Posted on

The Importance Of Studying Natural History

Why is the study of natural history is 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

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Not yet a Member? Join today to access Nature Studies all year long, free Worksheets and Downloads, plus more fun Ideas!

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.


Get Your Printable Bird Scavenger Hunt!

Subscribe to get FREE Printable Bird Scavenger Hunt.

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    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.

    Posted on Leave a comment

    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

    Posted on Leave a comment

    Hummingbird Nature Study Activities For Kids

    Did you know that there are over 300 species of hummingbirds? These tiny, powerful creatures are fascinating to watch! Enjoy a hummingbird nature study and learn all about these tiny creatures!

    Did you know that there are over 300 species of hummingbirds? These tiny, powerful creatures are fascinating to watch! Enjoy a hummingbird nature study and learn all about these tiny creatures!

    Hummingbird Nature Study Activities For Kids

    One of the first activities we did was to make “nectar” for our hummingbird feeder. We added 4 parts water to 1 part sugar in a pan and heated it until it was boiling and the sugar was dissolved. We let it cool before pouring into our feeder. You might enjoy this on making a hummingbird feeder.

    Make a Hummingbird Feeder

    My girls were excited to hang it in our tree by the window. On our to-do list is to also plant a hummingbird garden.

    While an older video, you will definitely enjoy this on feeding hummingbirds during migration.

    And, to inspire you more, enjoy this hummingbird filling station!

    Learning About Hummingbirds

    We learned many facts about hummingbirds and made a paper bag hummingbird nature journal. Did you know that hummingbirds are the only bird that can fly backwards? We’re also trying to keep track of what time of day we see our hummingbird— morning, afternoon, or evening.

    We enjoyed reading Little Green (geared more toward toddlers but it is a cute book suitable for pre-k/1st grade too. ) We still plan on doing the painting activity that is listed in that book! 🙂 We also played a hummingbird game. We had water bottle flowers in the backyard and my little hummingbirds had to fly to their color water bottle and get nectar.

    Hummingbirds: Toddler to First Grade Unit Study

    Hummingbirds - toddler to first grade unit study! I created all the printables for our hummingbird unit and thought others might enjoy this hummingbird nature study too. There are over 20 pages of printables and activities included. I did all the work so that you can just print and go!

    I created all the printables for our hummingbird unit and thought others might enjoy this hummingbird nature study too. There are over 20 pages of printables and activities included. I did all the work so that you can just print and go!

    Hummingbirds Outdoor Hour Challenges for All Ages

    There are two Outdoor Hour Challenges included in the Handbook of Nature Study in Homeschool Nature Study membership:

    • Green Birds – Ruby Throated, Black Chinned and Anna’s Hummingbirds in the All About Birds Outdoor Hour Challenge Curriculum. This includes hummingbird flight plus the mama hummingbird and babies study and more!
    • Summer Hummingbirds and Nests – This is a favorite nature study topic for so many families. If you have a hummingbird feeder, you can’t help but fall in love with these sweet nectar-seeking birds. They’re so colorful and graceful and so enjoyable to watch. You can’t help but be amazed at the speed at which hummingbirds flap their wings and fly up, down, and all around.

    Use the ideas in this nature study to learn more about hummingbirds from the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock and the internet links provided. Follow up with a nature journal entry.

    Did you know that there are over 300 species of hummingbirds? These tiny, powerful creatures are fascinating to watch! Enjoy a hummingbird nature study and learn all about these tiny creatures!

    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!

    These are just a few of the activities we did. What I love about nature studies is that it is never over. Every time we look out our window and see a little hummingbird it brings the opportunity for more observations, questions, and conversations.

    Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

    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

    Posted on Leave a comment

    5 Tips for Staying Consistent With Nature Study

    These five tips will help you stay consistent with nature study in the new year – or any time of year!

    Enjoy these five tips to stay consistent with nature study in the new year – or any time of year!

    5 Tips for Staying Consistent With Nature Study

    Nature study can be a wonderful part of any education, providing connection to the world around us, real world scientific discovery, and a chance to connect as a family. Here are 5 ways to make it a consistent priority in your days.

    Know your Why!

    Why ARE you doing nature study? Is it just to fill up a slot in the day, or do you have a specific purpose for it? We do nature study because it is a vital part of the way we study science!

