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The Ultimate Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges

You can enjoy a simple mammals homeschool nature study with these resources we have gathered for you to use in your own backyard. It is such a delight to study and learn about these beautiful creatures!

NOTE: All of the mammals homeschool nature study resources listed are available as an Outdoor Hour Challenge in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. If you have a membership, you will be able to pull up the Outdoor Hour Challenge curriculum and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your mammals nature study.

Wondering how to start? Grab our FREE Getting Started with Homeschool Nature Study Guide!

Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges (in Nature Study Membership)

  • Animal Tracks Hunt – Mammals Outdoor Hour Challenge
  • Bats – Summer course
  • Bear – Forest Fun course
  • Beavers
  • Cats – Spring course
  • Cattle and Deer – Winter Continues course
  • Chipmunks – Autumn course (An example of a chipmunks and squirrel study with Homeschool Nature Study here)
  • Coyote – High Desert course
  • Elk – High Desert ebook
  • Goats – More Spring Nature Course
  • Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel – High Desert course
  • Horses – Autumn course
  • Moose – Forest Fun course
  • Mountain Lion – High Desert course
  • Mouse – More Summer course
  • Muskrat – Creepy Things course
You can enjoy a simple mammals homeschool nature study with these resources we have gathered for you to use in your own backyard.
  • Pig – Autumn Continues course
  • Pocket Gopher – High Desert course
  • Porcupine – Forest Fun course
  • Rabbits
  • Raccoons – Summer course
  • Rats
  • River Otter – High Desert course
  • Sheep – More Winter course
  • Skunks – Summer course
  • Skunks and Badgers
  • Squirrels and Squirrels with Rodent Notebooking Page
  • Winter Mammals from Winter Wednesday course
  • Winter Mammals Hiberation – Winter Wednesday course
  • Winter Mammal Tracks – Winter course
  • Wolf, Fox, and Dog
  • Woodchuck, Groundhog, Prairie Dog, and Marmot
We’re starting with a favorite topic, black bears! Enjoy a bear nature study in your homeschool with this Outdoor Hour Challenge and bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in your homeschool.

Additional Mammal Homeschool Activities Included with Membership

  • Mammal Outdoor Hour Challenge Notebook Page
  • Mammal notebook page
  • Running List of Mammals printable notebook page
  • Looking for Signs and Tracks
  • Mammal nature study journal idea printable. Mammals at the zoo.
homeschool nature study membership for families

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

Can you believe all of these mammals resources you will find in membership? You will also find a continuing series on mammals plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. 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!

first published 2011 by Barb and updated by Tricia 2022

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Bat Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Bat Nature Study

From the Archives and from the Summer Nature Study ebook

We’re going to have some fun listening to the sounds of nature at night as we learn about bats! Everyone can get outside in the evening and use their senses to learn more about this time of day when many animals are active.

Make sure to check out the links at the bottom of the archive bat challenge for a closer look at these mammals that fly!

Summer Nature Study Ebook

Join us for this exciting series of nature study topics as we work through the Summer Nature Study – Using Your Senses ebook. Don’t get hung up on the title of the ebook because these nature study topics are applicable at all times of the year. Where I live we don’t have summer or even real spring conditions yet, but we’re going to get outside in the evenings as the days get longer to make observations and learn more about things that happen at sundown.

This ebook is found in the Ultimate level membership for you to download and use with your family. If you would like to gain access to this ebook, you can purchase a membership now and have instant access.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Use the discount code BIRDLOVER5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Bat Study Revisited

Outdoor Hour Challenge Bat Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Bat Nature Study 2016


Outdoor Hour Challenge – Summer Bat Study:

Use the ideas found in this archived challenge to learn more about bats and their sense of hearing. There are also links to additional resources and a video that will make this study come alive even if you don’t have access to a live bat to observe.

Getting Started FAQ Button
Need help getting started with your nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study? Check out the fresh “Getting Started” page here on the website!

Learning About Birds 3D cover

Don’t forget that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to the brand new Learning About Birds ebook!

