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Living Science Beyond the Books

Every parent hopes their child receives a solid science education. This is the case whether our children are homeschooled or attending a traditional school. Many parents, including myself, know we received very little “real” science education growing up and when it comes time to teaching or supporting science learning in our children, we tend to feel slightly inadequate. This doesn’t need to be the case!

Homeschool moms do not have to fear teaching science class! Try a Living Science Beyond the Books approach to enjoy hands-on learning.

Jeannie Fulbright, Apologia Science Writer, inspired me to think about a living science beyond the books type of education and hands-on experience. To stop putting a time slot on the schedule for “science learning” and to start exploring the world with curiosity. To invite opportunities of discovery regardless of where we are or when it is during the day.

Homeschool moms do not have to fear teaching science class! Try a Living Science Beyond the Books approach to enjoy hands-on learning.

For our family, providing the opportunities for science as part of our every day life has been as easy as opening our back door and doing some exploring together.  Books are a wonderful window to the world but true heartfelt science learning takes place when you learn about things you can see, touch, smell, and hear. You might enjoy some tips from our post: 30 Backyard Family Activities.

Living Science Beyond the Books

Birds in a book are great but birds in your very own feeder are a living and breathing example to learn from. We have found what works best is observation first and then facts. For example, we learned more by trying to identify these feathers…using a feather identification key for the first time, reasoning on which birds we see in our backyard, and then narrowing it down to a few bird choices. We had to learn the different kinds of bird feathers and make careful observations about color and pattern. So much to build on from just this simple feather find from our backyard.


Homeschool Nature Study Members can print this Feather Coloring Page to try and replicate feather patterns. Or find more Bird Activities and Learn About Birds for Preschoolers.

Learning about pollen in a book is interesting but seeing it on a flower, watching a bee covered in it, and then perhaps looking at the flower pollen with a hand lens takes the lesson on pollen to a whole new dimension. Suddenly you care about the pollen…it means something. My son noticed the little yellow specks on flowers in our yard, so we brought them inside for closer inspection…pollen! No wonder the bees are swarming around this plant in our yard!

Fearful of Nature?

Homeschool moms do not have to fear teaching science class! Try a Living Science Beyond the Books approach to enjoy hands-on learning.

My youngest son hates spiders. He found a spider on a leaf and we spent some time watching it together. Direct observation of a spider takes the fear away and allows the awe to settle in for such an amazing living creature. Living science beyond the books is the best kind of learning for science. Books are there to support and generate interest! But remember to get outside to observe it.

“Nature study, as far as it goes, is just as large as is science for “grown-ups”. It may deal with the same subject matter and should be characterized by the same accuracy. It simply does not go so far.”
Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

She supports the idea that beginning with nature study and observation we can build on those ideas and experiences and go farther with more formal science. For a complete picture of how she outlines nature study for families, read the introductory pages of the Handbook of Nature Study (pages 1-24).

“Adults should realize that the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit. All people are supposed to be observers of nature and there’s no excuse for living in a world so full of amazing plants and animals and not be interested in them.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 1

So, I think we are in good company. We can provide or support science education in our homes if we remember to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Open eyes, open hearts, and then open minds to enjoy living science.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

Not yet a Homeschool Nature Study Member? We’d love for you to join us and take advantage of the numerous studies – already planned out for you, craft ideas, free worksheets, and #outdoorhourchallenge fun! Become a member and bring the love of learning nature and science easily into your home.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Written by Barb McCoy. Updated and new resources created by Stef Layton.

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Learning About Seeds Preschool Activities

When spring time rolls around it’s the perfect time to start learning about seeds. We want to share a handful of preschool activities (dirty fingers as well as clean and dry ones) we think you can easily incorporate into your homeschool to help with learning about seeds.

Learning About Seeds Preschool Activities

1. Plant seeds!

We purchased some seed kits from the dollar spot at Target. We do this every year because my toddlers love planting and taking care of their seeds and they usually end up loving these seeds to death. My 3 younger girls each planted different plants: basil, sunflowers, and poppy flowers.

2. Seed sort nature activity

Use 3 -5 different seeds (depending on your child’s ability) and have them sort the seeds by like kinds. What do they notice about seeds? Are seeds all the same shape? Same color? Same size? Homeschool Nature Study Members can print the Seed Sorting Worksheet from their dashboard to compare 4 different types of seeds.

