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Outdoor Hour Challenge – December Mini-Challenge and Notebook Page

Outdoor Hour Challenge December Mini Challenge

My whole impetus for starting this blog was to share how our family finally cracked the book open and started implementing the ideas that Anna Botsford Comstock wrote about so skillfully in this book. The entire Handbook of Nature Study is to help parents/teachers to be better nature study guides.

Autumn Trees and Sky

The breath of fresh air, the moving about outside, the getting to know better our own backyard…these are the joys of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. The most successful families involved in the OHC are those that embrace the idea that getting outdoors as a family is important and worthy of our time. The OHC is the vehicle for getting us outside, hopefully giving us something interesting to learn about. If we skip the preparation work and don’t read the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study, we are missing out on the simple ideas that Anna Botsford Comstock shared in the pages of each lesson.

White Crowned Sparrow in the Birdfeeder

We can all use some refreshing ideas from time to time and I am encouraging every single participant of the Outdoor Hour Challenge to spend a few minutes over the next few weeks to read the pages from the challenges below…you will not be sorry. Read with a note pad or highlighter to create some of your own points to remember as you go outdoors with your children this winter. I have listed some of my favorite points below.

Handbook of Nature Study Reading Suggestions
Challenge 1: Pages 1-8
Challenge 2: Pages 23-24
Challenge 3: 16-17
Challenge 4: 10-11 and 13-15

“In nature-study the work begins with any plant or creature which chances to interest the pupil.”

“In nature study any teacher can with honor say, ‘I do not know’, for perhaps the question asked is as yet unanswered by the great scientists.”

“No child should be compelled to have a nature journal”

“…but in nature-study, the observation of form is for the purpose of better understanding life.”

“It is a mistake to think that half day is necessary for a field lesson, since a very efficient field trip may be made during the ten or fifteen minutes at recess, if it is well planned.”

You don’t have to go farther than you own backyard because “nature study is science brought home”.

To help us implement some of the ideas we read about, I have included a December World Notebook Page as part of this entry. You can use it to record your outdoor time over the next few weeks.


Free Notebooking Pages SamplerPlease note I am an affiliate for and I receive a small commission for every purchase you make after clicking my links. I hope that you find their products as valuable as I do!



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Signs of Autumn Challenge and Notebook Page

Outdoor Hour Challenge Signs of Autumn with printable @handbookofnaturestudy

Updated 2017: This challenge was originally written for the first day of autumn 2010 but it can easily be done on any day and in any year. I hope you enjoy learning more about your early autumn world using the ideas and the printable in this challenge.

It is really hard to believe that it is already time for the fall color and fall weather. We have had an unusual summer as far as weather and growing seasons so it should be interesting to see how the autumn months unfold.

As a way to get us thinking about the change of the seasons with our children, here is a bonus challenge you can complete on the first day of Autumn, September 22nd, 2010.

Some signs to look for:

  • Dry grass and weeds
  • Seeds
  • Wildflowers-thistles, goldenrod
  • Birds eating at feeders or flying overhead to migrate
  • Chilly morning temperatures or dew on the grass
  • Fruit ripe on trees
  • Insects or webs
  • Nuts, acorns, or berries
  • Clouds and wind

Signs of Autumn Notebook Page

You can use the Signs of Autumn notebook page  to record your signs of autumn or you can use your own nature journal. I put together a Squidoo Lens from last year’s autumn nature/art study where you might glean some more information and inspiration this season.



Here are some ideas from year-long nature study topics we have done in the past:

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First Day of Summer 2010: Know Your Own Yard

I know that yesterday was the first official day of summer but for some reason I forgot to publish this post so you are receiving it a day late. Perhaps it was that my laptop died and I have been working from a different computer….in any case, enjoy the notebook page and your second day of summer.

Note: I am hoping to continue working on a series of “Know Your Own Yard” posts over the summer and perhaps even into the autumn.

Sunflower with petals

When all else fails, know your own backyard.

Take a few minutes on this first day of summer and explore with your children.

Here is a bonus notebook page for you to use to follow up your outdoor time!

First Day of Summer notebook page

First Day of Summer Notebook Page – Free Download!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge-Spring Maple Tree Bonus Challenge

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Spring Bonus Challenge-Maple Trees

Inside Preparation Work:
Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 628-634. Pay special attention to the section on page 629 where it talks about how maple trees change in the spring. Also on page 634 there are specific suggestions for spring observations of a maple tree.

Please do not worry if you do not have a maple tree to observe and perhaps instead you would like to complete the Signs of Spring Challenge from last week or you can download the Spring Nature Walk sheet from my daughter’s Hearts and Trees blog.

