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Homeschool Nature Study the Gentle Way

Wondering how to enjoy homeschool nature study the gentle way? Here are some simple steps to get you started. No special equipment needed!

I don’t look at outdoor time and nature study as one more homeschool subject I need to plan and be ready for, I just let it unfold. If your children want to learn more about something they find while outdoors, gradually teach them to look things up for themselves in a good field guide or on your next trip to the library.

If you observe and identify one tree per year, over the course of your child’s education, you will have learned about 12 different trees! I don’t know about you but I have a hard time just listing 12 trees by name. So if your child has become acquainted with 12 trees, they are far better off than many of us.

Homeschool Nature Study the Gentle Way

My suggestion: Study one tree, one bird, and one insect per school year.

Take it slowly.

Wondering how to enjoy homeschool nature study the gentle way? Here are some simple steps to get you started. No special equipment needed!
photo by Amy Law

How to Enjoy Homeschool Nature Study in Simple Steps

Find one tree in your yard that you can study for a whole term.

  • Find out what kind of tree it is.
  • Make rubbings of the leaves and bark.
  • Does it drop its leaves or does it stay green year round?
  • Does it have any birds in it? Any insect holes? Hollows for critters?
  • Can you climb up into it and see what the view is?
  • Can you lay under your tree and watch the branches move in the breeze?
  • Does it have blossoms, fruit, cones, seeds, or other objects to study?
  • Do you see a nest in the tree?
  • Is the trunk straight, crooked, twisted, rough, or smooth?
  • Do the leaves or needles smell good? How about the bark?
  • Watch and observe and narrate one thing at a time you will find that it is really not so hard. If you feel like recording the experience, put something on paper.

Nature study the gentle way. Slowly, gradually, gently….it works.

Nature Study in Your Own Backyard – Studying One Tree

So I decided to follow my own advice and I went out and found a tree in my yard that I was interested in learning about. Turns out that after examining the leaves and the trunk of the tree, I discovered my tree is an Interior Live Oak. I know there are several varieties of oaks in my yard but I have never taken the time to identify them as any particular oak. My oak has leaves with pointy edges and they are glossy on both sides. It also has pointy acorns.

While I was examining the trunk I discovered that one side of it has *lots* of woodpecker holes drilled into it. I have walked by this particular tree hundreds of times but have failed to notice the holes. Amazing….now I will on the watch to see if I can see the woodpecker that makes the holes.

I used a tree identification guide and my new tree field guide to help me. This whole process, including taking the photos, only took a few minutes. I plan on watching my oak to see if there are any other things that I can learn about it.

So you can enjoy nature study the gentle way, the Getting Started ebook is available in every level of membership here on Homeschool Nature Study.

Wondering how to enjoy homeschool nature study the gentle way? Here are some simple steps to get you started. No special equipment needed!

This post first published by Barb May 2008 and Photo by Erin Vincent

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Weed Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Weed Nature Study

Winter weeds are a quick and easy nature study topic that you can complete in your yard or neighborhood, or at a local park or alongside a road (be watchful of traffic). Spend a few minutes this week to take notice of any weeds you may have, searching for seeds or signs of animals feeding nearby.

Beloved by homeschool families worldwide, this study focuses on the Handbook of Nature Study and winter weeds this week.

Easy And Engaging Homeschool Nature Study

You can use these links for some specific Winter Homeschool Nature Study ideas:

Beloved by homeschool families worldwide, this study focuses on the Handbook of Nature Study and winter weeds this week.

Getting Started With The Outdoor Hour Challenge In Your Homeschool Nature Study


Download your free copy of our Getting Started ebook and complete challenge #6. You may wish to make a list of weeds you observed in winter and then check the list during the summer to see if you can add some more entries.   

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership For Support All Year Long

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Connect With Us On Social Media

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge on Winter Weeds? Be sure to tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge is from the Winter Wednesday Course and Curriculum.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Tree Silhouettes Homeschool Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Tree Silhouettes

This week we are going to be on the lookout for interesting tree silhouettes in our own yard and neighbourhood. Here is the link to the previous challenge: Winter Wednesday – Tree Silhouettes

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Tree Silhouettes

In this challenge, be sure to look for the list of four ideas to use when completing this challenge with your children. You can also work on your Winter Tree Study and your Four Seasons Tree Study.