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudy

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Summer Bat Study

Summer Bat Study @handbookofnaturestudy
Outdoor Hour Challenge: Bat Study
You will find loads of ideas and resources for a summer bat study using the challenge from the Summer Series 2010: Summer Bats and the Sense of Hearing.

Printable Notebook Page
My Mammal List: You can use this printable page instead of the running list notebook page if you wish to keep your mammal list by season. Reprint this page for every season and then compare your lists.

Getting Started Suggestion:

If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #2. Try to take your fifteen minute nature walk at sunset or just when it turns dark. You can walk or sit quietly in a familiar place, using your senses to really get to know this time of day. After you go inside, make sure to help your child record a few words in their nature journal or use the notebook page that is provided in the ebook.

Blog Logo 1

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Nighttime Critters – Our List from the July Newsletter

Summer evenings outdoors….with our chiminea.

We have been working on our July Newsletter Nighttime Critter Challenge all month. I wanted to post a little of what we are observing and learning to give you an idea of how you can pick a few things from your area to study in the evening hours.  I will update our list after the end of the month with any new finds.

Our most predominant nighttime critters of interest are the Brown bats that come every single night to fly in our backyard. I wrote about them back in May as part of mammal study.  For the July newsletter challenge for Nighttime Critters, I decided to share a few of our other nighttime visitors of interest. This study was sort of on-going because when the weather is hot, we tend to drag sleeping bags out to the back deck to sleep in the cool night air. We all lay awake and listen and watch as the nighttime settles in around us.

Shooting stars, satellites zipping across the sky, the moon, the swaying trees in the breeze, and the night sounds all entertain us as we wait for sleep to come.

Great Horned Owl Nature Journal
Fill In The Circle and Fill In With Color Example – Poor owl sketch…he has such a crooked beak.

One of the things that we have discovered sleeping outside on hot summer nights is that we have quite a few great horned owls in our neighborhood. We can hear them calling back and forth right after the sun goes down and then again at around 5 AM. Here is a link to and if you click the sound button, you will hear the two types of sounds we hear from our owls: Great Horned Owls. We have yet to actually see them but they are out there…no doubt about it.

We also are serenaded by crickets when the temperatures get just right. It is amazing how you don’t hear any crickets and then all of a sudden it is as if someone turned on a cricket soundtrack and they all chirp at the same time. The lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study gives a great illustration showing the parts of the cricket and an excellent explanation of how he “sings”. (Lesson 82)

 “The wing covers are much shorter than the abdomen and beneath them are vestiges of wings, which are never used. The male has larger wing covers than the female, and they are veined in a peculiar scroll pattern. This veining seems to be a framework for the purpose of making a sounding board of the wing membrane, by stretching it out as a drumhead is stretched.” Handbook of Nature Study.

Turn in your copy of the Handbook of Nature Study to read much more in the lesson explaining this interesting creature.There is such a simple explanation of the mechanics of the crickets chirping that it is perfect for sharing with younger children. The crickets and the frogs compete in our neighborhood for the winner of the “background” noise. It seems as if one or the other is singing their little hearts out.

We smell skunks quite a few nights a week. Sleeping outside we hear rustling in the garden and I think it is the skunk. I know they dig around the base of the birdfeeder outside our window but over the years I have decided that if he leaves me alone, I will leave him alone. Here is another entry where I talk about our nighttime visitors.

Nighttime Critter LIst - Outdoor Hour Challenge
List from the July Newsletter. I cut it out and taped it inside my nature journal.

One last nighttime critter we have had around the neighborhood is the raccoon. Our neighbor has been sharing how they keep forgetting to bring in the dog’s food dish at night and the raccoon has decided that it makes a easy snack taken just outside their patio door. We have had our share of raccoons in the yard over the years but we haven’t seen any lately. Here is an entry sharing one raccoon experience: Raccoon Visitor.

Well that gives you a taste of what we have around here in the evenings. I just thought of something else I need to put on my list….moths.