Look around your vegetables and fruits to find seeds. Notice seeds we eat and seeds we discard (cucumbers vs peppers). Notice seeds on the outside of fruits and seeds deep in vegetables. Compare little seeds of an apple to a big seed of an avocado.

4. Make a seed collage

Using an assortment of seeds, glue seeds on a heavier piece of cardstock or cardboard. Arrange seeds to spell out your children’s names. I promise it’ll be, F U N !

5. Learn plant vocabulary

Homeschool Nature Study Members can print the Parts of a Plant and Tree Life Cycle worksheets from their dashboard to learn and match plant vocabulary.

6. Make a flower craft (also can be used as a Bible lesson.)

Print the Don’t Worry Flowers. Children can learn about how God knows what they need and cares for them.

More Nature Resources For Preschoolers

Our monthly membership has everything you need for studying nature together as a family. Learn more about our creative and engaging resources.

Written by Maureen Spell. Updated and new resources created by Stef Layton.

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Watercolor Pencil Tutorial

Creating a Nature Study Journal is a beautiful opportunity to document all the wonderful things your student has learned. Especially when a student adds their own creative touches to their journal. If it’s fun lettering, doodles, sketching, or coloring in images, etc. Adding a creative touch not only enhances a science class, but includes an art lesson as well! Try this helpful Watercolor Pencil Tutorial to add some pop to your next entry.

Watercolor Pencil Tutorial

Color and then brush with a wet brush:
Use your watercolor pencil to fill in a space, then add water. You can use your pencils to blend and layer a color before or after adding water. I especially like to use this technique in my nature journal because I can do my sketching in the field and then add the water later.

Dip the watercolor pencil in water first:
Dip the tip of your pencil in water and then use it to fill in your sketch.This is a nice technique for sketching in the field since you don’t need to take along any paint brushes. You don’t even need to carry water with you if you have a source in the field like a lake or stream.

Wet the paper first:
Try wetting your paper first and then adding your watercolor pencil. This works well for filling in larger areas of your sketch like the sky. Just remember that if you are working directly in your nature journal that this technique may warp your paper when it dries.

Use a wet brush on the pencil tip:
Use the tip of your watercolor pencil like a paint palette by brushing it with a wet paint brush.

Wet brush on broken watercolor pencil pigment:
Collect all those broken tips and use them as a sort of paint palette by stroking with a wet paint brush. Use this technique if you break off a tip when sketching in the field and you don’t have a pencil sharpener to make another point on your watercolor pencil.

Pencil Practice

Once you are comfortable using watercolor pencils, encourage students to add their artistic style to all the pages in their Nature Study Journal. Remember that watercoloring on printer paper is different than using watercolor paper. Try both and have fun!

Coloring Pages

If your student is not comfortable drawing on blank paper, practice using watercolor pencils on themed coloring pages. Homeschool Nature Study Members can print our Nature Journal Flowers Coloring Pack (this includes 5 different types flowers) from their dashboard. Be sure to color and tape or glue inside your Sunflower, Lupine, or Simple Ideas for Wildflowers Nature Study notes.

Sunflower Coloring Page

Or print these lovely Bird Themed Coloring Pages at Your Best Homeschool to practice with watercolor pencils! What fun to color in these cute birds with unique designs, honestly – they are perfect for any age, so mom print one for yourself!

Become a Member!

Not yet a Member?! Spring has sprung and it’s the perfect time to incorporate Nature Study into your homeschool. We offer many tips, ideas, nature studies, worksheets & helpful downloads, plus encouragement along the way! Homeschool Nature Study is perfect for preschoolers, elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers! Yes – we believe Homeschool Nature Study works for ALL AGES. Join the community!

-by Barbara McCoy with updated resources by Stef Layton.

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Creeks and Waterfalls Nature Study

This summer my children and I joined a creeks and waterfalls nature study group. It was a win-win for me because it got us outside, it got us exploring our state and my friend Julie planned all the road trips! This was a great way to have scheduled, outdoor learning time during the summer. Here’s a few tips and resources that we utilized during our various creeks and waterfalls Nature Study.

Use these great ideas for your next Creeks and Waterfalls nature study. Don't forget to bring along the helpful list of resources.

How to Plan a Creeks and Waterfalls Nature Study

Check with local nature centers and museums for hands-on activities and nature talks. If you have a group, many of these agencies will provide a resource person to give an hour presentation or even lead your group on a nature walk.

