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Great American Backyard Campout – Nature Study Style

It’s a whole different world…your backyard at night.

I encourage you to open up a new level of nature study, done at night under the stars in combination with the Great American Backyard Campout!

Check the National Wildlife Federation website for dates and events in your local area: Great American Backyard Campout.

Watch an introductory video!
June 23, 2012 – The National Wildlife Federation is sponsoring the Great American Backyard Campout and you are invited. From their website,”Spend the night under the stars with National Wildlife Federation and take your family’s first step into a lifetime filled with healthy, outdoor fun.”

If you have been reluctant to try camping, this is an easy way to test it out with your family closer to home. You may just end up liking it! Who knows where you will take your tent next?

My boys put their tent on the back deck during the summer.

I know that sleeping outdoors can seem scary and unfamiliar but overcoming the fear of being outside at night is worth the effort. You will realize there are some amazing things going on between sunset and sunrise right in your own backyard!

Combine nature study with an overnight backyard campout 
and you will build family memories that last a lifetime.

Prepare with some nature study ideas from the Outdoor Hour Challenge!

Pick a challenge, read the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study, and then look for an opportunity to apply what you learned. Keep it fun and always, always, always follow your child’s lead if they find something they are interested in. You can follow up with a library book or a Google search in the morning.

Bring a few art supplies outdoors and your nature journal so you are prepared if you find something of interest. If you have a nature related storybook or a favorite outdoor adventure book, bring it out for some after dark reading with a flashlight.

More than anything else, be aware of your surroundings and use all your senses, when you can’t rely on your vision…listen, feel, and smell the nighttime in your backyard. Try to spend a few minutes just sitting quietly in the dark if your children are able and see what you notice. Even a few seconds of quiet is good for younger children.

Nature Study - Three Steps to a Better Experience
If you are new to nature study, you may wish to download and print out my free nature study guide:
How about a free printable notebook page?

As part of this great event, I am teaming up with five other bloggers to promote getting outside and having fun with your children. All of us have put together some exciting, informative, and easy ideas to get you started planning your own Great American Backyard Campout for this coming weekend.

The tips in these posts will apply to any camping you do with your children so make sure to bookmark, Pin, and promote these links! We even started a Camping With Kids Pinterest board for you to follow and glean even more ideas as the summer goes by. I know for my regular readers the list below includes a few new faces and I encourage you to click over and visit these awesome bloggers who take getting outdoors with their children seriously. Leave them a comment and let them know you popped over from the Handbook of Nature Study.

  1. Adventure Tykes – Melissa
  2. Go Explore Nature – Debi
  3. Hodgepodge – Tricia
  4. Spell Outloud – Maureen
  5. Tales of a Mountain Mama – Amelia


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Honeybees and the Great Sunflower Project – Nature Study Using the Handbook of Nature Study

Bees on the Lavender

Our choice for the Garden Critter study this month is the honeybee. We have been building a bee, butterfly, and bird habitat in our yard this year and it seemed fitting that we take a few minutes to read in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 99) about this welcome guest to our garden.

We have planted many bee attractive plants and every day, rain or shine, they come to visit. Their favorite spot in the yard is the center square filled with lavender. If you sit close by, you can hear the buzzing of wings and you can watch their activity among the flowers.

Bee Garden - Water Source
Water for the Bees – Lavender and Baby Lemon Queen Sunflowers

We read recently online that bees need water as part of their habitat. We found a shallow pie pan, filled it with an assortment of local rocks we had on hand, and then filled it with water. The rain has kept it filled but now that the weather is looking like it will remain dry, I will just replenish the water when I water the garden. Here is a really informative article about Planting a Bee Garden.

Honeybee entry (3)
We found this webpage very helpful: California Habitat Gardening and this one too: Bee Friendly Gardens.

bee with pollen on sunflower

This is what we are aiming for…image from two summers ago in our sunflowers. Can you believe that pollen?

We will be taking part in the Great Sunflower Project later in the summer. I highly recommend this nature activity which is fun and simple to do as a family. Click below for more information.

Great Sunflower Project Button

Don’t forget to post and then submit your June Newsletter nature studies to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Here is THE LINK. If you need to find the link quickly, it is at the top of my blog in a couple of places for easy access.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Creating a Bee Habitat Garden – Suggestions and Ideas

We are starting to build our new garden area to replace a huge portion of our backyard lawn area. It has been a dream of mine to take the water-hungry lawn out and replace it with color and attractive plants for birds, bees, and butterflies. My husband and I finally agreed on a plan and we started a week or so ago to build the first two garden boxes from recycled blocks that came out of our frontyard remodel last fall. We are on a limited budget for this project so we are reusing materials we have on hand and it is going to be a long range plan to add more as we have time and money. We did end up purchasing and hauling in a yard of garden soil that we added some of our homemade compost to so we could fill up our boxes. We didn’t use the complete yard of soil in the boxes but used the balance to top off our vegetable garden boxes and fill two pots for patio tomatoes.

