Nature Study

As the night air becomes cooler and the fragrant flowers of summer begin to fade, pencils are sharpened and poised ready to begin dancing across crisp, white pages.  Another school year is upon us and little faces are bright with anticipation.

We love exploring God's creation and being outside to enjoy the world around us.  Since we try to be outside on a daily basis I decided to incorporate nature study into our homeschool routine this year.  It is such a simple idea that is rich in educational possibilities.

At Higher Ground Academy, Nature Study requires the following:

1. A place to explore (the backyard, a garden, a park, a nature trail, the sidewalk..., the possibilities are almost limitless).

2. Supplies.  I have a clipboard for each child, lots of blank, white computer paper, and a pencil box complete with #2 pencils, a sharpener, erasers, colored pencils and markers.

3. Magnifying glasses.  We keep ours in a classy, wooden cigar box lined with a burp rag, ahem, I mean, a cute piece of polka dotted cotton.

4. A field guide.  We use The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.  You can access it for free online here or purchase through amazon here. Another fabulous, free source for nature study is the Handbook of Nature Study blog.  Barb inspires us to get outside every day and provides wonderful outdoor challenges for us to incorporate into our studies.  It is a wealth of information and inspiration... she also has an art appreciation blog which provides homeschool art and music plans.  She is one busy, talented, wonderful lady!

So, although we are outside on a regular basis, we have a day that we set aside specifically for nature study.  On that day we decide where we will go to explore God's creation ( often it will be in our own yard), grab our bag of supplies and set off for adventure.  First we discover.  We take the time to look around us and find something of interest.  Then we grab our supplies and draw our inspiration where it is at.  If it is a bug we usually have a mason jar with us to put the bug in so we can draw it/ study it before we set it free.

While we are sketching we take note of little details using our magnifying glasses and maybe note any questions we have about the creation we are looking at.  If I have a field guide with us we will look up the species in our book or we may look it up online at home later.  The children know that their sketches do not need to be perfect, we are not all artistically gifted, but we try to draw the object to the best of our ability.  We write our name, date, time of day and where we are at the top of the page.  We then make note of the species we are drawing ( blue jay feather, perennial sunflower, caterpillar, earthworm...),  write down things of interest (the inner circle of a sunflower is comprised of many little tiny star shaped flowers) or a poem.  So if you are drawing a caterpillar you may want to use Christina G. Rosetti's poem:

The Caterpillar
Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf or stalk.
May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.
Christina Georgina Rosetti

The children look forward to our weekly outings and because of them, they are more intune to God's creation/beauty around them.

For a delightful, inspiring read on the topic of nature study I suggest Karen Andreola's Pocketful of Pinecones.  It is a pleasant read written through the lens of a 1930's homeschooling, homemaking, mom.  Karen's writing weaves together Charlotte Mason's teachings with Karen's own homeschooling experience along with Biblical principals into a bound copy of encouragement that you will want to pick up year after year.  Here is a small sample of inspiration that I have gleaned:

 "... not all of what they will learn about God's creation will conveniently fit into my lessons. My students have a lifetime ahead of them in which to observe and discover - to become self educated in their leisure, so to speak. My job is to allow their feet to walk the paths of wonder, to see that they form relations to various things, so that when the habit is formed, they will carry an appreciation for nature with them throughout their lives."

Enjoying the journey,