Check with state parks and federal parks in your area.

Check online reviews. It’s great people share what the area is like so you know for sure what to pack, if there are restrooms (a must), picnic tables, admission charge, swimming areas, etc.

Helpful Hiking Supplies

Use these great ideas for your next Creeks and Waterfalls nature study. Don't forget to bring along the helpful list of resources.

I have four children. I did not want to be the Momma pack mule, so I got nylon travel backpacks for each of my kids. In their back packs they are in charge of carrying their water bottle, water shoes and a towel. This has worked out great because it gives them all ownership and helps them know what they are in charge of getting ready before each trip.

Other items to consider bringing along would be a walking stick, a net, a hat and a pen. We also did a little geocaching while on our nature hikes.

I usually carry a backpack and in addition to my water shoes and water bottle, I have a few other supplies too:

  • Insect repellent and mineral sunscreen that is plant-based, natural and safe for my children and the environment. (I put some of the insect repellent in a spray bottle and a roller bottle for quick applications.)
  • Seedling baby wipes. I put these in a small baggie and carry with us. These have come in very handy!
  • Arnica: great for any bumps or bruises
  • Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier: I love this because there is no yucky stuff in it! This is a key item– it comes in handy when the kids pick up crawdads, frogs or dead fish
  • Lipbalm: I don’t like to travel without it!
  • Flashlight: one of our adventures had a cave. You never know when you need a flashlight!
  • Waterproof band-aids – because, kids!

Have a Purpose

creek nature study

Often when I’m trying to get the kids outside – we walk around aimlessly hoping something magical will pop out of the trees and “wow” us. But most often, nothing exciting happens. Then the children get bored. Too quickly. When you have a purpose – you’re on the hunt to discover something. If it’s counting how many different wild flowers you see, a bird scavenger hunt, catching frogs and toads, noticing butterflies, discovering different rocks, tree rubbing interesting bark, watching out for fish, or just “climbing cool rocks” … they have a purpose and are more invested in the nature study. Successful learning opportunities are key. If anything else pops up, like the biggest daddy long legs they’ve ever seen – then it’s a bonus!

Homeschool Nature Study Resources

Looking for more resources to add to your Creek and Waterfall Nature Study? Check out a few more posts & downloads before you go!

Become a Member!

Not yet a Member?! Spring has sprung and it’s the perfect time to incorporate Nature Study into your homeschool. We offer many tips, ideas, nature studies, worksheets & helpful downloads, plus encouragement along the way! Homeschool Nature Study is perfect for preschoolers, elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers! Yes – we believe Homeschool Nature Study works for ALL AGES. Join the community!

nature studies
Use these great ideas for your next Creeks and Waterfalls nature study. Don't forget to bring along the helpful list of resources.

Written by Maureen Spell. Updated by Stef Layton.

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The Importance Of Studying Natural History

Why is the study of natural history so important? How can you incorporate it into your day to day learning?

Why is the study of natural history is so important? How can you incorporate it into your day to day learning.

photo by Amy Law

Is Natural History Important?

Every now and then I come across an article online that captures my interest. As I read the article linked below I realized how important what we are doing here on the Handbook of Nature Study is to our young children and families. Much to my great surprise, I found a section in the later part of the article that references Anna Botsford Comstock and her work with natural history and teaching.

Science And Natural History

I invite you to click over and read through this article…noting that as parents we can fill the gap and stoke the fires of a more traditional biology course. Adding in some natural history to your more academic and microbiology studies will give it more depth and context. Find a way to expose your young biology students to the natural world in an attempt to cover the material in high school (and earlier!) since they will not get that opportunity once they go onto college.

Read Natural History is Dying

Natural History Important @handbookofnaturestudy

An Overview Of Natural History Is Dying

Some of my notes and quotes from the article:

Natural history by and large is no longer taught to biology majors, much less high school students.

“Further, exposure of students at all levels to natural history is diminishing. As we saw in the graph at the top of this post, all colleges and universities surveyed in the 1950s required at least some natural history courses for a biology degree – a median of 2.25. Today, most colleges have no natural history requirements for a biology degree, and the slim section devoted to natural history in the center of most textbooks has shrunk 40 percent and is usually skipped anyway, as I’m sure those of you with biology degrees earned in the last 20 years can attest.”

