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Miscellaneous Nature Study Using The Outdoor Hour Challenges

NOTE: If the challenge is included an ebook, it is noted directly after the challenge. If you have an Ultimate Membership, you will be able to pull up the ebook and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your nature study.
Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library


Outdoor Hour Challenge Mushrooms Lichen Moss Fern Index @handbookofnaturestudy

The links above are Amazon affiliate links to resources I own and love.

Mushroom, Lichen, Moss, Fern Challenges
Bracket Fungi -Autumn Nature Study Continues
Ferns – More Nature Study Spring
Field Horsetail – Autumn 2015
Hedgehog Fungi – Autumn 2015
Moss and Lichen
Moss Observation Notebook Page
Molds, Puffballs, Morels
Mushrooms -Autumn ebook
Extraordinary in the Ordinary – Mushrooms
Mushroom Cap Shapes Notebook Page
Scarlet Cup -Winter Nature Study Continues
Stinkhorn Nature Study -Autumn Nature Study Continues
Parts of  a Mushroom Notebook Page

Newsletters With a Mushroom, Lichen, Moss, or Fern Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)

  • March 2013 – Mushroom, Lichen, and Moss study grid printable. Mushroom coloring page. Types of lichen.
  • March 2016 – Lichen and moss nature study ideas. Lichen Study notebook page. Lichen vocabulary.
  • November 2016 – Mushroom Cap notebook page. Nature study ideas for fungi.


Outdoor Hour Challenge Weather Index @handbookofnaturestudy

Weather Challenges
Autumn Weather – Autumn ebook
Autumn Weather Challenge #1
Autumn – Signs of Autumn
Cloud Observations 
Fall Seasonal Weather Challenge -with free printable notebook page
Fall Color Walk – More Nature Study Autumn
Seasonal Weather with Four Seasons Notebook Pages
Snow– Winter Wednesday
Spring Splendor Walk – More Nature Study Spring
Spring Weather – Spring ebook
Summer Weather – More Nature Study Summer
Weather Record Chart – printable notebook page
Weather Study with Weather Sounds Printable Notebook Page
Weather Walk – Four Seasons free printable notebook page
Winter Weather  -Winter ebook
Winter Wonder Weather– More Nature Study Winter

Seasonal Challenges
December World-free printable notebook page
November World– Autumn ebook
The Winter World

Newsletters With a Weather Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)

  • December 2011 – Know Your Own Backyard in December notebook page. December World study grid.
  • January 2012 – January World study grid.
  • February 2012 – Know Your Own Backyard in February notebook page.
  • March 2012 – Know Your Own Backyard in Early Spring notebook page. Early Spring study grid.
  • April 2013 – April study grid.
  • May 2013 – May study grid.
  • July 2012 – Beat the Heat study grid. Know Your Own Backyard When Its Hot notebook page.
  • December 2012 – Weather study ideas. Weather nature table ideas. My Weather notebook page.
  • September 2013 – Fall Fun grid study. Fall Time Field Trip notebook page.
  • November 2013 – Weather Observation study grid.
  • January 2014 – Winter Fun study grid.
  • February 2014 – February Fun study grid.
  • March 2014 – Lion or Lamb notebook page.
  • June 2014 – Summer Fun grid study printable.
  • February 2015 – Winter nature study ideas.
  • March 2015 – Calendar of Firsts for nature observations. Printable nature calendar.
  • December 2015 – Weather chart printable. My Seasonal Weather notebook page. Weather Study big grid printable.
  • October 2016 – Weather nature study and nature journal ideas.
  • December 2016 – Silent Autumn Nature Walk notebook page.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Reptiles Amphibians invertebrates fish index @handbookofnaturestudy