    Have a plan for a specific time for nature study.

    This will look different for different people, and may change in different seasons. For us, it is late afternoon in the seasons of shorter days, and after dinner in the seasons of longer days. For those that have littles at home, the morning might work best.

    Don’t be in a rush!

    Give plenty of time for what you are doing! Whether you’re in your backyard or out on a trail, if children are being rushed, they really can’t observe.

    Keep notebooking supplies, nature study books, and field guides near at hand.

    This allows you to not spend too much time gathering supplies when you’re ready to write/draw your observations. You are ready when the opportunity arises!

    Have fun with it!

    Not only are you learning, but you’re making memories that you’ll share with your children for a lifetime!

    Valuable Support For Your Homeschool Nature Study

    We’ve heard from families that they were reluctant to start a nature study plan, but, they found that having a focus each week actually helped them to stay regular at getting outside. It also helped them be better at taking a few minutes to learn about an object they encountered, even if it wasn’t the original aim for getting outdoors.

    We make it easy with resources you can use at your own pace and on your own schedule. Or, you may choose to follow our annual nature study plans closely and have everything at your fingertips.

    Amy Law is wife to Jeremy, and mom to three. They homeschool using Charlotte Mason’s principles, and love to spend lots of time in nature! You can often find them hiking the beautiful trails of their beloved Tennessee hills, while Amy attempts to capture the beauty of it all with her camera lens.

    Posted on Leave a comment

    7 Fun Science Experiments for Preschoolers

    Here are some really simple and cool science experiments for preschoolers. When we think of doing science experiments with kids, we might think about the experiments that we did in high school biology, chemistry, or physics classes. However, science isn’t something that is just for older kids. Nor does it have to be complex.

    Here are some really fun and cool science experiments for preschoolers. Using materials you have on hand, preschoolers can learn simple concepts.

    7 Fun Science Experiments for Preschoolers

    Nature Rubbings

    One very important part of the scientific method is the ability to observe things. The next time you go out on a nature walk, bring along some white paper and crayons. Ask your child to observe the world around them and search for things in nature that have interesting textures. They could find rocks, trees, leaves, stick, feathers, etc. Ask them to describe each one to you.

    Then help your preschooler to create rubbings of the things they find by holding a piece of paper over the item while the rub the crayon over the paper. You can then label and date the papers to save for a nature collection. It might even become a fun hobby for them.

    Shadow Study

    This can be a fun all-day activity or you can do it on separate days. For it, you will need three large sheets of paper. They need to be big enough for you child to lay on; if you don’t have single sheets that are this big, you can try taping several sheets together. You could also use sidewalk chalk and do it on the driveway or porch if you have one. Try to do it when it is really sunny outside.

    Talk to them about how the sun shines on us to create our shadows and how where the sun is in the sky will change how your shadow looks and where it will be. Then go outside to find and trace your shadows during three parts of the day: early morning, noon, and mid-afternoon. You can label the times and then compare how your child’s shadow looks different at each time. This can be a great way to help them develop their observation and predicting skills.

    Making Applesauce

    making applesauce

    Although people may not realize it, cooking is an everyday form of science experimentation. It can be a great way to illustrate how processes like heating things can cause their physical structure to change.

    Grab a few apples and place them in front of your child, along with some drawing materials or the apple journal in membership.

    • Ask them to feel, describe, and draw the apple.
    • Cut a slice of apple and give it to them to taste. Ask them to describe how it tastes.

    Continue to peel, core, and slice the apples before placing them in a pan with enough water to barely cover the apples. Ask your child what he or she thinks will happen to the apples if you cook them. Boil them until they are soft, describing what you are doing at each step.

    Once the apples are soft, put them in a bowl and help your child mash them with a fork (feel free to add sugar and a bit of cinnamon if you like). Ask your child to describe how the apples look and feel now.

    Then let them know that with just a bit of water and heat, you have made applesauce. Enjoy!

    Here are some really fun and cool science experiments for preschoolers. Using materials you have on hand, preschoolers can learn simple concepts.

    Volcano in a Cup

    This is one of the great science experiments for preschoolers and a great way to introduce your child to the concept of volcanoes. Tell them that some mountains are volcanoes that have molten rock (or lava) inside them. Sometimes the lava builds up so much that it erupts and flows out of the volcano.