I look forward to reading about your nighttime critters. Don’t forget to post your entry and then submit it to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival before 7/30/11 for a chance in the July Newsletter giveaway!

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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May Mammal Nature Study: Bats…Revisited (+Who gets the Watercolors?)

5 18 11 Sunset Sky
Sunset – time for mosquitoes and almost time for bats.

We have been on the lookout for a mammal subject for our May nature study. I included it in the May Newsletter suggested study because I was really hoping to see our fox friend in our yard this month.  I have been wanting to do some research on him, but he has only left some scat behind and we haven’t actually seen him.

What would we study for our May mammal?

Well, remember a few weeks ago we had a bat visitor inside the house? My husband suggested that we learn about bats. Sigh. I don’t really like bats and we already had done a quick study with OHC #49. I wasn’t convinced until night before last. We were sitting outside eating dinner for the very first time this year…our normal spring/summer routine….and the mosquitoes were driving us crazy! There is an abundance of these pesky little critters right now and I commented that we needed to do something about them. My husband mentioned that we should encourage the bats because they eat lots of mosquitoes and they would help keep the population down.

Aha! A positive reason to study the bats!

We spent some time at dusk sitting outside to wait for the bats and they didn’t disappoint us. They came in and swooped at head level, zooming around the yard with amazing agility. We did some reading in the HNS and online the next day and here are some of the points we gleaned about our flying mammal friends.

  • Members of the family Chiroptera, meaning winged hand.
  • Only real flying mammal.
  • Most North American bats are insectivores, eating about 1,200 insects an hour or approximately 6,000 insects a night.
  • You can attract bats in several ways- build a bat house and/or leave a light on so the insects cluster, making a dinner spot for the bats.
  • We found this website informative for our local area: Northern California Bats
Bat nature journal (1)
May Newsletter journal idea – Fill In The Circle (bat drawn by Mr. A)

I have had a few readers ask me what kind of nature journal I use to watercolor in and I will give you a link to an entry where I discuss my choice: Autumn Series #1. Well there you go…our May mammal study finished and just in time to start thinking about all our June nature study subjects. Our family is really loving the new format of the Outdoor Hour Challenge and the freedom it has given us to pursue a variety of subjects as they have come up in our daily life.

Don’t forget to send in your nature study entries by 5/30/11 for the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. You can submit your entries HERE.

Gerbera daisy journal with field watercolor set
The winner of the giveaway from last week’s watercolor sketch entry is Corrine from Boston! 
(I used a random number generator to pick the winner.) Corrine chose the Koi Water Colors Pocket Field Sketch Box! Congrats!

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Edible Garden

4 30 11 Lilac

I think I forgot the sounds that come in open windows in the mornings and evenings. Winter requires the house to be shut up too much but with open windows I woke this morning to a an owl hooting in the neighbor’s tree.

“I’m awake! You Too!” he was calling.

What a great sound and it makes me wonder what all I have been missing closed up in the house for the winter.

This evening I am hearing crickets for the first time and the call of the tree frogs from across the street. It makes me happy to think we have reached the point where we can have open windows and doors to bring a little of nature back into our house. The mosquitoes are buzzing tonight too….found one in my bedroom and had to give him a swat. Now that I could do without.

We are busy working on weeding the garden walkways and preparing beds for seeds. This is a joyful, hopeful time. Outdoor Hour Challenge #12 includes choosing and planting flower seeds and I thought our family might include that as part of our first challenge for the month of May. (If you purchased the Garden Flowers Ebook you will have that challenge and corresponding notebook pages to go along with it.) I will share our seeds in separate entry later this week.

In the meantime, I thought I could share a little of the edibles in our garden landscaping. We try to mix edible plants with our flowers so we can harvest a little homegrown yummy-ness when the time comes.  It also is such a treat to have a little handful of something each afternoon when we are outside…a couple of blueberries, a strawberry, or a grape popped in the mouth make even the fussiest of kids happier when they are helping to work in the garden.(You can read more of my tips for nature study and gardening with very young children HERE.

