdoor Exploration Kit for Young KidsBird BingoNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural WorldBotanicum: Welcome to the MuseumThe Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and ClassroomsCobiz Kids Binoculars, 10×25 Outdoor Binoculars for KidsAssorted-Stick Twig Colored Outdoor Wooden Pencils Tree Child Camping Decorative ColorCanon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens, Built-in WiFi and NFC – Black (Certified Refurbished)Travel Journal Set With 6 Notebook Journals for Travelers – Kraft Brown Soft Cover – A5 Size – 210 mm x 140 mm – 60 Blank Pages/30 SheetsEdible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North AmericaPeterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America
When you’re out and about, you’ll want to keep an eye out for venomous snakes, poisonous plants and even loose rocks or soil that could cause you to lose your footing. Be sure to apply sunscreen and bug spray and grab your water and perhaps a snack. Even if you are in the middle of a large city and nature trails, parks or other locations aren’t readily available, there are still many options to choose from to interact in nature. Here is a list of options to explore nature in no matter where you live:
- State parks
- National forests
- Rivers, lakes & beaches
- Nature trails
- City parks
- Community Gardens
- Science museums
- Camping trips
- Your own backyard
Nature studies can be a major part of your homeschooling if you’re willing to put in a little bit of planning. They create wonderful memories and often times dad can get involved with nature studies on the weekend to go exploring. The possibilities truly are endless when you incorporate nature studies. Who knows what interests you’ll spark in your child’s imagination by exploring and most importantly you’re instilling a love of nature while spending time together.
Jamie is a veteran homeschool mom of two. She has a passion for encouraging moms in all walks of life & a heart for new homeschool moms. She is beginning her 11th year of homeschooling & has a love for Jesus, coffee & the quest for an organized home. She is a non-recovering type A & enjoys chauffeuring her kids to all their activities & downtime with her husband of 17 years. You can find her sharing her semi-crazy life at The Coffee Filled Mom.
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