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Outdoor Hour Challenge: December World 2020

Outdoor Hour Challenge

December World 2020

snow landscape january 2020

“My whole impetus for starting this blog was to share how our family finally cracked the book open and started implementing the ideas that Anna Botsford Comstock wrote about so skillfully in this book. The entire Handbook of Nature Study is to help parents/teachers to be better nature study guides.”

The breath of fresh air, the moving about outside, the getting to know better our own backyard…these are the joys of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. The most successful families involved in the OHC are those that embrace the idea that getting outdoors as a family is important and worthy of our time. The OHC is the vehicle for getting us outside, hopefully giving us something interesting to learn about.”

I wrote those words just about ten years ago. They were heartfelt then and I still feel as passionate now about the importance of spending time outdoors with your children. What a gift you can give your children with a little effort and the suggestions found each week with the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

December World Nature Walk Outdoor Hour Challenge @handbookofnaturestudy

The original December World Mini-Challenge included the suggestion that moms read a few pages in the Handbook of Nature Study to refresh their memories about some of the key principles that Anna Botsford Comstock shared in the introductory pages of her renowned nature study guide.

Here are the pages I suggested reading:

Handbook of Nature Study Reading Suggestions
Challenge 1: Pages 1-8
Challenge 2: Pages 23-24
Challenge 3: 16-17
Challenge 4: 10-11 and 13-15

I broke the readings into four smaller sections that you can schedule to read a little each week this month. Use this time to energize your desire to include nature study as a regular part of your family’s weekly routine.


I created a printable for you to use as part of your December World Outdoor Hour Challenge. Simply take a walk outside with your children, either in your own yard or at a nearby park. Take the printable along and complete it as you go or use it as a follow up activity once you get back home.

Download a copy of the notebook page here: December World.

I have always encouraged parents to learn right alongside their children; so why not complete a page of your own? Talk a little about what you observed outside this week. Did you bring a nature treasure home with you? You can use that as the basis for your nature journal page if you wish. Keep it simple and enjoy your time together.

December Words

Also, there is a December Words notebook page in the Member’s Library if you wish to complete that instead of or in addition to the December World notebook page.

To purchase an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, click on over to the Join Us page at any time.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

PS: I know that many of us are experiencing wintry weather already. I hope you’ll consider bundling up and taking a walk even if you’re thinking it’s too cold. I know for myself that once I get outside, I can manage the cold just fine, especially if I know I can go back inside and get warmed up by the woodstove and drink a hot cup of coffee. I challenge you to give it a try!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – December World and Winter Berries

 December World Nature Walk Outdoor Hour Challenge @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

December World (from the archives) or Winter Berries from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook.

We have reached the last official Outdoor Hour Challenge of 2016. I thought it would be a perfect time to complete one of the two suggested challenges during the next few weeks.

Snow and Winter Berries

Everyone can record their December World observations even if you don’t live where it is currently winter. I know I put snowflakes on the notebooking page but you can make a sketch of anything you want from your outdoor time and then describe your December conditions. Note: This link includes a free printable notebook page. Plus, there is a new December Words notebook page activity in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships in the printables section.

Winter Berry Hunt Activity Image
Winter Berry Hunt – This is found in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships.

The Winter Berry OHC is one of my favorite challenges because it makes you realize how much color there is out there in the natural world. I have started to see colorful berries everywhere I go on trees, shrubs, and other plantings around town. Use the ideas in this challenge to open your eyes up to the wonderful world of winter berries. Note: There is a notebooking page included in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook if you have access to that in your Member’s Library.



Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter 2016 More Nature Study WinterThe winter series of challenges will start on January 13, 2017.


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December Nature Study Wrap-Up

Our December was filled with birdwatching. We had some exciting new birds and lots of old favorites.

Here is my list and then a few photos:
December 2013

  1. Anna’s hummingbird
  2. White-breasted nuthatch
  3. Western scrub jay
  4. Oak titmouse
  5. House finch
  6. House sparrow
  7. White-crowned sparrow
  8. California towhee
  9. Spotted towhee
  10. Junco
  11. Bewick’s wren
  12. American goldfinch
  13. Lesser goldfinch
  14. Mockingbird
  15. Northern flicker
  16. House wren
  17. Nuttall’s woodpecker
  18. Mourning dove
  19. European starlings
  20. Hermit thrush
  21. California quail – heard but didn’t see
Spotted towhee
House finch
Thinking this is a Hermit thrush-first time we have seen this and only in the snow.
Bewick’s wren
Anna’s hummingbird – at least three still at our feeders in December

Now a little something to inspire you…

I also finished my December nature journal entry for the extraordinary in the ordinary and December Grid Study. I cut some of the squares from the grid and then used them on my journal page. This is a quick and easy way to create a record of a variety of nature observations in a month.