The links above are Amazon affiliate links to resources I own and love.
Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates, Fish
Banana SlugCreepy Things ebook
Black Widow Creepy Things ebook
Catfish –  Autumn 2015
Common Shiner – Summer Nature Study Continues
Crayfish  –Spring Nature Study Continues
Earthworms– Spring ebook
Fish Nature Study and  Definition Copywork Page
Frogs – Summer ebook
Frog Field Guide Notebook Page
Goldfish Nature Study-free printable notebook page
Johnny Darter – Summer Nature Study Continues
LeechCreepy Things ebook
Lizard, Gecko, Anole Study –Autumn Nature Study Continues
Millipede Creepy Things ebook
Newts -Spring Nature Study Continues
Snakes-Spring ebook
Snails -More Nature Study Spring
Sphinx Moth – Creepy Things ebook
Spring Peepers -Spring Nature Study Continues
Sunfish – Summer Nature Study Continues
TarantulaCreepy Things ebook
Trout and Salmon –Autumn ebook
Turtles and Pondweed-More Nature Study Summer

You may also want to read my review of this awesome resource: National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Reptiles.

Additional Links You May Find Helpful:

Newsletters With a Reptile, Amphibian, Invertebrate, or Fish Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)

  • April 2013 – Reptiles and Amphibians study grid.
  • July 2013 – Fish grid study. Fish Study – Trout notebook page.
  • October 2015 – Reptile Study notebook page.
  • August 2016 – Invertebrate nature journal and nature study ideas. Snail Study notebook page.
  • May 2017 – Fish study grid. Fish nature study and nature journal ideas.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Rock Index @handbookofnaturestudy

The link above is an Amazon affiliate link to a resource I own and love.

Rock Related Challenges
Calcite – Autumn 2015
Crystal Study– Winter Nature Study Continues
Feldspar Study– Winter Nature Study Continues
Granite Study and Other Igneous Rocks – More Nature Study Book Summer
Limestone – Autumn 2015
Magnets and Compass – More Nature Study Winter
Marble – Autumn 2015
Mica Rock Study  – Autumn Nature Study Continues
Quartz Study -More Nature Study Winter
Rock Observation Challenge – free printable chart
Rock Study Using a Magnifying Lens – free printable notebook page
Rock Collection Ideas – free printable activity
Rock Study and printable game activity
Salt Study – Winter ebook
Sand and Soil -More Nature Study Summer

Newsletters With a Rock Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)

  • January 2013 – Rock study grid. Rock collection ideas.
  • February 2016 – Rock nature journal and study ideas.
  • March 2017 – Rock nature study and nature journal ideas.


Outdoor Hour Challenge Sky and Stars Index @handbookofnaturestudy

Sky and Stars
Moon and Moon Names– More Nature Study Winter
Moon and Craters Nature Study-free printable notebook page
My Backyard At Night Notebook Page  (free printable)
Night Sky Study- Cassiopeia – Autumn Nature Study Continues
Orion Study – Winter Nature Study Continues
Winter Sky and Stars  – Winter ebook
Winter Sky– Winter Wednesday
Year-Long Big Dipper Study -free printable notebook page

Newsletters With a Sky or Star Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)

  • August 2013 – Night sky study ideas. Night Sky study grid.
  • July 2016 – Sky and stars nature journal and nature study ideas. Big Dipper study notebook page.


The link above is an Amazon affiliate link to a resource I own and love.
Pond, Beach, and CreekStudy
Cattail Seasonal Nature Study  -free printable notebook page
Pond Seasonal Study -free printable notebook page

Newsletters With a Pond, Beach, or Creek Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)

  • August 2011 – Pond and marsh study ideas. Summer Pond Study notebook page. Pond study grid.
  • June 2012 – Beach and tidepool nature study ideas. Beach grid study printable. My Seashore Study notebook page.
  • July 2013 – Year long pond study ideas.
  • February 2016 – Creek nature study in four seasons. Creek Study notebook page.

Miscellaneous Challenges
Brook – – Autumn 2015
Small Square Study – Winter ebook
Small Square Study – free printable notebook page
Winter Berries –Autumn Nature Study Continues
Winter Colors – Winter Wednesday

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December World – Texture

12 23 10 Mushrooms tall

We had a break in our rainy weather so that meant we seized the opportunity to get out and walk with the dog on the walking trail. Our surprise nature study subject of the day was “mushrooms”. They were in abundance on this trip down the trail.

After looking at all the photos when we got home, I decided the theme of the day was “texture”.

12 23 10 Lots of Mushrooms
Must be something rotting underneath the debris….makes for a great photo.