Homeschool Nature Study: Outdoor Hour Challenge

Special Activity: My Tree is a Living World
This may be a great week to revisit this activity:
My Tree is a Living World

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Tree Silhouettes

You might also like to see how Tricia’s family enjoyed this winter tree silhouettes challenge. They did a blind contour drawing. They also noticed how paying attention to winter tree silhouettes made them notice the backyard birds!

Getting Started With The Outdoor Hour Challenge In Your Homeschool

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #4. Use the ideas in the challenge to start a focused study of trees with your children. Use the accompanying notebook page to record your outdoor time and your focus area.   

It is simple to get started. We will show you how. Grab this free Homeschool Nature Study Guide and discover the joys of nature study in your homeschool.

If you do not own the Getting Started in the Outdoor Hour Challenges guide then hop on over to our shop and grab your free copy! We would love to have you join our membership for full access to the new year’s nature study plans as well as access to the curriculum with detailed lesson plans for each weekly challenge.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership - Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool

Join Our Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Helpful Tips Year Round

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Connect With Us On Social Media

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge on Winter Weeds? Be sure to tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

In addition to this winter tree silhouette challenge, our nature study homeschool members enjoy so much more! Membership includes three sets of Winter Handbook of Nature Study curriculum, additional nature study resources and ideas plus a calendar FULL of easy, daily nature study prompts. This Week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge comes from:

Handbook of Nature Study - An Outdoor Hour Homeschool Curriculum - Winter Wednesdays
Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Tree Silhouettes

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Tree Silhouettes? Be sure to tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Creating the Habit of Getting Outside

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 1 – September 3, 2021

Creating the Habit of Getting Outside

I’m challenging you to begin a new year of nature study with the intention of creating the habit of getting outside with our children every week. There is something exciting about starting a fresh school year with all the possibilities in front of us. I hope you take the opportunity to join us for what could be the start of a grand adventure.

How do you create the habit of getting outside with your children?

Baby steps. I’m here to help you with some methods that I’ve shared over the last decade, guiding hundreds of families to successfully navigate nature study close to home. When establishing a new habit, I’ve always found it helpful to start small and work on consistency.

How about a new way of thinking?

A new habit can be encouraged simply by seeing the benefits of an easy change. Think of your backyard and neighborhood as a nature study laboratory. Change your view of what is right outside your own door. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Starting with the things closest to home, you’ll soon see how the habit of getting outside each week comes more easily.

What is there to observe in our backyard “nature study laboratory”?

  • Trees: leaves, bark, twigs, roots, flowers, cones, needles, seeds, pods, nests, birds
  • Patch of weeds: leaves, roots, bugs, flowers
  • Dirt: worms, gravel, stones, seeds, mud, ants, mushrooms, moss
  • Sky: clouds, sun, moon, stars, birds
  • Air: temperature, wind, smells, breath on a cold morning
  • Birds: flying, pecking, eating, chirping, hopping, shapes and colors, beaks, wings, tails, feet
  • Sounds: wind, frogs, rain, leaves, crickets, bees, fly buzzing, mosquitoes
  • Weather: rain, clouds, temperature, snow, ice, dew, wind
  • Flowers (garden or in a pot): petals, pollen, roots, leaves, stem, fragrance, shapes, colors, seeds

How long does it take? Just 15 minutes!

Consistently taking fifteen minutes during your weekly schedule to get outside will be of great benefit in providing interesting things to observe. Even better, take that time when your child is distracted or listless during the school day and seize the opportunity to get outside with them for just a few minutes. Once you see the benefits of allowing this time outside to reset, you’ll begin to see nature study as a refreshing necessity rather than a task that needs to be checked off a list of things to do.

