Ultimate Guide to Nature Study

 

Enormous resource guide for nature study

This post contains affiliate links and links to my business website, Shining Dawn Books.  To read more about my disclosure policy, click here.

As an eclectic Charlotte Mason homeschooler, nature study is near and dear to my heart – and the hearts of my children.  We have learned SO much about our Creator and the sciences through our weekly nature walks, all while touching on bits and pieces of almost every other subject under the sun, too.

You don’t have to be a Charlotte Mason homeschooler to enjoy the benefits of nature study, though.  Heck, you don’t even have to be a homeschooler!

In an effort to help you get started (or keep going) with nature study, I’ve pulled together a post of THE most wonderful resources I’ve found over the course of the last few years.  I hope this Ultimate Guide to Nature Study proves to be your one-stop post for encouragement, ideas and more!

Why Study Nature?

The reason are more significant than you might think!

8 Reasons to Do Nature Study – the benefits of nature study from academics to a love for learning

Nature Study – whys and hows of nature study

Nature Study – The Duty of Christian Homeschoolers – a convincing article that Christians really should be doing nature study

nature study

How To Do Nature Study

There is no “right” way to do nature study.  Some people like to stick to Charlotte Mason’s plan, while others like to go on walks that have a creative flair.  Some people like to print off prepared notebooking pages to take on their walks, some like to take blank nature journals along, and some prefer not to take any notebooks along. Do what works for your family and keeps you both inspired and in awe of God’s glorious creation.

Ambleside Online Schedule – this Charlotte Mason site offers a suggested schedule of nature topics to study using Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study

Charlotte Mason Nature Study – a Squidoo lens which thoroughly and concisely teaches about the Charlotte Mason style of nature study

Daily Nature Study Plan – a unique plan of daily nature study focused on a particular theme incorporating literature, at-home observation, nature walks and nature journals

Gentle Nature Lessons – a lovely post about drawing children into nature study ever-so-gently

Nature Study: Charlotte Mason’s Cure for Text-Tired Tots – a very practical page of ideas for getting started with nature study

Nature Study with the Reluctant Child – ideas about what to do if your child isn’t drawn to nature study naturally

Nature Study for Wimps – baby steps for those new to nature study, who can’t quite wrap their mind around the idea, or are self-proclaimed nature wimps

Out-of-Door Life – a document about time spent outdoors from Charlotte Mason herself

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning – this book by Karen Andreola reads both as a lovely fiction story and a how-to guide for Charlotte Mason style nature study

 NaturExplorers

Creative Nature Walks and Activities

I could’ve listed a million ideas, and actually came pretty close to it.  In this section, I chose to just add bits and pieces of some of the most unique and thorough nature study ideas I’ve found.  Enjoy!

Free public domain e-books that include nature activities alongside living literature:

In the Child’s World – a fantastic resource for directed lessons tied to original stories

Nature Study by Grades, Volume 1 and Volume 2 –  teacher suggestions for activities and discussion prompts for many nature topics

Nature Study: A Pupil’s Textbook – meant to be read by 8-11 year old students, this book offers information and leading discovery questions on many nature topics

Interesting and Practical Nature Ideas

naturestudy

10 Days of Nature Study – gives you easy and ready-to-go suggestions for ten different topics of nature study

Beach Nature Study – a Squidoo lens full of nature suggestions for your days at the beach

Color Collecting - a creative color nature walk is geared toward younger children, but I think older children will enjoy it, too

Conifer Study – cone-bearing plants are very interesting nature subjects and this post gets you started with some easy ideas

Digital Scavenger Hunt – get your camera ready for this fun idea

Fungi Photography and Computer Project – scroll to the bottom of this post to see the notebooking page created on the computer after a nature walk photographing fungi

Gardening – benefits of growing a garden as part of your nature study plans

Micro-Hike – using a piece of string to direct your magnifying glass discoveries in nature

Paper Bag Scavenger Hunt – a creative scavenger hunt for younger children allows them to do more than fill in a scavenger hunt worksheet

Pond Water Study – take nature study home with this microscope activity for older children

River Study – this Squidoo lens sets you on a fun path as you head to the river

Take a Walk in Your Socks – this is a fun activity to do in late summer or early fall when there are lots of plant seeds about

Texture Walk – a fun nature walk especially for the younger crowd

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Nature Through the Holidays: Advent and Nature Through the Holidays: Easter – are e-books which offer nature walks to  go along with Scripture to help prepare your family’s hearts for Christmas and Easter.