Using the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study and the Outdoor Hour Challenge provides help to parents in offering what is lacking in today’s science courses.

“Comstock’s book stressed the importance of kid-on-critter time. But increasingly, in the classrooms and museum exhibits that I’ve seen or visited, still images or interactive games are considered adequate substitutes. They are not.”

We can share our love for nature and make a difference in our child’s outlook towards the natural world.

“When kids do not grow up around natural history, they become adults who are not only ignorant of natural history, but who do not care about nature and view it as disposable and unimportant. “Ecological ignorance breeds indifference,” as Pyle put it. “What we know, we may choose to care for. What we fail to recognize, we certainly won’t.”

We can make those simple but powerful memories happen for our children.

“To love Earth, you have to fall in love with Earth. And that can’t happen indoors, eyes glued to a screen. You have to watch the bee gathering nectar from the blue bonnet; you have to smell and touch the sap (and discover it is now impossible to remove from your fingers) weeping from the tree; you have to smell the citrussy cinnamonny gym-socky aroma of the matsutake fresh from the pine duff.”

Use the resources here on our website and in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock to introduce your child to the birds, plants, reptiles, insects, and other forms of life around them. Take it one subject at a time and make sure to get outside each week!

Why is the study of natural history is so important? How can you incorporate it into your day to day learning in your homeschool?

The Outdoor Hour Challenges Bring The Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool!

For even more homeschool nature study ideas for all seasons, join us in Homeschool Nature Study membership! You’ll receive new ideas each and every week that require little or no prep – all bringing the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!

Written by Barb and updated by Tricia

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Observe Worms With Preschoolers Nature Study

 It usually starts with one of those questions. Why do we need worms? It’s much easier to understand and even appreciate worms when you get little hands dirty. Enjoy these hands-on activities when you observe worms with preschoolers!

Create a Wormery

I came across a wormery craft from Karrie McAllister and knew this is what we needed to make. Don’t worry, these worms are contained and quite easy to take care of. You probably already own all the materials needed to make this worm house.

Worm House Supplies:

1 clean 2 liter plastic bottle
1 plastic water bottle filled with room temperature water
scissors
tape
dark construction paper
soil
sand
dried leaves or hay
oatmeal

First remove the top of the bottle. Use tape to cover the edges as they might be sharp. We don’t want any fingers or worms to get hurt.

Place a water bottle in the middle of the pop bottle.  This is to force the worms to move to the outside of the bottle, instead of hiding in the middle. Make sure the bottle is filled with room temperature water. Next go outside and fill the container. Start with a layer of sand, then a layer of soil. You can also add a layer of dry leaves or hay. Alternate layers until the bottle is 3/4ths filled.

Now the hunt begins. Ask your child where they think the best place to find worms would be.  Let them explore and see how many they can find. My 3yr. old found a couple worms in the garden, but found even more under rocks and planters. We gathered our handful of worms and placed them in our homemade worm home.

Make sure the soil is damp, but not wet. Add some dry leaves or hay along with oatmeal crumbs.

Wrap a piece of black construction paper around the bottle. Let it sit for a day or two before removing the paper. While you are waiting, take some time to read a couple books on worms!

We started our worm study all because of a question my child asked.

Observe Worms with Preschoolers

worms

This is what we saw the first time we removed the black paper from our worm house (wormery.) It was like a big I Spy worm bottle! We were able to see the worm burrows and how some of the layers of dirt and sand were mixed together. It was hard to get a good view of the worms though since they were covered in dirt, so we went back outside to find a couple more worms for up-close observation.

We needed to find a couple bigger worms. My 3yr. old and I went on another worm hunt. I asked if she remembered where we found the worms last time (under rocks and in the garden.) We talked about how those places were dark and damp–just how worms like their environment to be. It was a challenge, but we finally found a couple of big worms. (You could purchase them at a bait store too.)

Now we could really see the worm. I encouraged my daughters to touch the worm. How did it feel? What else is special about a worm? Do you see the lines on the worm? Those ringed parts are called segments. Which end do you think is the worm’s head?

Next I placed a gummy worm next to the real worm. I asked my daughters the same questions. Touch the gummy worm. How does it feel? Are these worms different? My point with this observation activity was to notice similarities and differences, and talk about living and non-living things.