We don’t need to devote a lot of time to nature study during our weekly schedule. Keen observation is the key, not reading lessons, filling in notebooks, or keeping collections. Short walks outdoors along with our children as we encourage observation will do far greater good than any other form of lesson plan.

Can I just send my kids outside on their own?

Children need to grow the habit of looking at things carefully.  In nature study, we can encourage our children to look at things more closely, to really see what is there.  You need to go with your children outdoors at first, walking alongside them or being available nearby. This will alert you to subjects of their interest. Have them describe what they see and perhaps you can ask a few leading questions. Keep it friendly and light.

“The great danger that besets the teacher just beginning nature study is too much teaching, and too many subjects. In my own work I would rather a child spent one term finding out how one spider builds its orb web than that he should study a dozen different species of spiders. If the teacher at the end of the year has opened the child’s mind and heart in two or three directions nature-ward, she has done enough.”

Anna Botsford Comstock

In My Experience

The backyard can hold your attention for a long time if you are diligent about looking for a variety of things to observe. Most of us have plants, birds, trees, rocks, insects, invertebrates, and mammals that will visit us at least at certain times of the year. Challenge your family to pick something each week to learn more about. Nature study is a long-term project (or even a lifestyle) that everyone can find satisfaction in doing together as a family.

Each family member can develop their special area of interest. My daughter and I love flowers and birds. My husband is a tree person. The boys enjoy insects, rocks, and mammals of all sorts. Look for your child’s interest and nurture it! I sometimes wouldn’t get involved at all when the kids were looking at something. Quietly observing their interaction with the natural world gave me insight into what we could learn about in the future.

Remember that nature study intensity can come in cycles. There are periods of time or seasons of the year when we devote much energy to getting outside and taking nature walks. The amount of time may fluctuate to fit our family’s circumstances. Although regular outdoor time reaps the most benefits, real life demands we make allowances for breaks and interruptions. But don’t let these breaks stumble you and get back into it as soon as possible, picking up where you left off.

What can parents do?

To be successful in creating a nature study habit, it’s helpful for parents to be enthusiastic and see for themselves the beauty in the natural world. Start with your passions and then build from there with what you discover about your child’s interests. For example, if your interest is in flowers, spend time in your garden together or visit a nearby garden with your family. Start off looking at flowers and see where that leads. An insect may visit your flowers, or a bird may land nearby. Try to allow for nature study to unfold before you.

They need you to regularly allow time to just be outside during all the seasons. We can all bear fifteen minutes a week of nature study outside under even the most uncomfortable circumstances. If you keep in mind that your nature study can be just outside your back door, you’ll be more apt to go out regularly.

Ultimate Naturalist Library Members:

  • Consider working through the first three Outdoor Hour Challenges in the Getting Started ebook. These three challenges can help build your nature study habit. I highly recommend following the suggestions for reading in the Handbook of Nature Study that go along with those challenges. The words expressed in those readings include timeless advice to parents about the value of regular nature study close to home. Make sure to have the printable nature journal pages bookmarked in case your child is ready to create a record of their Outdoor Hour Challenge.

#1 Let’s Get Started
#2 Using Your Words
#3 Now Is The Time To Draw

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

 

  • Look for the “Know Your Own Backyard” series of notebook pages posted in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of the Library. Download the file and start using these pages after your nature study.
  • Look for the Outdoor Hour Challenge Planning Pages printable in the printables library. Use these pages to make a rough plan for your nature study.

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Use the discount code GREATDAY to receive $10 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

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If you’re an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.

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Using Sample Lessons to Learn More About the Outdoor Hour Challenge

Have you downloaded any of the sample Outdoor Hour Challenges yet?

There are many nature study lessons you can try before purchasing any of the memberships here on the Handbook of Nature Study.  On the website, click the “Join Us” button. Once there, you should be able to scroll down and see all the samples for the various ebooks. (For the older ebooks you’ll need to click the ebook cover graphic and then scroll down on the ebook’s page to find the sample download link.)

Here’s one to get you started!

Salvia Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Download the Salvia Nature Study Challenge using the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Here’s a link to the original challenge: Salvia Nature Study

The sample linked above will give you the lesson, a choice of notebook pages, images, and a coloring page to use for your family’s study.

OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover ButtonThis challenge is from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook.

I developed the Outdoor Hour Challenges to use with my sons many years ago and then started sharing our results here on the blog to inspire families who read my blog. Now that the boys are all grown up, they still remember the times we spent outdoors together looking for adventure and learning about the natural world using the Handbook of Nature Study. I know their love of nature was enhanced by learning to take time to slow down and look at things as they are out on the trail, in the garden, or traveling to new places.

Your family can experience those same benefits by getting started with the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

Sample from the Getting Started ebook

If you’re interested in starting with a more basic nature study idea, click the link above to download the very first Outdoor Hour Challenge. This is where it all started with our family and you may wish to work your way through the Getting Started ebook with your family. The challenges found in the Getting Started ebook are more general in nature and you can adapt them to fit your family’s habitat and interests.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020If you’re ready to purchase your own family membership, please use the discount code SAMPLE for $10 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Code will expire on 7/31/2020.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #10 Summer Picnic

And here we are at the very last Outdoor Hour Challenge in the summer version of the Getting Started series! These challenges were designed for you to use as you begin your nature study adventure. But, you can use them over and over again if you want to keep your nature study plan simple. There’s a variety of notebooking pages in the Getting Started with the Outdoor Hour Challenges ebook so you could actually use a different one each time you complete a particular challenge.

Want an even simpler nature study plan?

I’ve suggested in the past using the first three challenges multiple times as the basis of a super simple nature study plan. You can read my thoughts on that idea here: Consistency and Focus.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Picnic @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge #10 – Summer Picnic

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

I love eating outside with my family, especially in the summertime. This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge encourages you to share a meal outside with your children. Keep it simple as far as food selections and location. Even if all you do is put a few things in a bag, grab a blanket, and then spread it all out on your own backyard lawn, I’m sure you and your children will enjoy the fresh air and the time spent outdoors sharing a meal.

Our family looks back fondly on the meals we shared outside in the summertime on our back deck. It made us slow down a bit and take notice of the things that happen outside like clouds floating by, birds chirping, and trees swaying in the breeze. We watched loads of sunsets and I remember a few times being sprinkled on by a passing late afternoon thunderstorm.

With just a little effort, the meals eaten outdoors can create a family tradition.

Summer Nature Study Tip

Purchase some inexpensive, unbreakable dinnerware and reusable utensils. Make sure you have a small ice chest and some cooler packs to pop into your freezer. Gather a blanket or camping chairs to leave in your garage for those last minute excursions to the park for a picnic. Make sure to bring your nature journal and some pencils so you can create a nature journal page if the opportunity arises during or after your picnic.

What to do After You Complete the First Ten Challenges?

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

Keep your nature studies rolling after the first ten challenges by joining us in our weekly nature study activities using the Handbook of Nature Study. Each week there will be a suggested Outdoor Hour Challenge for your family.

OHC Plan 18 to 19 Join Us

It’s so easy to get started by clicking the graphic above and reading a detailed description of how to participate this coming year!

 

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level. View a sample of the ebook here: Getting Started ebook sample.

 

Benefits by Level Updated size 500

See this page for all of the benefits of membership

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #9-Summer Small Square

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 – Summer Small Square

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

This simple Outdoor Hour Challenge has always been a favorite in our family. We had a small square study in our own yard and another one going on over in my dad’s yard. My science loving boys looked forward to visiting their squares and most of the time they were eager to record their observations.

Give the option for a nature journal page or just take some photos!

Small Square in the Oaks

Here are two entries from our past square studies:

Our Square in the Woods – Autumn

Year-Long Oak Tree Study

 small square activity summer

Summer Nature Study Tip

Start a small square study in your yard. After you finish, leave the markers up and revisit the square in a few months during the autumn season. Look for new items or any changes that might have occurred in your small square. You could even keep this going into the winter and then on to spring for a full year’s cycle. Mark your calendar as a reminder to look at your square each season.