12 23 10 Moss

Lots of things going on in this photo…reds and greens make a nice contrast to each other.

12 23 10 Moss and Lichen
This is my favorite image of the day….wow! Look all those textures and colors and layers.

12 23 10 Mushroom

Someone or something had knocked a bunch of mushrooms loose along another section of the trail. Love the gills in this mushroom image.

12 23 10 Mushrooms and needles
Last one for today….mushrooms and brown grass make an interesting composition for this image.

We are enjoying our winter break and spending lots of time outdoors, both in the yard and out on walks. I haven’t had any nature study subjects in mind except to enjoy the pleasures that December has offered. I am sort of itching to get started on a more focused nature study plan again in January.

I am off to San Francisco today to spend the day looking at some great art….Post-Impressionists! Of course the museum is in Golden Gate Park so we will more than likely be taking a walk to see what we can find.

Have a great week!

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December World – Colors

Our December days are accented with color….right in our own yard.

12 10 10 Moss and Lichen

My husband brought some granite rocks into the front yard when we remodeled and I am so happy to see that they are alive with moss and lichens of a variety of colors. Now when I walk down my front path I will see some living things that have made themselves at home…that makes me happy.

12 10 10 Red Leaf

There are still leaves falling each day from the colorful trees and I love the way this red leaf fell among the yellow-green leaves. Now that I look at the photo closely, I notice there is a mushroom peeking through on the top left side.

12 10 10 Sweet Gum Tree

The gray skies of December have a different feel to them and give the afternoon a somber cast. The sweet gum tree is all dressed up with its sticker balls and a few remaining red-orange leaves. I find myself looking up at the sky more in the winter….checking the sky for clouds, looking for birds, viewing the world that opens up when the leaves are gone.

I feel a whole series of December World posts coming on as I work my way through my photos from this week. Using photography to capture your world is not only an easy way to document your time outdoors but it can be therapeutic to see the world through the lens of your camera. You get to focus on the small and the big.

Hope you are enjoying the series so far.

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Learning Something New: Our Family’s Outdoor Hour Challenge #42 Moss and Lichen

In our part of the world it is the perfect time to be looking for and observing closely the mosses and lichens in our yard. Last week I posted an entry sharing one of our favorite local hikes that has literally come alive with mosses.

After reading the Handbook of Nature Study, we were on the lookout for some haircap moss. I looked it up in our field guide and it showed that we have it here in California so we were determined to find some to look at in person.

Last week on our hike we noticed the “little parts that stick up” and those are actually the spore capsules as shown in the diagram on page 710. Here is a photo of them as well.

These are about three inches high.

This is a close-up of the moss and lichen we saw growing on so many of the trees. In the top photo of this blog entry, you can see how it grows all the way up the tree trunks in this part of the forest. The greens of the mosses and ferns really show up in the forest as you walk along at this time of year when most of the green leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees.

We found some fungus growing on this fallen tree branch…new to us.

It had such a vivid color and look at the green growing on the branch as well….not sure what it is but it is pretty.

Then as we looked closely, we saw this part of a wasp’s nest on the ground right next to us. It was very delicate and soft.

We found this pretty fern growing all along the trail’s edge on the little embankment. It has a black stem and pretty bright green leaves. I think it is a California Maidenhair fern. I realize now that there are really three different kinds of ferns in the photo…I’m not sure what kind they are but I will update when I find out.

Can you tell we have enjoyed our week of exploring and looking for moss and lichen? We have been out three times on the trail and each time we have found something new to learn about. No nature journals this week yet but I am hoping to add at least an entry showing the parts of the haircap moss or something showing the life cycle. I know that we covered this in biology last year but I want to make it more real for the boys by viewing these things in real life and then making a nature journal entry to show what we learned.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #42 Moss and Lichen

Outdoor Hour Challenge #42
Flowerless Plants-Moss and Lichens

Inside Preparation:
Read about mosses on pages 709-714 of the Handbook of Nature Study. The information on mosses is limited in the book so I found a link about moss for you to preview and then share if you would like with your children: Life Cycle of Moss (animated and narrated- a real gem!)