After observing the worms, we did a  worm experiment. We wanted to find out which type of environment the worm preferred— the dry paper towel or the wet paper towel. Position the worm so that it is across both halves of the towel. Sit and watch! Record the results. Try it again. Did you get the same result? What happens if you flip the worm around? Do you get the same results?

We recorded our worm observations on the Worm Observations Worksheet. Homeschool Nature Study Members can print this from your dashboard.

Vertebrates vs Invertebrates

Another great conversation to have with young children when observing animals is to ask the simple question, “Do you think they have a back bone? What would it look like if we didn’t have a back bone? Do they have a skull? Do they have bones?”.

Homeschool Nature Study Members can print the Vertebrates vs Invertebrates Worksheet. Cut out the animals and glue them under the correct category. Then act out how a worm moves without leg bones.

Worm Chalk Art

Head over to You Are An Artist & find this great Farm Art & worms chalk masterpiece. Enjoy the time together and get your hands dirty – soil or chalk – observe worms with preschoolers!

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

Not yet a Homeschool Nature Study Member? We’d love for you to join us and take advantage of the numerous studies – already planned out for you, craft ideas, free worksheets, and #outdoorhourchallenge fun! Become a member and bring the love of learning nature and science easily into your home.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!


Written by Maureen Spell. Updated and new resources created by Stef Layton.

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Fun Fish Activities For Preschoolers

On one particularly cold, dreary, winter day I decided we needed to get out of the house! We piled in the car and headed to the pet store for an impromptu field trip. Your local pet store is such a great place to learn about fish with preschoolers! No one is getting dirty, wet, and there are so many different types of fish to observe.

preschool science fish

Usually I can walk into that store and not come home with anything. This day, however, I couldn’t resist. The kids were so interested in all the fish. We left that day with a table-top tank and fish supplies but no fish. When I got home, I started planning our preschool fish theme.

The first day we set up the tank and talked about what our fish would need in their home. My kids added the gravel, real plants, and water.  We waited a day in order to prepare the tank environment.  We added  water conditioner to the water to  help stabilize the environment (get rid of rid of any chlorine, ammonia, or chloramine) which hopefully would allow the fish to acclimate to their new home easier. Then we let the water sit in our table-top tank for 24 hours before going back to the pet store to get our fish. We decided to get guppies!

Fish Vocabulary & Journal

I like to introduce vocabulary while observing items. So while we  sit and watch the fish, I try to bring up the following terms naturally.

“Do you see the fish’s tail?”

“Look at the fish. Does it have skin like we do?”

“How do you think fish breathe under water?”

“Do you see those ‘slits’ on the side of the fish? Those are gills– and they help fish breathe.”

  • gills
  • fins
  • scales
  • mouth
  • eyes
  • tail (actually a caudal fin)
  • Fish Journal

Homeschool Nature Study Members can download My Fish Journal in their dashboard.

If your preschooler enjoys sorting games, be sure to print the Water or Land worksheet from the dashboard as well. This is a cute sorting craft & game. All that’s required is to cut out different animals from the worksheet and sort them into which habitat they live ~ water or land. Be sure to ask your kiddos questions using the Fish Vocabulary words above. Does this bear have gills? Is the fox fury or does it have scales?

Fish Pretend Play Activities

We had some left-over gravel from setting up our own aquarium so we poured that into the bottom of a plastic shoe box. Then the girls decorated their own pretend aquarium using toys from around the house. Though I did this activity more for my toddler and preschooler, my kindergartener loved it too!

Older children can make their own cardboard box fish diorama. By using craft supplies around the house they can create their own fun underwater world. Either glue felt fish to the box or make hanging “puppets”.

My kids played with this for quite a while–using their imaginations. It ended up looking like a scene from Finding Nemo. Which is also a fun movie to watch during lunch or afternoon snack time.

Fish Books

learn about fish

We read and looked at many different fish-related books. After reading Fish Eye, each child made their own foam fish design. Here were some other books that we used:

Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert, My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki, What’s It Like to Be a Fish? by Wendy Pfeffer, Under the Sea by Anna Milbourne, Goldfish: Watch It Grow Series.

We are enjoying our guppies very much! And much to our delight, we also found a snail in our tank! It must have hitched a ride on the plants we put in the aquarium.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

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Frogs and Toads: Learning Activities For Kids

Most children love to chase, catch, and watch frogs. Frogs and toads make cool noises and have such unique markings. Spend some time outside and learn about frogs and toads in your area.

frogs and toads

Frogs and Toads: Learning Activities For Kids

Frog or Toad ?