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For even more ideas, be sure to visit this Nature Study Pinterest Board – Several nature study mommas (myself included) have pinned our favorite nature study finds from around the web – and new ideas are always being pinned!

Creative Nature Walks

Bonus: Photography is a great hobby to learn as you enjoy nature.  The Digital Photography Study by Amanda Bennett can be a fun go-along unit.

Nature Study Resources

Below are two companies who offer homeschoolers in-depth lesson ideas for nature study. 

NaturExplorers at Shining Dawn Books

The Shining Dawn Books NaturExplorers studies give you loads of ideas for creative nature walks (as well as literature tie-ins, hands-on activities, research projects, artist study ideas, Bible lessons and more) on more than 20 nature topics.  (I write these.)

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The Handbook of Nature Study blog offers fantastic weekly and seasonal nature study ideas and link-ups, as well as e-books compiling all her ideas.

Special Places to Go

Keep your nature study travels simple most of the time, but spice things up once in a while with some new scenery.

Aquarium . Arboretum . Beach . Bog . Botanic Garden . Campsite . Canyon . Cave . Cemetery . City Park . Creek . Desert . Garden . Greenhouse . Hiking Trail . Hill . Inactive Volcano . Island . Marsh . Meadow . Mountain . National Park . Natural Bridge . Nature Preserve . Neighborhood . Nursery . Ocean . Orchard . Petting Zoo . Pond . Rain Forest . River . Rock Quarry . State Park . Tree Farm . Tundra . Wetland . Wildlife Center . Wildlife Sanctuary . Woods . Yard . You-Pick Farm . Zoo

Great Field Guides

Field guides are not essential to a good nature walk, but they are very beneficial.  One eventual goal of nature study should be the recognition and understanding of things found in nature.  We have a bookshelf of favorite field guides that each have their own wonderful positive aspects.  Like Audubon’s thoroughness, Peterson’s First Guide’s simpleness, Dover’s color-in options, Finder’s clue-based inquiry…Learn more about all our favorites by visiting my comprehensive field guide page.

 

 

Which one to get if you can only get one?  Handbook of Nature Study!!

Which series do I like best for state specific identification?  Adventure Publication Guides

Which series do I like best overall?  That’s a hard one, but probably the National Audubon Society Guides.

Online Nature Identification Sites

I prefer nature guides in print, but we sometimes get stuck and find online resources to be very helpful in identification – especially when landing upon sites that have to do directly with our state of KY.  I have only included very general identification sites below, but I recommend searching for more specific state sites when possible.  For instance, when needing to identify a wildflower, I might type a Google search for “wildflowers of KY.”

E-Nature –  Identification of Many Things in Nature

Bug Guide

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Caterpillars of Eastern Forests

Cornell Lab of Orinthology – Bird Identification

Key to Major Groups of Mushrooms

USDA State-by-State Plant Search

What Bird? –  Bird Identification

nature study

Keeping a Nature Journal

Nature journals are more than simple documentation of your nature walk!  Their frequent use encourages noticing details, observing differences, naming parts, describing processes, drawing skills, finding beauty where you might not see it at first, patience – and a deeper love for the One who created it all.  Mind you, I don’t suggest taking a nature journal on every single nature walk.  Our family utilizes nature journals as part of our nature studies – as well as notebooking pages, creative nature bag materials, and simple walks with no “educational” purpose in mind.

Because there are so many wonderful examples of nature journals floating around the internet to inspire you, I created a Pinterest page to share the wonderful and varied ways people are journaling in their homes.  You won’t be disappointed!

Nature Journals

The books below are wonderful resources to have on your bookshelf whether you’re new to nature journaling or have been journaling for years.

 

Free Notebooking Pages

If you have time for a little browsing and don’t mind to print pages, there are many, many freebie nature notebooking pages floating around on the internet.  So many, in fact, that I created a Pinterest page just to keep track.  I’m sure there are plenty more to be found if you type specific keywords (ie. “free wildflower notebooking pages”) in your internet browser.

Nature Notebooking Pages

The free notebooking page links below are “unpinnable”, but too good not to include.

Bordered Journal Pages

Nature in Your Notebook

Set of 8 Nature General Journal Pages

Several Science Themed Pages

Several Generic Journal Pages

Various Pages from Homeschool Share

Don’t miss NotebookingPages.com!  Debra offers a set of more than 300 Nature Study Notebooking Pages on several general nature topics very inexpensively.

NaturExplorers studies also include several prepared notebooking pages to go along with several of the creative walks suggested.