4 18 11 New Lavender
Here is the first square which will anchor the whole project. We found some lavender on sale at Home Depot and we added four plants…..bees no extra charge. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there are bees on these blossoms every day, at all times of the day.

4 11 Dandelions
We also have loads of bees in the dandelions over on the other end of the yard. I counted quite a number of bees in the yellow blossoms as I sat and enjoyed their cheerfulness one afternoon. My husband is not convinced to keep the dandelions and wants to pull them up. I asked him to wait a bit and then he can mow them over.

4 11 New Boxes with Lawn
Mr. B is my garden helper these days and we enjoy spending time outdoors together.

The larger box is going to hold my sunflowers and zinnias. I am including the Lemon Sunflowers in this box as part of the Great Sunflower Project. I was reading on their website about their change this year and they have added quite a number of other flowers to the project so you can count bees in your area.

If you want to check it out, click over and read on their website but it looks like you can count bees on include Bee balm, Cosmos, Rosemary, Tickseed, and Purple coneflower.

The two brown piles of leaf compost that you can see in the image above are going to become part of another bee garden that we may get to this year. The link will take you to Renee’s Garden where she has collaborated with the Great Sunflower Project on a list of bee attractive plants for your garden.

The only other part we are planning on planting this spring is the Three Sisters Garden that will be a long row parallel to the sidewalk just behind where my son is working in the image above. The Three Sisters are pumpkins, corn, and beans that you plant as companions. I am excited just thinking about this part of the garden!!!

I am anxious to add in a few things as we have time and the weather warms up. My husband keeps telling me he doesn’t see my vision for the yard but I told him to have faith and see what evolves. At the bottom of the post are the seeds that I am planting in the new larger box if you are interested.

That is what we accomplished this week in our new garden project but here are a few of our on-going bee/butterfly/hummingbird habitat garden projects that are a work in progress.

4 18 11 Butterfly Garden with notes
We have been working on this section of the garden for a few years now and it is filling in and growing more beautiful with each passing season.

4 18 11 New Moonshine Yarrow
In our front yard we added some Moonshine Yarrow….this has become another favorite of the bees this spring. I am anxious to see how it grows over the summer since it says it needs very little water.

New Yard Art - Metal Butterfly and Rocks

I have to share my new yard art piece that my dear husband found for me. It is a metal butterfly balanced on top of a pole with river rocks stacked. It is the perfect piece for our front yard. I love the way it moves in the slightest breeze and is a great addition to the look of the front yard. I decided it is all about movement…the grasses, the forsythia, the butterfly bushes, and now the sculpture.

I have enjoyed reading all the entries over on Jami’s blog An Oregon Cottage as part of her Tuesday Garden Party. Welcome to all who have clicked over to read my entry!
I welcome all readers to subscribe to my blog…see the sidebar for a place to enter your email.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Being Drawn to the Edges

garden box beginnings

“Indeed, research suggests that children, when left to their own devices, are drawn to the rough edges of such parks, the ravines and rocky inclines, the natural vegetation. A park may be neatly trimmed and landscaped, but the natural corners and edges where children once played can be lost in translation.”
Last Child in the Woods, page 117

This important book is on my summer reading list again. It is an easy read and each time I glean a few more points to apply to our family and refine my thinking about getting outdoors. Reaffirming my belief that all children need to be outdoors every day keeps me actively working on the Outdoor Hour Challenges and other related projects.

We are in the middle of planning a big front yard makeover and I have decided that for our family we will incorporate native plants, some rocky outcrops, and more shelter and food for the local wildlife. My boys are more interested in watching birds and animals than they are with a large expanse of grass. Our wild side has taught us this spring that we enjoyed observing the insects, flowers, and grasses more than we ever enjoyed the well manicured lawn.

garden box with flowers
I once read a post written by a mom who had little by little converted her suburban backyard into a wild place for her children. She brought in some rocks for lizards and insects to take shelter in. She included a big log so the kids could watch the decomposition and the living creatures that lived in, under, and on the log. She made a sand pile for digging with pails and shovels at the ready. There were places to play in the hose and make mud. It has always stuck with me that with a little effort on her part she offered a place with interesting and attractive edges even in a small backyard.

When my boys were young, we planted herbs, edible things like berries, and each child had their own garden box. We kept tree stumps for child size tables. We planted trees for climbing and swinging. On hot summer days we spread out blankets underneath the trees in the shade.

grasshopper in the day lily
Our butterfly garden with its colorful flowers and bushes shelters not only insects but hummingbirds. Allowing some room for exploring in our backyard has given us endless nature study opportunities as well as a place for the children to wander during their own time, to dream and play and wonder.

frog in the hand
This time outdoors is essential to our child’s development. The effort you put into creating space for unstructured play will be seen in your child’s happy face and heart. It is an investment in their mental and physical health.

Look at the edges…..see if you can make some changes today.

Edit to add: I received a comment and some email about becoming a National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat. We did that for our backyard some years ago and that is really what brought this sort of idea to my head in the very beginning. Now I am anxious to get started in the front yard.