Do you know the difference between frogs and toads? Frogs have long legs, longer than their head and body, which are made for hopping. Toads, on the other hand, have much shorter legs and prefer to crawl around rather than hop. Frogs have smooth, somewhat slimy skin. Toads have dry, warty skin.

Find Tadpoles

Frogs start off as tadpoles in the water. So the best place to observe tadpoles is near the water, stream, pond, etc. However you don’t always have to go so far.

We once drained our pool to seal a crack. It rained and rained for weeks. The bottom of the pool collected water and before we could have the repair team out … we heard them. We had no idea most frogs are nocturnal animals. And it wasn’t long until we started to see tadpoles in our pool. Of course my boys were thrilled to catch the adult frogs hiding out around the bushes and scoop up cups of tadpoles.

It was fun to learn about frogs and toads as we watched our tadpoles slowly grow legs. Tadpoles usually need 14 weeks to turn into frogs. We also learned it’s impossible to recognize one tadpole from another so they might have been renamed a dozen different times.

We absolutely loved Chalk Pastel Art’s Pond Nature Study and chalk art Frog Life Cycle!

Members can print the Homeschool Nature Study’s Frog Life Cycle Worksheet, no babysitting tadpoles required. If you are going to scoop up some tadpoles please make sure you never put them in tap water. Always keep them in pond-water or rain water. House tap water is not the right temperature and it contains chemicals that will kill the tadpoles.

Visit the Herpertarium

If you are unsuccessful finding frogs or toads around your yard, neighborhood pond, etc. visit a Herpertarium to learn about frogs and toads. A herpetarium is a zoological exhibition space for reptiles and amphibians, most commonly a dedicated area of a larger zoo or science center. This is where you’ll find the largest toad, poison dart frogs, and other really interesting amphibians safely behind glass. Bring a sketch book to draw the wonderful animals you see.

frog nature study

Create a Frog Friendly Environment

Frogs do not live full time in water, after they lay their eggs in water they return to dry ground. You can create your own frog friendly environment by providing a damp, rocky, plant happy area in your yard. If you do catch a frog or toad give them some soil, rocks, and plants. Be sure to return them to the wild after observation. We sorta forgot about a lid, so every frog we caught eventually jumped out, rather easily, and went on its merry way.

frog study

A side note about our frog-filled pool. Unfortunately it attracted snakes. Which of course steered us next to a snake nature study and getting repairs finished quickly!

Share your beautiful frog nature studies with us on social media! Tag @OutdoorHourChallenge. We love to see your wonderful discoveries.

Join the fun and become a Nature Study Member!

It’s easy to sign up and enjoy pre-planned lessons, nature study ideas, free worksheets, crafts, a homeschool nature loving community, and more!

Stef started homeschooling her boys in 2008. She quickly adopted a hands-on learning homeschool style and graduated her oldest tactile learner in 2021. Stef started the Hands-On Learning column in Homeschooling Today magazine. The Laytons currently reside in the foothills of Colorado where Stef also teaches yoga. The family loves to hike trails, stand-up paddle board, and chase sunsets. Stef shares travel and homeschool tips on IG at @LaytonAdventures.

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Learn About Birds: Activities for Young Children

It’s a great time to learn about birds! Are you participating in the  Great Backyard Bird Count?  This national event is held every February and is a great opportunity to spend time with your young children to learn about birds in your backyard.

Learn about birds in your neighborhood with these 7 fun activities for young children. Bird resources for Backyard Bird Count.

My younger children were always interested in learning about birds, so I found bird activities to stretch out the fun throughout the month. First we created a bird friendly environment in our yard. This Heart Shaped Bird Feeder craft from Your Best Homeschool is a fun craft but also a great way to attract birds to your yard! Be sure to watch outside every morning and every afternoon to see “who” stops by.

Homeschool Nature Study Members can download the Bird of the Day Notebooking Page and our Bird Life Cycle worksheet from your dashboard to document and track the birds while learning about the different stages of a bird’s life.

Children will enjoy the Bird Scripture Verses coloring pages at Your Best Homeschool! Be sure to head over and download those for morning bible time.

