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This Festive Homeschool Nature Study Challenge Is Perfect For Christmas Time

Are you up for a wintery festive homeschool nature study challenge?

Christmas time is so busy and it is easy to get distracted by all the hurry of the season. Sometimes it is just nice to get outdoors with the children and leave the pressures behind.

How about a festive homeschool nature study this winter? Now is the perfect time to include some themed nature crafts and studies in your homeschool.

How Can I Make Our Homeschool Nature Study Festive?

I’m glad you asked! Our winter series of curriculum ebooks and courses have so many wonderful winter challenges to inspire your homeschool nature studies and because we are known for our challenges only taking about an hour (or longer if you prefer). It does not have to be an onerous task during this busy season.

A festive homeschool nature study can be as simple as wrapping up warmly and going on a lovely winter walk to find some winter colors. Challenge 1 in our Winter Wednesday book does just this. You can read about Barb’s hunt for red and green on a wintery walk she took a few years back. You can also read her World of Winter post which fits in nicely with our wintery festive homeschool nature study theme.

I always find that you can add a little fun into your nature studies by including a few nature crafts and a festive nature study is the perfect time to do just that!

Read my Winter Nature Crafts Post and my Snow Nature Study & Winter Stars Post for some ideas on crafting some festive fun activities into this months nature studies.

How about a festive homeschool nature study this winter? Now is the perfect time to include some themed nature crafts and studies in your homeschool.

Challenges from our Winter Wednesday Outdoor Hour Challenge Book

Our Winter Wednesday ebook and accompanying course has lots of other wintery nature topics to explore in your homeschool:

  • Challenge 2 – Snow
  • Challenge 3 – Winter Star Constellations – this would tie in beautifully with the story of the wise men from the east as they followed the star to find Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem!
  • Challenge 4 – Trees: Silhouettes
  • Challenge 5 – Trees: Cones
  • Challenge 6 – Winter Weeds
  • Challenge 7 – Winter Insects
  • Challenge 8 – Birds
  • Challenge 9 – Mammals
How about a festive homeschool nature study this winter? Now is the perfect time to include some themed nature crafts and studies in your homeschool.
Please be sure to share photos of your nature time with us! Use the hashtag #OutdoorHourChallenge when sharing so we won’t miss your photos!

A Homeschool Nature Study Membership For Helpful Tips Year Round!

Our members’ Outdoor Hour Challenges for January will come from the Winter Wednesday ebook and course. If you would like to join our nature study membership then please visit the link below to join – we would love to have you along.

Members also now have a printable plan for the upcoming year for guided nature study – January 2022 to August 2022. We will be following highlighted challenges from the Winter Wednesday, Spring, Summer and the Garden books and courses.

An image showing the full collection of Nature Study courses

Connect With Us On Social Media

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge on Winter Weeds? Be sure to tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

Outdoor Hour Hostess Shirley lives in Chester, England and blogs at Building A Household of Faith where she writes about homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way, nature study and encouraging homeschooling moms in their great charter as Christian wives, mothers and keepers of the home. She also hand-dyes yarn in her home studio Under An English Sky, which is inspired by the English countryside and of the great living books she and her family enjoyed over their homeschooling journey. No doubt you will be sure to recognise some of the names of her yarn from literary childhood favourites!

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Winter Homeschool Nature Study: Green And Red Challenge

We decided to repeat last year’s Winter Challenge on a recent hike. This homeschool nature study is perfect for the season.

Our Winter Homeschool Nature Study

We had planned on leaving in the early afternoon but it actually started to rain so we postponed it for a few hours. The rain stopped eventually and it was amazing how beautiful everything was as we hiked along the trail.

The colors were vivid and we noticed a few outstanding things to share.

Green and Red Homeschool Nature Study

Green And Red In Nature

We found some beautiful green moss covering stones and trees. Isn’t so vibrant and bright? It stands out from the winter grey making it hard to pass by. If you come across some moss be sure to encourage your children to take a closer look through a magnifying glass.

Green and Red Homeschool Nature Study

Bright red berries on bushes along the way. Red berries add a splash of color to stark and frosty scenes when most of the trees have lost their leaves. They are a vital food source for animals and birds during these ‘hungry’ months. All the berries you see on your walk have grown and developed in autumn.

Interestingly, studies have shown that birds choose the order they eat the berries carefully to ensure that they have as much food as possible to last the winter.

Manzanita 2
Finally, we found some Manzanita wood. Isn’t it just so vividly red after it gets wet?

Finding green and red in our homeschool nature study was a wonderful way to blend learning with a celebration of the holiday season!

Green and Red Homeschool Nature Study

You Are Invited to Join Us!

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Outdoor Mom-August 2021 Prime Summertime Delights

Outdoor Mom

August 2021

Prime Summertime Delights


Please note you can purchase a membership right now for $35 using the code GREATDAY. Code expires on 9/10/2021.