4 18 11 Blueberries

The blueberry bushes really are not all that happy looking. They are all covered in fresh green leaves but I am needing to read up on what a blueberry needs to really get established. I seem to remember something about how they like a pine needle mulch.

4 18 11 Strawberry blossoms

Mr. A’s strawberries are looking incredible and there are dozens of blossoms and little baby strawberries filling the box. These are an easy crop to get started and we purchased ever-bearing and June bearing plants so we will have a longer harvest. (There is a challenge for strawberries if you are interested.)

4 18 11 Pear Blossoms

We were very surprised to see so many blossoms on the pear tree this year. We had pruned it way back to keep it out of the neighbor’s yard and this seems to have been agreeable to the tree. We might get a dozen pears this year….well, we can hope for that.

4 28 11 Garden birdfeeder figs
Figs….does anyone really like figs? This tree was here when we moved in 25 years ago and we have tried to cut it down several times, just to have it grow back more lush than ever. We have finally come to grips with it and we share the fruits with those in our lives who enjoy them. The birds like them too so I guess it is worth the mess.

4 28 11 Garden birdfeeder  with tomato and grapes

Tomato in a pot to cover the ugly stump….sounds like a good idea and if it doesn’t do well we can always move it. We also have seedless grapes planted there on the fence to shield the ugly propane tank from view when we are sitting on the back deck. They vines get so green and climb all over, producing little sweet bites to nibble when I am out in the back watering in the hot summer sun. (There is a challenge for tomatoes if you are interested.) Do you have a place for a tomato in a pot?

Bat in house 5 11 (1)

Another reminder to us: Keep the back door closed in the evenings. This bat made its way INTO the house last week. The cat may have brought it inside but we aren’t entirely sure. We had a comedy act going on trying to get it to fly back outside. My boys ran and got the butterfly net and we were able to get him in the corner and inside the net. He really calmed down and just hung in the net long enough for us to get a good look at him. We released him outside and he fly away so gracefully. (There is a challenge for bats if you are interested.)

We are ready to start doing some nature study and the boys have been discussing what subjects we will study for the month as part of the new format of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. Don’t forget you can pick from any of the topics: wildflowers, garden flowers, birds, and/or mammals. You can chose one from each category or stick with one topic and study four of them in a row. Please feel free to make the challenges work and build on interest you find with your children. Don’t forget to submit your blog entries that you complete to the OHC Blog Carnival.

Enjoy your week!

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Bats in our Backyard-OHC #4

Bat watching is one of our favorite summer evening activities. We pull the deck chairs over to the edge of the deck and get comfortable facing the setting sun. As we sit watching the sunset, the bats start to fly around the backyard. They come somewhere from the back oaks and seem to have a pattern of sweeping around the tall pines and our sequoia.

They are the most amazing fliers as they swoop and streak around the sky catching their dinner.

“There are no other wings so wonderful as the bat’s; the thin membrane is equipped with sensitive nerves which inform the flier of the objects in his path, so that he darts among the branches of trees at terrific speed and never touches a twig…The flight of the bat consists of darting hither and thither with incredible swiftness, and making sharp turns with no apparent effort…..He makes a collecting net of the wing membrane stretched between the hind legs and tail, doubling it up like an apron on the unfortunate insects…..thus he is always doing good service to us on summer evenings by swallowing a multitude of insects.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 242

We have observed just these behaviors in our backyard bats. I know they are ridding our area of many, many mosquitoes. We can’t help but cheer them on as we watch their movements in the dusky evening.

All too fast, the moment passes and they are gone. We know they will make their return the next evening so we don’t have long to wait to watch this flying wonder of the twilight hours.

I know that many of you are put off by this particular challenge but it is very much worth your while to at least do the preparation work from the Handbook of Nature Study. If you do the reading and look at the links provided, your children will have a great working knowledge of this very special flying mammal.

