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Nature Study: Finding the Ordinary to be Extraordinary

Extraordinary in the Ordinary @handbookofnaturestudy
Find the Extraordinary in the Ordinary I challenge you to find five ordinary things in your backyard or in your everyday life that you can study and learn something more about. Find something extraordinary in something you have come to think of as ordinary and usual, so usual that you may not even notice it anymore.

Sebastian actually gave me this idea that I think would be a great challenge for nature study close to home. In order to start developing the idea, we challenged ourselves to go out in our backyard and find something extraordinary. I decided we needed a little clearer definition.

Extraordinary: beyond the usual, far more than usual, more than expected

It is that “more than expected” part that we want to develop an eye for in our family.

Here are the five things we will be learning about from the Handbook of Nature Study, the field guides from our nature shelf, or internet sources like and

The blue of the morning glory is outstanding and we have never done a formal study of this garden flower. Now is the time to do it since we have lots of blossoms to observe. We already have decided how extraordinarily blue this flower is…not very common in flowers I think.

While we were outside, the cat was chasing this Alligator lizard. Lizards are not an extraordinary creature in our backyard but as we watched this lizard, we started to wonder about its defense mechanism…the breaking off of the tail to distract its attacker. We are going to do some more research about this extraordinary ability.

This California Towhee is a regular visitor to our feeder, or rather under our feeder. We have never taken time to focus our nature study on this particular bird but now we will. I’m sure there is something extraordinary about it that we don’t know yet. The most visible difference we have noticed about the California Towhee is its very long tail…hmmm….maybe that is extraordinary.

We have noticed an increase in hummingbirds in our yard this summer and there have been two in particular that we would like to study more in depth. I was unable to get a photo of the hummingbirds but thought you might enjoy seeing my new feeder. I think maybe the two unusual hummers we saw were migrating and I would love to learn more about where some of our hummingbirds go at different times of the year.

Caterpillars have been dropping out of the Sweet gum trees and before they can crawl away, the birds swoop down and eat them. These caterpillars are busily eating the leaves from the tree but we don’t know exactly what they will be once they go though their life cycle. Look at those colors, now that is extraordinary! We are going to try to identify these critters as part of our challenge.

Now we have a list of things to investigate.
1. Morning glories
2. Alligator lizards and their tail
3. California Towhee
4. Migrating hummingbirds
5. Caterpillar from the Sweet gum tree.

You can take the challenge to find the extraordinary in the ordinary if you are up to it! Find something in your yard to focus on and really see the beauty, the design, and the magnificence of something that perhaps you have been overlooking. It could be as simple as the dandelion in the crack of your sidewalk. It could be the robin gathering worms in your lawn. It could be the ants on your kitchen counter. The possibilities are endless.

If you take the challenge and you blog about it, leave me a comment and I will come over and read about it.

I will be posting our results over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned.

19 thoughts on “Nature Study: Finding the Ordinary to be Extraordinary

  1. I LOVE this challenge! Would you believe the nature group I help lead down in Texas now has about 130 families as members!!! I’m going to pass this challenge along to them, too. 🙂

  2. What a neat idea!!

    I feel that this is up our alley!

  3. Last week I sent the boys outside to find something to draw for their nature journals. Pooh came back with a lovely little drawing of a half opened morning glory! It was so pretty!!

  4. This is such a great idea! Thank you!

  5. Thanks for the hat tip. I think I could do a lesson on odd insects just from what shows up on our high rise balcony.

  6. We are participating and have chosen our 5 things!
    Thanks for the idea.

  7. So glad that you are all going to give the challenge a try!

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  8. Hummingbirds is my first.

  9. I LOVE the new hummingbird feeder!!

  10. I found a book by Edwin Way Teale at the library, A Walk Through The Year. I’d never heard of him before, but it seems that he is/was quite the accomplished naturalist. The book is testamony to how wonderful the common and mundane things around us can be.

  11. I have seen his books Sebastian and they are wonderful. I want to collect a few for my library.

    I actually have a post running around in my head about several other naturalists that influenced the come back of nature study as a part of the school curriculum during the early 20th century.

    I had a great email conversations with a woman who is going to be publishing a book about three of the “big” names during that period, including Anna Botsford Comstock. Fascinating stuff and I loved picking this lady’s brain for some insight. She promises me that she will let me know when the book publishes.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  12. I love this idea. We have just gone through the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly & have been posting about it. This idea reminds me of Elnora in the Girl of the Limberlost. After reading it you want to go find the extraordinary in the ordinary.It insired me to look for little things that we never notice.

  13. Phyllis,
    I didn’t see a comments section on your blog. I think that the white insect is an example of some form of a true bug (part of hemiptera). I have had good luck with bird and insect identifications by searching what I’m looking at and our location in the Google Images section. Try true bug and your state or what plant you found it on.

  14. The kids are having a blast with the worm study we’re doing! Here’s day two of our nature study at
    There’s a link in there to a great website about earthworms!

  15. Here’s our last post about our worm study – just a little craft that gave a hands-on lesson about worm segments. Can’t wait to move on to the next thing – funnel web spiders!

  16. We decided to accept the challenge, too. Started with butterflies this week. It was fun. Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Wow! Fun! You’ve got me thinking! Magnolia trees are starting to bloom, we found a dove nest and a finch nest…need to keep looking but this sounds really great!

  18. There are always amazing creatures in our yard when we look close enough. I think we will take the challenge:)

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