Saturday, March 21, 2009

Charlotte Mason Discussion Group - Nature Study

"...special Nature Study lessons aren't always necessary. As you know, young children will discover toads, butterflies, beetles, earthworms, robins, thistles, squirrels, mushrooms, berries, and run into thorn bushes on their own, without any prodding from us."
- Karen Andreola on Nature Study in A Charlotte Mason Companion (page 253)

I find the above quote to be most appropriate. We don't need any special expensive curriculum or textbooks in order for our children to learn about nature. They are naturally curious and if we were to force them indoors with a textbook to learn about such things, they would resist.

A nature notebook can be any kind of notebook. A book with blank pages (either lined or unlined) is great or if you prefer, your child can take a clipboard with some loose paper on it to record observations and put into a 3-ring binder.
How to Start
Take your children outside and tell them that they will sit still for 10 minutes (or 15 or 20 minutes - you decide what they can handle) and see what it is that God wants to show them. It could be a blade of grass or a cloud formation or a bird. Perhaps God is reminding them of a Bible verse or giving them a new poem to write. They should record this on their paper. They can draw pictures or write words. It should remain open ended to see what God has in mind for them during that time.

This could be done once or twice a week - again depending on what your kids can handle.

As your child creates new entries in his journal, he is creating a keepsake. Something that he should be able to look back through for years to come.
Got Nature?
Nature study can be done in the city as well. There are parks and zoos to visit. You could have a pet such as a cat or fish. Sowing potted plants is also another way to observe God's handiwork.

Finally, your own back yard can lend itself to the study of nature. Currently, our family lives in a neighborhood where we have 1/5 of an acre and we find plenty to observe here. We have a bird box attached to our deck that is visited by birds each year. We are able to lift the lid to look in at the eggs and watch as the birds hatch and grow. In the past, I have taken pictures of the birds in the nest every couple of days. We took the pictures and lined them up to see the changes that happened in such a short period of time. We also have tulip bulbs in our yard as well as Black-Eyed Suzies and maple trees.

Indoor Nature Study
What about those days when it is just no fun to go outside? Can we still do nature study?

One of my daughter's favorite things to do each month is a page on the Flower and Gem of the Month. A quick web search will help you to find this month's flower and gem. Try to find interesting information on each for the children to add to their pages. For example: February's gem of the month is the amethyst. We found out that Nubian Queens were fond of amethysts and legend has it that men gave women heart-shaped amethysts as a sign of affection in the Middle Ages. We were also able to go to Potomac Bead Company and buy a small amethyst for less than $1. We put it in a little plastic baggie and taped that to the page. Along with public domain pictures printed from the internet, you can find catalogs at jewelry stores in the mall that highlight the gem of the month to cut out and paste on a page. I like to find pictures of the gem before and after cutting and polishing.

For your flower of the month, it may be possible to find seeds of the flower to put in a baggie to tape on your page.

Other indoor nature studies could include animal studies.
This past year we have been learning about all sorts of owls. We have the common name and find the scientific name, the range, diet, and any other interesting facts and make a page with that information. After studying a few owls, we had the opportunity to go to our local state park to dissect owl pellets. Photographs from that experience can be included in a nature journal.

You don't have to study owls. You can study just about any animal you wish.
Books I recommend:

Sample Nature Notebook Pages

These are flowers from our yard...
...and flowers found on a trail at the local community park.

Notice the little baggie of REAL Amethysts on the February page. This was my daughter's favorite part because they are the REAL THING!!!

This is a page I created for our owl studies. If you would like a blank copy, make your request by leaving a comment on this entry that includes your email address or you can email your request to

Other resources for nature study:
  • Check out Harmony Art Mom's Outdoor Hour Challenges.
  • Tanglewood Curriculum has a very inexpensive Nature Notebook download that I have used for years.
  • Check your local state parks for summer classes. In Pennsylvania, your local park may develop a class if you call and request one. Codorus State Park has done this for us in the past.


{ jamie } said...

Love the pics of your nature journals, and that photo of your son (I'm guessing) holding the frog!

Thanks for submitting this to the CM Carnival. ♥

keri said...

Like that frog pic!
My kids were out catching grasshoppers today.

Marie said...

Awesome nature study ideas.
Thank you,

Molly said...

Thanks for the link to the Burgess Bird Book for Children. My kids are huge into birding...they will love this book!

Jeanne said...

Those nature notebooks are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.

I like the idea of the open twenty minute nature 'brainstorming session'. I'm going to try that with Jemimah!


Jeff and Sendy said...

I enjoyed this blog, your pictures are great. I will definitely come back to see what else you may post!

Misfit Mom said...

I stumbled on this and I was trying to figure out how to follow it (I'm not so good at that yet); and I accidentally click something (which I though followed you) that shows you are from PA. Then as I'm scrolling down I see a WHOLE topic matter labeled: STEELERS. Okay, yes...I'm laughing! My hubby was from Warren, OH, so for a while I was also a married-into Steeler fan. Just wanted to share how funny I found that! I WILL figure out how to follow...I hope!