We have been keeping track of our summer sounds as outlined in this Outdoor Hour Challenge. Late at night when the neighborhood sounds die down, we sit outside in the dark and it is amazing how many things you can hear, many unidentifiable like a snap in the tree or a rustling in the bushes. It is an activity that the boys and I will continue to work through as the summer continues.

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OHC Summer Series #4: Bats and the Sense of Hearing

Summer Series #4
Bats and Sense of Hearing

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Observe the sky at sundown, look for the silhouettes of birds, bats, or insects in the air.
  • Hearing: Observe the sounds of the night starting at sundown: bats, crickets, frogs, bark of a dog, hoot of an owl, birds, rustling in the leaves, wind, etc. Can you hear more sounds on a damp night? Can you hear more sounds at night when your sense of sight is not as keen?

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read pages 241-245 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 59 The Bat). Although the lesson for bats states that it should not be given unless you can directly observe bats in person and most of us do not have direct access to bats, do not let this discourage you from completing this challenge. Make sure to watch the YouTube video about bats listed in the additional resources for this challenge and then proceed with the lesson suggestions. If you need additional information, use the resources at the end of this challenge.

2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 27-35 and pages 130-153 (Note: Evolutionary talk in this section). The first section will prepare you to use your sense of hearing more as you are outdoors in the evenings this summer. Plan on spending some time outdoors in the evenings to observe the sounds of the summer at sundown. The second section will give a thorough account of the bat including what kind of bats you can expect in your part of the country. Pay special attention to pages 138-140 for specific ideas for finding bats to observe in real life. (Please note the above link is an affiliate link to

Outdoor Hour Time:
1. Things That Go Bump in the Night:
Spend 15 minutes outdoors at sundown, observing some of the sounds suggested in the book. The book suggests observing sounds on a damp night and a dry night and comparing your results. Something else to listen for is “sudden silence” where the night noises completely stop and then start up again after a period of time.

2. World of Bats:

“Although an occasional bat can be found flying about during the day, most bats take to the sky during the twilight hours. On a summer evening you can observe them in a dance of twists, spirals, and loops that is choreographed by the insects they pursue.” Discover Nature at Sundown, page 148

If you have the opportunity to observe some bats up close, make sure to use some of the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study and/or the Discover Nature at Sundown.

Follow-Up Activity:
Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry using the Summer Sounds or the Bat notebook page for provided in the ebook or a blank page in your own journal. There is also a bat coloring page included with the ebook.

Additional Resources:

This challenge is found in this ebook:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer Nature Study Ebook

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy


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Bats: Helpful Mammals

We have bats in our backyard. My daughter Amanda hates it when we are out in the evening and we start to hear the squeaking of the bats. Sometimes if we are out and the yard is dark, they will come very close to our heads as they swoop to eat the insects. Many times they are flying over the pool if we are taking a night swim and that is a little creepy.

On the local walking trail there is an old train tunnel and apparently there was a bat colony that wanted to roost there. (Note this photo is from last year during the warmer months…hence the short pants.)

A group of people got together and made a bat house for them and as far as I know, there has never been any bats in the structure. Amanda has to walk fast through the tunnel because she knows there is a chance of there being bats in there. I have yet to see the bats.

Last summer one of our cats actually caught a bat and tried to bring it into the house. It sounded like a mouse squeaking but when I got up close to shoo her away from the door, I realized it was a bat. She eventually let go of the bat and it flew away. I was amazed that she was able to catch a bat. I talked to our vet about it and she said that since the cats are vaccinated and the bat didn’t bite the cat that we should be fine. I was pretty concerned but she has never captured another bat as far as I know. We bring our cats in for the night because we do have so many critters that could cause trouble…skunks, raccoons, bats, foxes, and who knows what else is out there at night.

We studied bats a few years ago when we were interested in learning about different kinds of flying creatures.

“Although the bat’s wings are very different from those of the bird, yet it is a rapid and agile flier. It flies in the dusk and catches great numbers of mosquitoes and other troublesome insects, upon which it feeds.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 243

If you ever get a chance to watch a bat fly, you will be amazed at their flying ability.