The Nature Bag

First and foremost, don’t go overboard packing a nature bag for each walk.  As I mentioned in the nature journaling section above, we use the nature bag as another tool in our nature study arsenal.  Sometimes the bag goes with us, other times it stays at home.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pack water and sunscreen, but I’m talking more along the lines of “things to do” on your nature walk. 

We pack light bags.  One day the bag might include a clipboard, paper, colored pencils and a wildflower ID book.  Another day we might pack play dough or clay for making impressions.  Another day we might pack a magnifying glass, a blank notebook and pastels.

Tools to think about:

magnifying glass . microscope . bug viewer . binoculars . dissection kit . measuring tape . butterfly net . pond net . tweezers . string . tape . glue . spray bottle . baggies . medicine dropper . bird call . duck call . compass . flower press . plastic container . ruler . envelopes . seeds . pocket knife . hammer . flashlight . sieve . trowel . solar print paper . various papers . various art media . camera

Don’t forget to occasionally pack living literature, a nonfiction book about nature topic, or a field guide, too!

Fantastic Nature-Related Literature

Ah, there’s nothing better than reading a good book to reinforce your studies.  You will find our family reading good books alongside our nature walks all. the. time.  When there’s a “plan” for our nature walk, we’ll often read a book before heading out in the field to prepare our minds for the tasks ahead.  Other times, I’ll pack a blanket, book and snack for a  reading break during our nature walk.  And sometimes, especially when the nature topic is unplanned or we’ve come home with questions, we’ll dive into a book after our walk – even the next day.

Nature study living literature
 

I’ve spent much time compiling lists of great literature – fiction and nonfiction – to go along with various nature topics.  Check out my suggestions (and get ready for a library trip.)

Other Favorite Nature Literature on General Topics

Check out the many, many free (and wonderful) public domain downloads at Home School Commons

Christian Liberty Nature Readers – these leveled elementary school readers provide wonderful and thorough teachings about nature topics through easy-to-read living literature

Nature Study in Elementary Schools – similar to the Christian Liberty Nature Readers, these are free downloads from the public domain

Nature Study Made Easy – again, similar to the Christian Liberty Nature Readers, this is free from the public domain and includes lesson ideas to go with each story

Parables from Nature – just as the title suggests, this free public domain download teaches both nature lessons and Biblical lessons in wonderful stories

Nature Friend Magazine – if your child enjoys magazines, this is a beautiful choice targeted to 8-16 year-olds

 

nature study

 

Indoor Nature Areas

Bringing nature indoors or providing areas in your house for nature study inspiration can be motivators for some children.  There are many ways to do this and each person will put their own twist on it.  For that reason, I haven’t provided you with an endless list of various indoor nature areas, but instead give you four very different examples to set your mind in motion.

Nature Basket

Nature Learning Center

Nature Nook

Nature Study With Preschoolers

Can preschoolers “do” nature study?  Yes, yes, yes!!  Beginning early encourages a wonderful, lifelong love for nature – so go for it!

Nature Study with a Toddler or Preschooler – how to include little ones in nature walks

Nature Study by the Season: Preschool and Kindergarten – seasonal unit studies written for preschoolers

Preschool and PreK Nature Study – a compilation of posts sharing nature walks with little people

Prickly Tickly Books – a super-fun and practical nature journal idea for little ones

Simple Field Guide Hint for Preschoolers – using field guides with preschoolers

Nature Groups

Nature Clubs

What is a nature club?  A group of families who get together on a regular basis to study nature.  Starting one isn’t as hard as you might think and the learning and fun can’t be beat!

How to Start a Nature Club -step-by-step plans for starting a nature group

A Charlotte Mason Nature Study Group – this post shares what special additions you might find in a Charlotte Mason geared nature club

Creation Club Activities – a series of posts sharing monthly nature club activities

(The NaturExplorers studies include a section of ideas specifically for nature groups, too.)

Nature Study Art  and Craft Lessons

Nature study lends itself well to art and craft projects. In fact, we have often tied nature and artist studies together!   I have only included a few wonderful ideas below, but tons more can be found on my NaturExplorers Pinterest boards.  (Scroll down to find them.)  Of course, drawing lessons as part of nature journaling fits in this category, too.

