Reading Laddie I felt inadequate. Listening to Little Sister and her family talk about the various trees and plants on their land made me realize how very little I know about nature. I want my children to learn about nature, but how can I teach them when I don’t even know where to begin? This was a big stumbling block for me for years.
I finally realized that we had to learn about nature one baby step at a time. For several years I focused on creating a love for nature by being outside as much as possible. We ate meals outside, had lessons outside, played outside in all kinds of weather, spent all afternoon at the park when the weather was beautiful, and took advantage of unexpected opportunities to learn about nature that crossed our path.
Then we started taking nature walks. On each walk, I asked my girls to draw something in their nature journals. I didn’t specify what they were to draw, only that they draw something they found interesting. Doing more intimidated me, so we did what we could.
When I started feeling a more comfortable, I finally dived into the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. We began studying one topic each term. Using a combination of information from the Handbook of Nature Study and resources we checked out from the library we began learning about different aspects of nature.
Here are five tips that have helped us move from enjoying and loving nature to actually studying it.
Five Tips For Studying Nature With Your Children
Do it with a group
It’s more fun to do just about everything as a group. The real benefit of having nature walks scheduled with friends is that they are…scheduled! When you are looking forward to seeing friends and others are counting you to be there you are less likely to cancel the walk. Not sure how to start a nature study co-op? Start here.
Study alongside your children
Children pick up on our excitement. When they see us trying to learn about a new tree they are more interested in learning also. Work together to figure out what that tree is. Is the bark smooth or rough? Are the leaves smooth or jagged? Does it have fruit? Carry several small field guides on your nature walks to help what you discover. I really like these laminated pocket field guides. They are small and great for carrying in a backpack. While your are recording their observations in their nature journal, record your own.
Make it fun
Nature study doesn’t have to be dry and boring. Even if you don’t schedule nature study into your school schedule, there’s many opportunities even in a city to study nature study. Go to a new park and discover a new tree. Watch the flow of water in a creek at a local park. Observe the turtle that tries to cross the road. Put out a bird feeder. The possibilities are endless!!
Stock your nature backpack
Include time for socializing
One of our favorite parts of our weekly nature walks is seeing friends. Moms and kids alike look forward to this day. We spend a little time studying nature and the rest of the time playing and talking.