    To illustrate, grab a plastic cup, a plate, some vinegar, some baking soda, and red food coloring. Put the cup in the middle of the plate. The cup represents the volcano; the plate is the ground around it. Pour (or let your child pour) ½ an inch of baking powder into the cup. Add a few drops of food coloring and then slowly pour in a little vinegar and watch the volcano “erupt”. Have them draw a picture of what the “volcano” looks like on a sheet of paper.

    Sink or Float


    This experiment is really easy but can be a great way to help your child develop their reasoning skills. Fill a tub, pot, or sink halfway with water. Collect at least 10 items from around your home (e.g. bottle caps, toy boats, sponges, feathers, pebbles, paper, etc.). For each item, ask your child whether they think the item will sink or float, and why. Then have fun testing out their theories.

    Here are some really fun and cool science experiments for preschoolers. Using materials you have on hand, preschoolers can learn simple concepts.

    Raisin in the Sun

    Hand your child a grape and ask him or her to describe it. Then let them eat it and ask them how it tastes. Do the same with a raisin. Ask them if they know what the two foods have in common. After they have made their guesses, tell them that when a grape dries up, it turns into a raisin. Then let them know that you are going to do an experiment to watch it happen.

    All you need to do is place a few raisins in a bowl and set it up in a window for several weeks (warning: it could take two months!). Maybe once a week check to see how they are coming along. You could even take pictures of the process and label them. At the end of the process, you should have some dried and wrinkly raisins. I wouldn’t eat them (for edible ones, I would use a food dehydrator), but it’s pretty cool to see how it happens!

    Preschool Chalk Science Evaporation

    This was a favorite activity that I did when my children were younger. This was simple to do yet a great way to introduce a science concept.

    My kids love to use chalk. I wanted to see if I could sneak some hidden learning in with their chalk art time– specifically science. By pairing chalk and water, I set up an easy evaporation observation experience for my toddlers and preschooler.

    You can follow the experiment steps, below:

    Science Supplies:

    • sidewalk chalk
    • cool duct tape
    • spray bottles

    First create “art frames” with duct tape on the sidewalk or driveway. This serves two purposes. I wanted my girls to work on filling a space with a design (rather than a scribble here and then 3 ft. later another scribble.) It is also the boundary lines for where we spray the water in the next steps.

    After the designs are complete, hand each child a spray bottle. Have them spray their art piece with water. Watch how some colors blend while others seem to disappear. Make sure the complete frame is sprayed with water.

    My girls noticed how the water made the sidewalk darker. At this point we went in for lunch. Later we came back out to see our wet chalk art creations— but they weren’t wet anymore! Where did the water go?

    This led into a nice discussion about evaporation. Evaporation is a pretty abstract idea to young children, but I believe in introducing concepts in little bits so when they are older they have background information in their minds to pull from and help them understand.

    Down Comes the Rain Science Book

    A nice follow-up book to science experiments for preschoolers is Down Comes the Rain. It explains the water cycle and includes a couple of easy science experiments too. I’ll be showing a several more exploring water activities soon. 🙂

    This simple, chalk activity is a wonderful way to introduce the topic of evaporation and the water cycle to young children. A Teaching Mommy has a water cycle printable plus other rain-related pages that go wonderfully with this topic. You could easily turn this into a week-long (or longer) unit!

    Which one of these science experiments for preschoolers activities will you try first? I would love to see what you do! For even more ideas, check out the preschool science archives.

    Here are some really simple and cool science experiments for preschoolers. When we think of doing science experiments with kids, we might think about the experiments that we did in high school biology, chemistry, or physics classes. However, science isn’t something that is just for older kids. Nor does it have to be complex.

    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!

    Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

    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

    Posted on Leave a comment

    Planning for Nature Study in Your Homeschool

    Find some helpful advice and delightful resources for planning for nature study in your homeschool and making your goals into a clear plan.

    Find some helpful advice and delightful resources for planning for nature study in your homeschool and making your goals into a clear plan.

    photo by Amy Law

    Planning for Nature Study in Your Homeschool: How to Make a Plan and Set Goals for Your Family

    Hopefully by now, dear readers, you have the desire to make nature study a regular part of your family’s lifestyle. You may even have the goal to do some incredible things for nature study.