Learn About Birds With a Bird Nature Walk

A bird nature walk is a wonderful opportunity to observe birds with your younger children. You can see bigger birds that might never come to your backyard bird feeder. Head out around the playground, lake, neighborhood walking trails, etc.

Though my younger children sometimes have difficulty using binoculars, they love having them! So we bring them on our nature walks and find a quiet place to sit (usually near a pond or meadow) and see how many birds we can spot.

Many young children do not know the names of birds so be sure to start with simple identification markings. Color, size, crown, and other markings. This Bird Scavenger Hunt worksheet is a great bring-along sheet to mark off all the birds you see that day.


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    Nature Study Booklets for Your Nature Walk

    You can help your preschooler make his or her own bird paper bag booklet. My children loved it because they felt like a big kid and were proud of their creation. The pages in the book reinforce basic bird facts and allow your child to customize the pages as he’d like.

    The inside pages have a place where to draw what you have observed on our nature walk. This is a perfect nature craft for kids!

    Paper bag journals are so easy to make and are a great size for little children to handle. Watch the video (linked below) for the simple directions.

    Get your FREE paper bag journal pages and watch a video on how to make them: Easy Preschool Science Nature Journals.

    Learn about birds in your neighborhood with these 7 fun activities for young children. Bird resources for Backyard Bird Count.

    Set up a Bird Feeder

    My kids love to observe birds from the comfort of our own home! We set up a bird feeder where we could watch the birds from our front room. An easy way to learn about birds!

    Learn About Birds with More Bird Resources

    Boost your bird study with more resources from Homeschool Nature Study. Click an image below to add more bird learning fun to your fowl studies.

    Bird-Themed Nature Writing Center

    You can easily set up a bird-themed writing station at home using your printer and supplies you have on hand. A series on writing centers on the WriteShop blog inspired me to create our first-ever writing center.

    I tried to provide materials for all age-levels in my home— 1yr to 13yrs. old. I have the station set up by a window so that they will hopefully be inspired by any winged creatures they see outside too.

    You can easily set up a bird-themed writing station at home using your printer and supplies you have on hand. A series on writing centers on the WriteShop blog inspired me to create our first-ever writing center.

    You might include some of the following in your writing center:

    Bird Book Recommendation

    Feathers for Lunch is a perfect book to introduce nature to little ones. Lois Ehlert has a wonderful way of crafting the illustrations, and she pairs the real name of 12 birds along with their pictures in this book. After reading it, my girls and I went to our window to see if we could find any of the birds that were listed in the book. Then we made our own feathered-friend craft. This craft is easy and requires just a few items you might already have on hand in your homeschool supplies. What is fun about this craft is that you can make many different feathered friends just by changing colored paper and feathers.

    Feathers for Lunch: Bird Craft Supplies

    Craft foam or construction paper, glue, feathers, wiggly-eyes, and a pencil.

    Learn about birds in your neighborhood with these 7 fun activities for young children. Bird resources for Backyard Bird Count.

    First: Trace your child’s hand onto craft foam or construction paper and cut out the hand print.

    Next: Add glue to the hand print – cover as much space as you can.

    Then: Place feathers on top of the glue covering the hand.

    Cut a circle out of a coordinating color of fun foam or construction paper. Adhere the circle on top of the feathers.

    Lastly: Glue wiggly-eyes and a triangle beak.

    Learn about birds in your neighborhood with these 7 fun activities for young children. Bird resources for Backyard Bird Count.

    Be sure to have your child sign the back and add the date or their age. This is also a nice little gift to send along to grandma, an aunt, or someone special. A child’s hand-print is a special keep-sake. You can create red ones for Valentine’s Day, green feathers for St. Patrick’s, etc. The possibilities are endless!

    Homeschool Nature Study Membership

    Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

    Not yet a Homeschool Nature Study Member? We’d love for you to join us and take advantage of the numerous studies – already planned out for you, craft ideas, free worksheets, and #outdoorhourchallenge fun! Become a member and bring the love of learning nature and science easily into your home.

    Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

    Written by Maureen Spell. Updated and new resources created by Stef Layton.

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    5 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Weather

    Teach preschoolers about weather with these 5 great hands-on learning ideas your homeschool children will love.

    5 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Weather

    Weather can be a fascinating subject to explore with preschoolers. Weather is something that is a constant presence in our lives, yet it can change from one hour to the next. It can be serene and beautiful, warm and cozy, cold and bitter, and even a bit scary. Here are a few simple, yet fun, ways that you can teach preschoolers about weather.

