High School Nature Study Can be In-Depth

Nature study doesn’t have to stop when your homeschooled children get older. High school nature walks can be incredibly in-depth as science labs to supplement any curriculum.

Many families enjoy nature study with more depth than ever before in high school. Considering nature study as one of the most perfect “labs” available for experiencing and understanding high school science concepts makes sense.

Homeschool High School Nature Walks

Take last week, for example. We’ve been learning about the plant kingdom. After studying vascular/non-vascular plants, seedless vascular/gymnosperms/angiosperms, and monocots and dicots throughout the week, we set out on Friday to find some real-life examples of each.

I had the kids create a notebooking page “in the field.”

It’s nothing fancy. It’s just a chart of the various things we were hoping to find and a place for notes when we did find them.

Monocots and Dicots

Since we live in a part of the U.S. that is considered a deciduous forest zone, finding ferns and conifers on our farm is not easy. As you can see from the notebooking page, we spent most of our time discovering monocot and dicot angiosperms. So, that’s what I’ll focus on as I demonstrate how our bookwork turned into real life during our weekly nature walk.

Angiosperms are seed-bearing plants in which the seed is encompassed in a fruit. The number of cotyledons inside the seed determines whether they are monocots or dicots. (The tiny leaves present when you open the seed – think about the bean seed you’ve soaked and opened with your kids in the past.  Everybody’s done that before, right?) Monocots have one little leaf inside the seed, while dicots have two.

You can’t always easily open a seed to find the cotyledons, so other clues help you place a plant in the correct category. Monocots typically have parallel veins in their leaves, and their flower petals are in 3s (3, 6, 9…). Dicots typically have webbed veins in their leaves, and flower petals come in 4s or 5s (4, 8, 12…5, 10, 15…)

Using that information, here’s a sampling of some of the plants we found and documented.

Monocots

Asiatic Dayflower – 3 petals, parallel-veined leaves

Unidentified – Beautiful! Parallel veined leaves

Foxtail Grass – parallel-veined leaves

Corn – parallel-veined leaves

Dicots

Chickory – 15 petals (I know, 15 is a monocot clue, too. We checked the internet to be sure it fits as a dicot.)

Tomato – webbed leaf veins, 5 petals

Unidentified – webbed leaf veins, 5 petals

Red oak tree with developing acorn – webbed leaf veins

Common sow thistle – webbed leaf veins

Extras

We hadn’t intended to study seedless non-vascular mosses, but this one was too pretty to pass over.

Earlier in the week, we learned about the xylem cells, which take water and nutrients from the roots to the rest of the tree, and the phloem cells, which deliver the “food” back down through all the parts of the tree.

The book we studied mentioned that the cambium, located just under the tree’s bark, makes these cells. If a tree is “girdled” (or the cambium is disturbed around it), it will not be able to survive because xylem and phloem cells will not be produced.

We just “happened” to come across this tree that seems to have been girdled (likely by a rabbit). Since the girdling is fresh, the tree is healthy, but we plan to keep an eye on it over the next few months for signs of death. God’s pretty cool to set something we hadn’t even intended to find before us!

NaturExplorers

So many people tell me they don’t know where to start with nature study – especially connecting it to “regular” science studies – that I want to ensure you know there are tools out there. Even though the NaturExplorers studies were written with the 1st-8th graders in mind, they are adaptable and even include high school extension ideas. The above lesson is not included in any studies, but it’s an example of how deep nature study can go!

NaturExplorers guides give you everything you need for creative nature study - plus so much more!

I offer several botany-themed studies:

I’d love to hear about YOUR nature studies with high school students!

6 Comments

  1. what a great post.
    I don’t have a high school student yet:)
    But, I have been writing a post to come out tomorrow on how to enjoy nature study and I’ve pondered some thoughts about nature study with teens and how important “I” think it is.

    It’s good to see mothers engaging with older children in nature study!!!

  2. So many great ideas for nature studies. It inpires me to get outside!

  3. This is great! My freshman is doing Abeka Biology and this goes right along with what we are doing. I will be following!

  4. We like to use our time out in nature for appreciation of God’s beautiful world….but I loved reading your botany study. Mine is studying physics this year, so her labs are on that at this time.

  5. Hi Betsy,

    It’s Jackie stopping by from the March Let’s Homeschool High School Blog Hop. What great pics! Hands-on learning is so much fun and sticks with the kids. Great job.

    I look forward to your blog post in the April HSHS Blog Hop.

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    Let’s Homeschool High School Admin

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