    “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

    Choose a Plan that Makes Sense for Your Family

    There are many ways to go about planning a more formal schedule for nature study. Typically, families plan their nature study either by the month or by the school term (usually 4 terms per year). Either way is easy to do using the nature study planning pages available in Homeschool Nature Study Membership.

    Members here on Homeschool Nature Study with the Handbook of Nature Study have access to a printable set of planning pages that would be helpful to download and save for future use. I will be referencing these pages in this entry.

    Monthly Topics Homeschool Nature Study Plan

    Use this approach if you prefer to have monthly nature study topics. I loved the years that we stuck with a topic for a whole month, digging in deeply. Gather ideas as you contemplate your seasons and habitat.

    Keeping your focus to one broad topic a month gives you plenty of time to study several specific subjects, take a few nature walks with this focus in mind, and then create nature journal entries as a way of following up.

    You can glean ideas for specific topics by clicking the tabs at the top of our website and checking the Homeschool Nature Study Membership for additional ideas and printables.

    Seasonal or Term Topics Nature Study Plan

    Some families like to schedule their nature study focus for a complete term or season. If you follow the Ambleside Online nature study rotation, you could use our planning pages to plan your year’s topics.

    After you have chosen your topics, either monthly or for a term, you can then use the challenge and activity planning page found in the packet to note specific challenges or ideas that you want to implement during your topical study. For example, gather ideas that you hope to study with your children after choosing the topic of trees.

    Planning ahead of time will make it more likely that they will happen. You can use ideas from the tabs at the top of the website, suggestions in our email newsletter, or ideas found in the printables list.

    Here is another sample showing how to break down a month’s nature study ideas using the Outdoor Hour challenge, printables, and newsletters from Homeschool Nature Study Membership.

    Customize Your Monthly Nature Study Plans

    Think of all the nature study ideas as ingredients. There are many options for your nature study recipe. Pick the ones that suit your family and your taste. Add them to the planner page and use that to remind you of your options for the month.

    Don’t feel like you need to complete all the things you list on the planner page. But creating the list will make it more likely your family will accomplish something during the month. Celebrate the things you are able to share with your family and look at this as a lifelong journey, taking one month at a time.

    • Homeschool Nature Study Membership – Look in membership courses and lessons for topics that you may wish to include in your monthly studies. Read through the ideas presented and pick a few to put on your monthly planning page. Make sure to look on the planning page for nature photo ideas, nature table suggestions, and nature journal topics to jot down on your monthly planning page.
    • Outdoor Hour Challenge Curriculum – Once you pick a topic, use the search bar on the blog and in your membership to find all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for that particular topic listed. Next to each topic, the specific ebook curriculum will be noted. Download and save the ebook curriculum from your Homeschool Nature Study membership for your family to use for your study. In the ebooks, you will usually find a custom notebook page to use as a follow up.
    • Printables –There are many printables in Homeschool Nature Study membership for every topic you may wish to study. Download and save the printables for your future use.
    • Seasonal Ideas – Use the seasonal ideas from the website to find one or two seasonal ideas to pick from for your family.
    • Once a Month Nature Journal Idea – Use the ideas in the Nature Journaling course in membership to create a nature journal page for any of the items listed above.
    Find some helpful advice and delightful resources for planning for nature study in your homeschool and making your goals into a clear plan.

    Nature Study Goals and Homeschool Planning Ideas

    I’ve found it hugely helpful to have yearly nature study goals. Each year I pick a few things to focus on as part of my personal nature study. There are families that like to make these goals and record them in their nature journal as a way of keeping themselves accountable.

    Keeping a Calendar of Firsts – with FREE Calendar Page! – It’s a simple way to learn the cycle of life in your world, noting the nature firsts that catch your attention each year. Comparing the dates of the firsts in nature will give you a more accurate telling of the passage of time.

    Planning and Dreaming for the New Year – In the nitty gritty of checking things off, I urge you not to lose sight of the long term goal.

    Homeschool Planners and Planning Resources – This collection of homeschool planners and planning resources is sure to spark some ideas and help you streamline your homeschool planning process!

    Have a Back to Homeschool Planning Date – There’s just something special about designating time for just the two of us to talk. I thought you might like to know more about this simple idea, too.

    There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

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

    Written by Barb, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges and updated by Tricia

    X
    X