Nature Study Ideas

Dioramas – hands-on with opportunity for creativity make dioramas a good, old-fashioned project

Flower Pounding – make hankies, nature bags or whatever your heart desires with this process (you can use leaves, too)

Leaf Art, Nature in My Pocket Craft – both of these posts show how easy it is to use nature finds in creations

Make a Grass Sweeper Net – this handcraft can be used on your next nature walk

Make a Pond Water Viewer and Pond Water Scooper – take these crafts to the pond with you

Making Dyes from Things Found in Nature – this is an especially good activity to go-along with history studies

Nature-Themed Pastel Tutorials – this series of pastel tutorials is often nature themed and fantastic

Nature Walk Crafts – several nature crafts are highlighted in this post

Plaster Leaf Prints – plaster, leaves and watercolors make a beautiful finished project

Waxed Leaves – leaf preservation and pretty decoration

Art and Nature Projects

Nature Study Alongside Other Subjects

When you put your mind to it, nature study can be integrated with almost any academic subject you can think of.  Bible lessons, Bible memory, writing, reading, art, geography, history, almost every science discipline, and even math!  As I mentioned in the section above, the ideas are far too many for me to list here.  Be sure to visit my NaturExplorers Pinterest boards for suggestions linked to various nature topics. And speaking of NaturExplorers, the studies were specifically written to incorporate all subjects at one point or another – meaning all the ideas you might ever need are right there for you!

Apologia and Nature Study – integrating nature study with textbook curricula

Lewis and Clark Nature Walk – enjoy making an “old-fashioned” journal to take on your nature walk

Perimeter and Area, Graphing, Symmetry- these posts offer hands-on math activities to do after a nature walk

Nature Study Multimedia

There are many ways to connect with nature via the internet, apps and videos.  Below are some of my favorite multimedia finds so far.  (I don’t have an iPhone, so apps aren’t my top priority.  I’d love for you to leave mentions of your favorite nature apps in the comments, though!)

E-bird – submit bird sightings online

Great Backyard Bird Count – a week of bird watching and reporting each February

Project Feeder Watch – winter bird feeder count project

And That Does It

Thank you for sticking with me through this giant post!  I truly hope it serves to inspire and encourage you, give you new ideas to invigorate your nature studies and pushes you out the door! 

I welcome comments with links to other fantastic nature-related things I may have missed.  Or simple comments telling me about your latest nature walk and what fun you had.  Now, stop reading and get outside!

This post has been linked to:
100things

Cindy

36 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Nature Study

  1. Rebecca

    WHAT A GREAT POST! Thank you Thank you! I’ve been thinking about a Nature club…with your post and all of these ideas, I’m pretty sure I can make that happen now! THANK YOU!!!

  2. Keri Brown

    Wow – I’m super excited to come back here and explore the gazillions of resources you’ve provided for us!! It’s 11:05 now, so my brain is nearly shut down for the night, but I’m bookmarking this post right now and will enjoy devouring it piece by piece over the next couple of weeks. Thanks for all of the work you put into this guide!

  3. Amy

    What a great post! Thanks for all of the wonderful links. My six year old is just getting started with Charlotte Mason homeschooling this year and we’ve been struggling to find other families who do something similar. I was excited to see you also live in central Kentucky! If you have any homeschool group recommendations I’d love to have them. We’ve tried a couple different co-ops but haven’t really fit in.

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  5. Colleen P

    Just what I’ve been looking for. Our homeschool year will be much richer thanks to your inspiration. Thank you!

  6. Melissa

    This is such a fabulous post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it out with so much attention to detail.

  7. Michelle

    Wow!! Thank you so much for all the hours this must have taken you! I can’t wait to go back over it and get reinspired to start our nature walks again : )

  8. Dusty

    This is a FANTASTIC resource! I will definitely be bookmarking it for later use! Thank for taking the time to put it all together!

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  10. ALicia @ La Famille

    you are truly the queen of nature study. i love that about you! i’ve gotten some of the best ideas over the years from you. i’m hoping to do better with this subject this year. i need to look over your schedule again and use that to plan mine and just schedule it in…i need to get that done!! just bought school supplies today :)starting school september 10th

  11. Carol S.

    This is wonderful! My second daughter is a real naturalist at heart. She truly appreciates and loves to study about God’s creation. This will be an excellent resource to turn to again and again. Thank you!

  12. Charlotte Mason in the City

    Nature study is also near and dear to my heart, and as I read through your post, I’m wondering why I am inside at the computer when I could be OUTSIDE?!! Thank you for all these resources for inspiration and information. I love the activity ideas and I am curious about the PDF document by CM….fun stuff. (And, thank you for participating in the CM Carnival!)

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  14. Rachel

    Wow! What an incredible line-up! I’m glad to have this site to come back to when I need ideas for just about everything nature study related.

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  16. Rachel Kaylynn

    This is such an amazing resource – thanks for putting it together. We’ve been wanting to start doing nature studies with our kids but I’ve been stuck at were to start. You’ve given me some confidence to move forward!

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