Are regular nature walks a part of your schedule? If they are not, would you like them to become more regular? I’ve shared before 5 tips for studying nature with your children. One of those tips was to take nature walks with a group.
Benefits Of A Nature Study Co-op
There are many benefits of studying nature with a co-op. The biggest benefit is that it is scheduled. When the nature walk is scheduled you cannot talk yourself out of going because you don’t want to leave the house. Others are counting on you to be there.
Another benefit is that you plan out what you will study and where you will go for your nature walk. For me, if I don’t have a plan it probably won’t happen. Planning the walks ahead of time saves me from having to make decisions regarding nature study on the fly.
Let’s not forget the aspect of the social gathering! After we finish our nature walk, there is always time for the kids to play and the moms to chat. Whoever asks homeschoolers about socialization hasn’t seen them socialize! We love our community of friends that study nature with us.
And finally, it is nice to have others to text excitedly that a house sparrow built a nest on the light fixture of your front porch and the eggs hatched or that you learned about the catkins on the oak trees in your yard. You can share these discoveries with your nature study co-op friends and they are just as excited as you are.
How To Start A Nature Study Co-op
When I began our nature study co-op, it was for one very selfish reason: I needed accountability to make sure we went on a nature walk every week. I decided what my family was going to study and made a schedule of where we would go each week. Then I invited friends to join us. And join us they did! They love going on a nature walk with a group of friends and they especially love that they didn’t have to plan it. So jump right in and start your own nature study co-op. Below are some tips to help you get started.
Choose what you will study
Choose a frequency for your nature walks
Decide how often you will meet. Our nature study co-op meets one afternoon every week for a couple of hours. You could choose to meet twice a month if weekly is too often for your schedule. Your schedule may look different as the seasons change.
Our general plan (for Oklahoma weather) looks like this:
- September through November—nature walk in the afternoon
- December—no activities planned, possibly a Christmas party, and impromptu park days as the weather allows
- January through mid-March—field trips such as children’s museums, art museums, and other areas of interest that are inside since the weather is unpredictable; impromptu park days as the weather allows
- mid-March through May—nature walk in the afternoon
- June through August—park days in the morning, including trips to the zoo
Make a plan
After you have determined what you will study and how often you will meet, begin making detailed plans. Decide where you will go for each nature walk. When we studied birds, I found the website for the local Audubon society. They had a list of places to visit around the area that were good for viewing birds. I assigned each location to a specific date for the term. It is okay to know the focus areas you will study for the year, but only plan specific locations one term at a time.
I have utilized several different options for scheduling our nature study co-op. When it was just a few families, I sent an email at the beginning of the term with a schedule for the next several months and then sent an email every week as a reminder of where we would meet.
As our group grew, we needed a more organized approach. We use the GroupMe app for group text messaging for communication on the day of the event. We can also put the event on the calendar with related details such as location, time, and RSVP’s. This is particularly helpful if directions to the meeting place change or there is a last minute change of plans. You can install the app on a smart phone or receive text messages.
Planning a nature study co-op is not difficult and only requires an hour or two of time each term. Why not start one in your area?