Additional Ideas

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Small Square Study – Living vs. Non-Living: Here’s a printable notebook page for you to use with your small square study.

 

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

If you have access to the Getting Started ebook, there’s a custom notebook page that you can use alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 if you wish, or a number of blank pages you can print and use instead.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level.

 

 

Have you ever seen the One Small Square books from Donald Silver? I own the whole series and we have used them numerous times in our nature study. My boys loved the illustrations and I appreciated the simple activities suggested in each book. Check them out at your local public library or online at Amazon. Click the link above to go to Amazon….please note that I am an affiliate for Amazon.com and will receive a small commission if you make a purchase. I own and highly recommend this series of books.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #8 – Up Close and Personal in Summer

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #8 – Up Close and Personal in Summer

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

One of the most important aims in offering nature study to our children is to increase their curiosity in the world around them. In our family, every time we got out the magnifying lenses, the kids would immediately be looking for things outside to see up close. The magnifying lens brings your children in close contact with things they might not otherwise notice! Suddenly, they can see tiny insects in detail, pollen on a flower petal, or the texture of bark on a tree.

 

Summer Nature Study Tip

This Outdoor Hour Challenge is a favorite “go to” activity whether you take the magnifying lens outside or add it to your nature table. Give your children unlimited access to this simple tool and see where their interests take them.

Additional Ideas for Using a Magnifying Lens during Nature Study

Magnifying+Lens+in+Nature+Study+@handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com.jpg

5 Ways to Use Your Magnifying Lens in Nature Study: Use the ideas in this entry alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #8. There’s also a free printable in this entry to use with your magnifying lens!

Rock Study With Magnifying Lens: I love a good rock study and using the magnifying lens will take your investigation a step further! There’s a free printable activity in this entry too!

 

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

If you have access to the Getting Started ebook, there’s a custom notebook page that you can use alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #8 if you wish, or a number of blank pages you can print and use instead.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level.

 

Benefits by Level Updated size 500

See this page for all of the benefits of membership.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 – Summer Field Guide

Outdoor Hour Challenge 7 field guide @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 – Create a Summer Field Guide

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

If you’ve been following along with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Getting Started series this summer, you’ve no doubt enjoyed getting outside each week with your children. Hopefully, there are some nature journal pages in your notebook, recording some of your discoveries. You may have even started a collection after last week’s challenge.

Now, you can use Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 to create a few pages in a custom field guide for your home with birds, wildflowers, or any other area of interest. We started off with birds and the free printable in the archived post linked above.

This is a long term project that your family can work on as you find new topics or interests!

 

Field Guide Card for Birds

Summer Nature Study Tip

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 is a perfect summer afternoon activity. Print out a few copies of the bird field guide printable and have each family member tackle a different bird. Take advantage of the hot afternoons to be inside creating your field guide.

 

Getting Started Ebook New Edition button 2

If you have access to the Getting Started ebook, there’s a custom notebook page that you can use alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 if you wish, or a number of blank pages you can print and use instead.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level.

 OHC Membership Giveaway graphic

Still a little time to enter the giveaway for an Ultimate Naturalist Membership!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

If you would like to purchase a membership, please use this discount code for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership of your own!

Discount Code: NATURE4U

This discount code will expire on 8/18/18.

Benefits by Level Updated size 500

 

 

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #6 – Start a Summer Collection

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #6 – Start a Summer Collection

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

This week we are going to take a look at starting a nature collection. Perhaps your family has already started collecting natural objects during your outdoor time and now you are wondering what to do with all of those treasures.

Use the archive link above to be inspired to create a collection of things that interest your child.

 

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You may wish to read this entry where I share five ways to display rocks (or other items):

5 Ways to Display Rock Collections

Summer Nature Study Tip-Keep a Seasonal Nature Collection

Create a summer collection of items from your outdoor time. Once the season ends, box up your favorites or return them to the habitat. Start a new collection for the autumn months.

 

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

If you have access to the Getting Started ebook, there’s a custom notebook page that you can use alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #6 if you wish, or a number of blank pages you can print and use instead.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level.