    Chart the Weather

    Each day, for a month, chart the weather. Take your preschooler outside (or to the window) and ask “What’s the weather like today?” Encourage them to use as many descriptive terms as they can. In the beginning, suggest words: sunny, windy, cloudy, rainy, stormy, snowy, etc. Print out little pictures that represent the various types of weather so that they have a visual representation to choose from. This not only helps them to become more observant about the weather, it also helps them to further develop their vocabulary.

    For example, if they say that it is cold outside, introduce them to synonyms like chilly and freezing. If they say it is windy, teach them words like blustery and breezy. At the end of the month review how much the weather has changed just over the course of a few weeks.

    Members, print the Weather Observations Record Chart and Weather Words for Preschoolers in your dashboard and add this weather watching activity to your morning time.

    The Four Seasons

    Another great way to learn about how the weather changes over time is to talk about the four seasons. Hand each child 4 sheets of paper and a variety of materials (crayons, markers, magazines, kid-safe scissors, glue, etc.). Label each page with one of the four seasons. Then, for each one chat about the various aspects of that specific season. Questions to ask: What is the weather like? What kind of activities can you do today? How does the yard look? What kind of clothes do you wear? Help each child to decorate each page accordingly.

    Get creative with each page for the current season. For example, in the spring collect a freshly bloomed flower. This is a fun way to combine art and science. You can always create wonderful Chalk Art pictures with inspiration from Spring Homeschool Nature Study with Art.

    Track a Thunderstorm

    Has the weather channel predicted a thunderstorm in your area? You and your preschoolers can track the thunderstorm as it makes its way across the sky. All you need is a stopwatch and your ears. More than likely, there will be lightning and thunder. Explain to your preschooler that light travels faster than sound. So even though lightning and thunder actually happen at the same time, we see the lightning first. After you have explained that, wait for a flash of lightning. Once you see it, either use your stopwatch or count the number of seconds vocally until you hear thunder. For every 5 seconds that you count, the storm is a mile away. For example, if you count five seconds between the lightning and thunder, the storm is one mile away. If you count ten seconds between the two, then the storm is two miles away. This is also a fun way to practice counting together and even introduce other languages!

    The Water Cycle

    The Magic School Bus Season 2 covered the water cycle: The Magic School Bus: Wet All Over.  Replicate the process with the following experiment. Grab a small cup and fill 1/3 of it with water. Place the cup in the middle of a big plastic bowl, then cover the bowl with saran wrap. Feel free to use string or yarn to keep the saran wrap in place. Now place the covered bowl in sunlight and watch as the sun causes the water to evaporate, condense onto the saran wrap, and then drip into the bowl. This is a fun experiment to recreate the water cycle right in your home!

    Members can print the Water Cycle Worksheet in your Dashboard to fill out after the experiment.

    Make a Rainbow

    Is it just me or does your preschooler love discovering rainbows in the sky? There’s something about them that seems downright magical. Delight your preschooler one sunny day by telling them you are going to make a rainbow. All you need is sunlight and a water hose connected to a working spout. Turn the water on. Once the water is flowing out of the hose, put your thumb over part of the nozzle until it sprays out. Hold the hose into the air with the water still spraying and turn until the sunlight hits the water and creates your very own rainbow. Ask your preschooler to see how many colors they can identify. This could be a great way to help reinforce what they have learned about colors.

    Teach preschoolers about weather with these 5 great hands-on learning ideas your homeschool children will love.

    Teaching Preschoolers About Weather

    As you can see, there are a variety of ways that you can explore weather on a regular basis.

    Not yet a Homeschool Nature Study Member? We’d love for you to join us and take advantage of the numerous studies – already planned out for you, craft ideas, free worksheets, and #outdoorhourchallenge fun! Become a member and bring the love of learning nature and science easily into your home.

    Be Inspired. Be Encouraged. Get Outdoors!

    nature studies

    Maureen helps Christian mompreneurs operate their business from a place of joy, purpose, and excellence because they are clear on how their business is serving their family and others. As a homeschool mom, she believes success at home AND business without the mom-guilt, stress and burn-out is possible! Outside of work, she loves having good conversations over a hot chai or GT Gingerberry kombucha and spending time with her husband and seven children. Visit her at MaureenSpell.com