Outdoor Hour Time:
If you have a maple tree, spend some time making springtime observations. The Handbook of Nature Study suggests looking for the leaves and blossoms. On page 629 of the Handbook there is a photo of the sugar maple blossoms.

If you do not have a maple to observe, spend some time looking at any tree that perhaps has some buds forming or a tree that is just beginning to leaf out.

Follow-Up Time:
You can use the Maple Tree Study page provided below for your follow-up activity or you can sketch your maple tree right into your nature journal. The best way to follow up any maple tree study is to eat something with real maple syrup.

Spring Series CoverGarden Flowers CoverMore Nature Study Book 3 Cover image
Spring Themed Ebooks Available – click the cover image to read more.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge-Signs of Spring Bonus Challenge

This is a simple one:

Make sure to mention to your children that Saturday, March 20th is the first day of spring. Take your Outdoor Hour time this week to look for signs of spring in your backyard or neighborhood.

For many of us, this past week has brought warmer temperatures and with the time change, more light in the evenings. This is an exciting time of year for all of us as we anticipate the many changes the new season will bring.


Some signs to look for:

  • Green grass
  • Wildflowers-dandelions
  • Spring bulbs like tulips, crocus, and jonquils
  • Birds, perhaps nesting already
  • Warmer temperatures
  • Blooming trees
  • Insects

You can use the notebook page below to record your signs of spring or you can use your own nature journal.

Spring Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy


Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 Your Own Field Guide

Field Guide-Cards on a Ring


“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he or she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

One nature activity that our family has worked on together is to start and maintain a personalized field guide to birds that frequent our birdfeeder and backyard. We started a few years ago and have added each new kind of bird as we come across it. The instructions are for bird cards but you could easily adapt the idea for trees, wildflowers, insects, flowerless plants, or garden flowers.

How to Make Field Guide Cards


5 x 8 index card

Bird photograph

glue stick

Optional: Blank bird information form,lamination, binder ring

supplies for card

1. We take a photo of the bird we want to add to our field guide or if we can’t take a decent photo, we find one on the internet and print it out on our color printer.

front card

2. Glue the photo on one side of the 5 x 8 card.

back card

3. We fill in the blank bird information form with information from our field guide.

4. Glue the information onto the back of the card.

cards ready to cut

5. Optional: Laminate the card.

finished cards on ring

6. Optional: We hole punch the corner of each card and attach it to a binder ring.

Here is a copy of the blank information form we use.

PDF of bird field guide blank

Please note:
I want to clarify the idea of picking a focus area. The focus area is a topic in the Handbook of Nature Study that your family is choosing to learn about in more depth. Challenge #5 suggested making a list of things you found within your focus area that you might come into contact with in your local area. I suggested that you work in a specific focus area for six to eight weeks so you could really get to know a certain aspect of nature. Each week I am suggesting that you read about one item from your list in the Handbook of Nature Study. This gives you some ideas for observations when you go outside with your children. If on your nature walk you find something else to be interested in, please feel free to go with that interest. I am not trying to limit you but to have some sort of way to direct your nature study. In my experience, as I change our family’s focus, we are hyper-sensitive to finding things in that focus area to learn about because we are more aware. It narrows down our vision a little so we can really get to know our own backyards. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7
Your Own Field Guide

1. In your focus area, turn to the table of contents and pick a new subject in your section to read about before your nature walk. Make sure to read the observation suggestions to have them in mind before your time outdoors. Take your 10-15 minute walk, looking for things to add to your list of focus area items in your nature journal. Spend some of your time quietly observing and try to encourage your child to look closely at something they have seen before to recognize any changes or new aspects of the item. For example, if you are focusing on flowerless plants, see if you can find some differences between flowerless plants and garden plants. [lack of leaves, petals, or roots]


“Children should know the correct name for parts of things, such as petals, sepals, etc, to help them describe what they see. They should be encouraged to group things together by leaf shape, or leaf vein pattern, or number of flower petals, or whether they keep their leaves all year, or animals that have a backbone, or animals that eat grass or eat meat, etc. Collecting and sorting plant specimens is fun and good practice.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 63

2. After your outdoor time, take time to discuss the outing with your child, helping them to find words to describe their experience. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done for things your child is interested in.


“The ability to group things together by type and find differences is one of the higher orders of intellect, and every opportunity to use it first-hand should be encouraged.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 64

3. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Remember this can be a simple drawing, a label, and a date. Challenges 2 and 3 have ideas for alternatives to drawing in the nature journal.

4. Add any items to your collection that you discovered during your nature time. If you need more information on making a collection, see Challenge #6. Or if you are choosing to start making a field guide with your children, gather the materials and make your first card.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

You can see and download a sample challenge and notebook pages: OHC Getting Started Ebook Sample.

Please note that this ebook is included in every level of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study.