We are definitely building a snowman birdfeeder again…it was so much fun for us and for the birds!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – December Senses Walk

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Using Your Senses – December Walk

There have been several challenges here on the blog during different seasons that feature using your senses or being quiet during a nature walk. Prepare your children ahead of time by explaining that spending some of your Outdoor Hour Challenge time should be time spent quietly observing. Use the ideas in the links below and the Listening Game in the additional activities below to incorporate some “using your senses” time into your OHC this week. Don’t be discouraged if your children can only manage a minute or two of quiet…it is something they can grow into when they learn the advantages of careful observation.

Don’t forget you can use this month’s (December 2013) Study Grid from the newsletter as part of this challenge.

Additional Activity:
Outdoor Listening Game
Go outside with your children and let each one find a place to sit quietly, choosing a comfortable spot where there are few distractions. Show them how to make cups with their hands and then hold them behind their ears like big deer or rabbit ears. Sit with your “deer” ears on and discover the sounds of your neighborhood or a near-by park.

This is a great training activity for sitting and listening quietly during your nature adventures. 
I am looking forward to getting out with my snowshoes and really using my senses.

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #10. Try having a snack or picnic lunch even if it is super cold outside. Our family even found driving to a favorite spot, parking with a view to something natural, and eating in the car is a fantastic way to make a memory. Keep it simple and then come home and record your experience on the accompanying notebook page in the ebook. 
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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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December Extraordinary Things

We had a snowstorm that brought inches of glorious sparkling snow! I used the opportunity to see the extraordinary in the ordinary as part of last week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Extraordinary Observations

I love the silence that comes from the snow. I was up several times in the night to watch the snow fall…there is something about the first snow of the year that makes it magical. This was the first time in a very long time that I didn’t have boys at home to go out early to enjoy the fresh snow. Times have changed.

The birds flock to our feeders just after a snowfall. They shelter in the shrubs and in the tree branches just beyond the feeders. They seem to come alive with the snow and every feeder is busy all day long. Finches, sparrows, juncos, jays, and even the hummingbirds come in numbers that I don’t see at other times.

I put out extra seed this morning and they still ate most of it up. I had to refill the hummingbird feeder the next morning…it had frozen overnight.

Cold air is invigorating. It is a smack in the face at first but then it stimulates many senses..the numbness of the nose and hands or the stinging tears that come from freezing air. The trees hold the snow until later in the afternoon and then as it melts it makes avalanches of snow underneath. One time I was bombed with snow on the head and it was cold!

The snow crunches and gives way under my boots as I tour the yard with the Kona dog and my camera. Kona thinks snow is fun and spends time chasing snowballs, eating snow, and generally racing around the yard in circles.

Colors are more vibrant and pop out from the white background. Reds, yellows, oranges, greens…all seem more brilliant in a snowy landscape. We gathered a few colorful items for a project that I will share later in the week…look for it.

December shared its snowy extraordinary side this week…just in time to share for this challenge. I look forward to hearing about your extraordinary in the ordinary observations. So much to be thankful for.

Nature Study Bundle Button

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – December Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Extraordinary in the Ordinary – December Edition

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

You may remember that we have done this challenge in the past two times. Please be inspired by both of these entries to complete your own extraordinary nature walk this month with your children.

Additional Printable Notebook Page

Notebook Page: Extraordinary in the Ordinary – December

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #8. Take along a magnifying lens on your Extraordinary in the Ordinary walk. Find something to examine more closely…even ice, frost, water from a puddle, the bark of a tree, or snow. Find something to be amazed by and then complete the notebooking page in the ebook.   

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Quick and Simple Evergreens

Winter Evergreen Mosaic

  • Take a short walk through your neighborhood and notice the evergreen trees and bushes that you have near your home. Use the December Newsletter suggestions from the Study Grid and the Printable Bookmark if you would like to some more direction to your nature study.
  • Allow time for a nature journal entry or use the notebook page from the December Newsletter to record anything you discovered or found interesting. You can also start a Year-Long Tree Study if you haven’t already. You can find a simple Seasonal Tree Study notebook page on my free downloads page.