There also is limited information in the Handbook of Nature Study on lichen which I think we should study along with moss. I actually like the information on Wikipedia, especially the photo gallery at the end of the article. (As always preview any material you wish to share with your children.)

Or you can try these links for a simple, child-friendly explanation and some photos:

Use the descriptions and photos on pages 712 and 713of the Handbook of Nature Study to see if you recognize any mosses that you have locally. Make sure to pay attention to the diagram on page 710 that labels the different parts of the hair-cap moss so when you are outdoors you can look for the spore capsules and stalks.

I found this printable pdf with lots of specific lichen types to be helpful.

Crustose Lichen (crusty)

Foliose Lichen (leafy)

Fruticose Lichen (shrubby)

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Find 15 minutes to take a walk outdoors and look for some mosses or lichens. Mosses are found in all habitats and if you look hard enough you might be surprised where you find moss growing. Look in sidewalk cracks, along the edges of buildings, and on stones in the garden. Lichen will be found on tree trunks or branches or on rock faces.
  • Bring a hand lens along with you on your walk and use it to examine any moss or lichen you find. See if you can find the spore capsules and the places where the spores sift out. Children will want to touch the moss to observe how soft it feels. If possible, use a few minutes to compare samples of mosses and lichens.
  • If you don’t find any moss or lichen, use your observation skills to find something new to look at during your fifteen minutes of the Outdoor Hour.

Follow-Up Time:

  • If you are able, try sketching any moss or lichens that you find during this challenge while you are in the field. If you are limited in your time outdoors due to weather conditions, decide if you can bring a small amount of moss or lichen indoors to put on your nature table or in a terrarium. Use this sample and a hand lens to draw a sketch into your nature journal. Make sure to observe how it feels and smells as well as how it looks and record these thoughts in your nature journal as well.
  • If you were not able to find any moss or lichen for this challenge, keep your eyes open as the seasons progress and perhaps you will find some moss to draw in the future. If your child is very young, skip the nature journal this week and have a discussion about what you saw during your Outdoor Hour time.
  • Update your list of mushrooms and ferns if you discovered any new kinds during this challenge. Start a list of mosses and lichens if you wish. You can document each item with a photo for later identification if necessary.

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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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What are Flowerless Plants?

“There is something uncanny about plants which have no green parts; indeed, many people find it difficult to think of them as plants. It is, therefore, no wonder that many superstitions cluster about toadstools. In times of old, not only was it believed that toads sat on them, but that fairies danced upon them and used them for umbrellas……But science, in these days, brings revelations concerning these mysterious plants which are far more wonderful than the web which superstition wove about them in days of yore.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 714

As a prelude to tomorrow’s challenge, I wanted to help explain what it is exactly that we will be focusing on during the next few weeks of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. I have a feeling that some of you are not too excited about the focus on non-flowering plants but I think if you understand a little better what you are going to be looking for, your enthusiasm will grow.

Here is some information I have found in researching this topic and it was surprising to me that there are so many things to be on the alert for as far as topics that are covered in the Handbook of Nature Study. Hopefully this list will give your eyes something to search for over the next few weeks during your Outdoor Hour time. There is more to the focus of flowerless plants than just looking for mushrooms.

First of all you have the obvious subject and that is mushrooms or different fungi. Mushrooms are technically a fungi but we can call them mushrooms if that is easier. Puffballs are also in this family.

Fungi are really non-flowering plants that have no green.

Next you can look for ferns. I think everyone knows what a fern looks like but the variety of ferns available in your area will vary. You should look for ferns in shady places. Many of the ferns in our area are turning brown but you will recognize their unique shape when you see them.

Mosses and lichen are another category of flowerless plants. Once you start looking for moss…you will see it growing in many places and it is something that children love to observe and touch. Look on tree trunks or logs, cracks in the sidewalk, along a moist section of concrete, or under ledges.

Molds are also flowerless plants. How about observing the mold on a slice of bread? I found this flowerless plant over a section of ground that has a rotting tree trunk and roots. No very pretty until you get up close and then it is fascinating.

Flowerless plants may be new to your family. Take the challenges one at a time and do the reading in the Handbook of Nature Study and keep your eyes open. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much you learn and your children will become aware of a whole new fascinating world.