Monday, October 8, 2012

Nature Study: Bringing the Outdoors In

I haven't had the opportunity to really participate in the The Crew's Cruises much, even though I love reading them, but I was really excited to see Exploring The Great Outdoors as the next topic!  One of the hardest things for me to incorporate into our homeschool has been nature study, so I'm learning that starting simple is perfectly acceptable.  However, I'm really excited to see what my other crew mates discuss, because I love to see how other homeschoolers use the great outdoors as their classroom!

I think making the effort was the biggest step for me.  Since making that effort, we have learned a lot of science in a fun, informal way and we have all improved our observation skills.  Iron Man now loves all things nature study, despite my lack of knowledge and my constant "umm, let's take a picture and we'll look it up later" comments, and I recently mentioned how much he has enjoyed starting his very own nature journal.  When he makes an entry, that is the first thing he tells dad about when dad asks about our school day.

Now that the weather's changing, we can't always go outside when the boys want to, so we have to adapt.  One morning it was still too early, wet and cold to be outside for any length of time, but then I remembered this quote by Charlotte Mason:

"An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing."

So I brought nature study inside!  I made a quick trip outside with a bowl and began gathering anything I thought the boys would find interesting:  a small pine cone, acorns, poke berries, mushrooms, weed flowers and leaves of different size, shape and color.

I couldn't find our tray that we use for confined activities, so I set up a make-shift learning center, with black construction paper as a background for the white items.  I set out some additional items for exploration--tweezers and magnifying glass, and let Iron man get to work.

He quickly began examining everything with the magnifying glass, and was particularly interested in the dandelion seeds since they were the smallest item.

We talked about the different textures and patterns, and here he was comparing the underside of the mushrooms.

The most interesting item on display turned out to be the poke berries.

He could pick them off with his fingers or the tweezers, and squish them.  What 5 year old boy doesn't love to squish things!?

He quickly discovered that the natural colors from the berries worked great for "painting" and set to work decorating the acorns and mushrooms.

So does this even qualify for an Exploring the Great Outdoors theme?  It's not really "traditional" nature study, since we weren't outside observing things in their natural environment, but it was certainly an interesting and entertaining way to explore items from our new backyard when we couldn't be outside.  I'm still counting it as nature study!


  1. Oh my! I forgot all about nature study for weeks. Thanks for sharing! I love all your discoveries by the way :) My son loves to bring home some stuff from the outdoors too.

  2. Good idea! The top shelf in our living room book case has nothing on it and I'm thinking adding a few bits from outside will be interesting- for observing and just for looks.
    My 13 yo ds still likes to squish things... ;)

  3. Seems like it counts to me! I want to include some sort of nature study in our homeschool when my little guy gets older.

    Have you ever been to She shares a lot of great ideas on her blog.

    1. Yes! I'm a little intimidated by the wealth of information on her website though. I need to spend some more time pouring over it now that we're getting settled into the new house.

      I would go ahead and start with your little man 3 year old enjoys "nature time" just as much as his big brother! His favorite parts are flowers and bugs! :)