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Outdoor Hour Challenge #4: It Is Coming Into Focus

Outdoor Hour Challenge #4
It’s Coming Into Focus

1. In the Handbook of Nature Study,
read “The Uses of Scientific Names” on pages 10 and 11. Also read “The Field Notebook” on pages 13-15. Highlight or underline the points that you would like to remember.

2. I am going to suggest that you pick a focus area for your nature study. Taking into account what you have close at hand, what season it is, and your child’s interest, look through the table of contents in the Handbook of Nature Study and pick one section that you will focus on for the next six to eight weeks. It might be a good time to study garden flowers (bulbs), wildflowers, birds, or trees if it is already warm in your area. If you still have lots of snow, you could focus on mammals, birds, or water forms. (For suggested nature study rotations using the Handbook of Nature Study, see the Ambleside Online’s nature study page for ideas. If you have chosen a focus area, turn to the introductory page for that section and take the time to read just that page in the Handbook of Nature Study.

3. Take your 10-15 minute walk outdoors. Encourage your children to observe quietly for some of that time, helping to train them to be aware of the sounds as well as the sights of their own backyard. If you have chosen a focus, spend a few minutes looking for an object to study. Be alert to ideas for further research in your focus area. For example, if you have chosen birds as your focus area, you can look for feathers or nests as well as the birds themselves.

4. Follow up with discussion and research in your focus area if you have chosen one. If you have chosen a focus, begin a list of items that you have observed that fall within that subject. For example, if you have chosen birds as your focus, try to identify a bird you saw today, look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study, and read more about that particular bird if possible. Add the bird’s name to your list of birds seen for the term. Please Note: If your child found something to research other than an object from your focus area, be flexible and go with their interest.

5. Give the opportunity for a nature journal entry.

“The book should be considered the personal property of the child and should never be criticized by the teacher except as a matter of encouragement; for the spirit in which the notes are made is more important than the information they cover.”

“The making of drawings to illustrate what is observed should be encouraged.”

Last week I suggested a journal page after observation and discussion. Offer the opportunity once again for your child to draw and write a page to add to their notebook. I have found that if I pull out my nature journal and draw, the children usually want to join me. Model a simple journal entry if you need to. Remember it can be as easy as a quick drawing, a label, and the date. The whole idea is to start a new habit. Modeling the behavior, setting a good example with our attitude, and giving our children plenty of subjects to draw will all encourage them to give nature journaling a try. 

For younger students, outlining the object in the nature journal and then having them color it in is a perfectly acceptable alternative to drawing the object. You can also do a rubbing by placing the object under the paper and then rubbing it with the side of a crayon.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

18 thoughts on “Outdoor Hour Challenge #4: It Is Coming Into Focus

  1. Thanks for getting me going! We all really enjoyed this challenge and I’m inspired to do more, without feeling overwhelmed. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    I’ve linked to my blog so you can see what we’ve done. I know we’re a fair bit behind, but I’m losing the guilt as I’m gaining the enjoyment! Blessings to you,

  2. We are enjoying this very much. Thanks again for all you do.

  3. Thanks again!

    We’re choosing ‘rocks’ as our focus. I figure that coming into winter is a good time to do the inanimate things 🙂

  4. 2 in one week! Yay!!!

  5. We’re excited to get back to your challenges after too long of a break! Thank you for your organization and inspiration!

    Looking forward to the next one!

    Warmly, Michelle

  6. I am truly enjoying nature study with my 3 daughters. I just want to thank you for the inspiration and motivation to do this. I know a lot of hard work goes into your blog and I want you to know it is appreciated! Thanks again!

  7. After having a break from nature study for a bit – due to sickness, bad weather and moving – it has been a thrill to be able to get back into this week.

    It took us a while to choose our focus, but in the end a story book provided our inspiration.

    Thanks again for posting these challenges, they have really helped define our nature study efforts.

  8. This is our first Nature Study. I am not a natural nature lover but I wish for my boys to be just that. This study is already helping and we are just getting started!

    Thank you so much for doing this.

  9. Thanks so much for creating all these challenges and for taking the time to read our blog entries. I can already see my girls getting more excited about our Nature Study time together.

  10. I cheated and used #4 with the December Mini-challenge. My kids were surprised I was able to draw so well, probably a good sign I DO need to keep my own journal:)

  11. We are loving the outdoor hour challenges. It has helped to provide some focus for our nature study. Thank you for all the hard work you do. It truly is encouraging.

  12. We are trying to get back on track with challenges. This was fun today, and we enjoyed trying to classify the birds we found (thanks for your help, too, Barb).

  13. We just finished #4 this week, and I posted it today. We were excited to find the fur from what we believe is a gray fox that was in the southwest pasture here. More about that in the posting here:


  14. We chose wildflowers as our focus. I love how much I am learning right along with my boys!

  15. We (translation “I”) have chosen trees as our focus. Since we were able to visit the mountains recently and know we’ll be going back, we’ll be able to observe changes at different altitudes. A FUN adventure so far!

  16. thanks again for putting this together and for your encouraging comments. and for bringing us all together. it is great to have the opprotunity to see what folks around the world observe in their surroundings.

  17. So I ended up with two posts about this challenge. The first one was an unsuccessful attempt. Still, we enjoyed the time out of doors.
    This post is about wildlife that we did find. Patience helps. Regardless, we love these challenges.

  18. We were finally able to get back out on our weekly nature walk. It was lovely and we had a wonderful time…even though we did come home with ticks on us.

    Blogged at for some reason my computer won’t let me log in under my google ID.

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