Note: The December Newsletter is still available to subscribers of this blog. Please enter your email address in the box on my blog sidebar and you will receive the link in the footer of the next entry.

More Nature Study #2 button

More ideas on my Winter Wednesday Squidoo lens.

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December World – Texture

12 23 10 Mushrooms tall

We had a break in our rainy weather so that meant we seized the opportunity to get out and walk with the dog on the walking trail. Our surprise nature study subject of the day was “mushrooms”. They were in abundance on this trip down the trail.

After looking at all the photos when we got home, I decided the theme of the day was “texture”.

12 23 10 Lots of Mushrooms
Must be something rotting underneath the debris….makes for a great photo.

12 23 10 Moss

Lots of things going on in this photo…reds and greens make a nice contrast to each other.

12 23 10 Moss and Lichen
This is my favorite image of the day….wow! Look all those textures and colors and layers.

12 23 10 Mushroom

Someone or something had knocked a bunch of mushrooms loose along another section of the trail. Love the gills in this mushroom image.

12 23 10 Mushrooms and needles
Last one for today….mushrooms and brown grass make an interesting composition for this image.

We are enjoying our winter break and spending lots of time outdoors, both in the yard and out on walks. I haven’t had any nature study subjects in mind except to enjoy the pleasures that December has offered. I am sort of itching to get started on a more focused nature study plan again in January.

I am off to San Francisco today to spend the day looking at some great art….Post-Impressionists! Of course the museum is in Golden Gate Park so we will more than likely be taking a walk to see what we can find.

Have a great week!

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December World – Raging River in the Rain

Foresthill Bridge 12 20 10

Could it have been the day before the first day of winter? It sure felt like it yesterday as we took a drive down to the river to see the high water. Rain, nothing but rain, the last few days which means the rivers and dams are filling up with the run-off.

Foresthill Bridge and American River 12 20 10

The American River Confluence is a raging wall of water on this last day of autumn. The beaches are all gone and the whitewater rapids are not visible as the river is swollen up onto its banks. The rain stopped long enough for us to jump out of the car and capture a few misty, wet images of the trail and the river.

December World = Wet.

PS Did you see the lunar eclipse? We had too many clouds although we were out and looking a couple of times last night.

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Yesterday’s Hike: Our Familiar Trail

I love having a “familiar trail”. The subtle changes that take place from week to week sometimes escape my notice until I look at them through the lens of my camera. The light is different this time of year and the colors so very different. This trail that is bursting with wildflowers in the spring and early summer is now just a palette of browns and greens, with an occasional splash of color if you really look for it along the edges.

Although this may sound like a complaint, it really isn’t. I love having the contrasts between seasons, anticipating the next progression of growing. It is something at the core of me that knows this is the natural way to keep time. Thinking about it…perhaps this is why I don’t wear a watch or carry my phone with me at all times. I just like to feel the natural rhythm of the day and the seasons without fussing too much with the minute by minute ticking of time. It’s cloudy, rainy, cold, the oaks have lost their leaves, the buckeyes are sprouting on the ground, the ferns are unfurling… must be close to the first day of winter.

Guess I’m feeling sort of reflective on this cold, gray afternoon. 🙂

What to see a few images from our walk? Enjoy!

Red Shack 12 16 10 Wet Trail
It was still wet from the melted frost we had overnight and the mood was very somber.

Red Shack 12 16 10 Hiking Uphill
It is a steep hike back up the canyon after we hike down. Great exercise for humans and canines. (If you want to see what this place on the trail looks like in the spring, you can click HERE.

Red Shack 12 16 10 Blackberries
Dried up blackberries still hanging on the vines next to the trail. This is near the mushy part of the trail and soon we will have a little creek to hop over at this point.

Red Shack 12 16 10 Weeds
Wet wintery weeds are everywhere….I can visualize what the spring will bring but for now the landscape is pretty sad.

Red Shack 12 16 10 Fungus

The most colorful spot we found on our hike was right near the top where the ferns, mosses, and fungus are all bursting out.

So there you have it….a December day on our familiar trail. We are now facing ten forecasted days of rain so we may  not make it back for another week or so down this trail. If the weather clears, we will jump on the chance to get out and hike again on this path so close to home.