Waking up to birdsong has become my favorite part of summer. It starts early! Mid-July it started around 4:30 AM and it has gradually become later and later, until those morning serenades have stopped. The departure of so many of the dawn singing birds has been replaced by a nip in the air and shorter days. How does that happen so fast?

tent summer 2021

You may wonder how I know that the birdsong starts so early. Well, we spent most summer nights sleeping in our backyard tent. The birds would be so loud that they would wake me up! I heard many a nighttime owl duet from the resident great horned owls. Then there were the frogs in the river meander behind our house that make a ruckus most nights. Finally, the last few weeks we’ve had the sound of yipping and howling coyotes. It’s hard to believe there’s so much going on outside, but it’s there if you happen to listen.

hairy woodpecker bird backyard july 2021 (3)Late Summer Changes

Most of the robins have flown on, the swallows are gone, the bluebirds are scarce, hardly a red-wing blackbird to be seen. The sounds now are of chickadees, finches, doves, and flickers. I’ve been reflecting on the coming and going of the birds as the seasons change. I looked back in my journal where I noted we saw our first robin and red-wing on March 1, 2021. I remember that day with great fondness, happy day indeed. The summer bird season went by entirely too fast.

summer coneflowers

As I write this entry, our garden is still in full bloom and I spend many days watering, weeding, and cutting flowers. I call it my garden therapy. I sometimes linger sitting on the garden bench just so I can watch the creatures who come to visit. There are hummingbirds in the flowers, bees buzzing around, and all kinds of birds who come to take a bath or drink from the bird baths. There are a few chipmunks who zip in and around the garden when they think no one is watching. If I’m lucky, there will be a butterfly, or a dragonfly come to check things out.

butterfly garden sign 2021

I make mental notes of what grew well in the garden and what I would like to do differently next year. I create new plans in my head for areas that need improvement and I also make a mental list of the things that failed.

Some days, our kids show up and entice us down to the river for a kayak. We drag the boats down to the riverbank and slip into the shallow water as we make our way downstream. The river is low this time of year and it’s not unusual to see a few fish or crawdads as we float over.

cow calf july 2021 (1)

The grasses are still quite green from the thunderstorms we’ve had this month. This means the cows and calves are still living out back where we enjoy their antics as they spend their long summer days grazing and sitting under our trees out back. They often are right along the river’s edge as we make our way down river. We noted a brand new calf with spindly legs and soft brown eyes, we named him Hot Cocoa.

family table 2021
Our new family table, built with my husband’s own hands. We have welcomed many family members to this table over the summer and we will continue the tradition next year.

Now I find myself trying to muster up enthusiasm for the autumn and all the changes that come with it. Most people welcome the autumn, but it makes me feel unsettled. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like change and the replacing of my warm, summer sunshine-filled days with the unpredictability that comes with autumn in Central Oregon. We could have a warm day, a cold day, a snow day, or all the above all in one day.

sunflowers 2021

The falling leaves and withering flowers make me sad. The putting away of the lawn furniture and the potted plants and taking down the flower baskets….so melancholy.

I have in the past found it helpful to make an Autumn Bucket List of things I look forward to doing to make the season a little more positive in my eyes. So, I will do that this year in anticipation of trying to put some joy in my autumn. Maybe that will take my mind off the winter season which is cold and long here in La Pine. I can always hope anyway.

sunflower garden 2021

This summer is drawing to a close and I have saved up some memories to pull out on long winter days. This mom is grateful to have had a garden to enjoy this year and a place to spend my days close to the plants and animals who share my space. I also appreciate the ability to share it all with you dear readers.

Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge small

You can follow me on Instagram to see more of our outdoor life here in gorgeous Central Oregon.

Want to join in the Outdoor Mom post?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time, this month we went…
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) …
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting…
  • I added nature journal pages about…
  • One last image…






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Crater Lake National Park – July 2017

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Revisited in July 2017

We took the short drive from our new home down to Crater Lake bright and early on a Monday. We were hoping this would be a good time to see the park without the crowds. It worked out! We arrived at the North entrance and headed straight to Watchman Overlook. They were working on the parking lot but we were able to park alongside the road.

Crater Lake

The view was spectacular! There were still patches of snow along the road, on the edge of the lake, and in shady spots in among the trees throughout the park. The water was a deep aqua blue as it shimmered in the morning sunshine.

Lichen on rocks at Crater Lake
Such beautiful lichen on the rocks

We then went over to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook right behind the Rim Village Visitor Center. There were a few more people here but still very enjoyable to take the walk out to the overlook and see the lake in all its glory.

After that, we drove down to the Steel Visitor Center so we could watch the movie about Crater Lake and how it was formed. We all really enjoyed this and learned a lot about the natural history of this amazing spot on Earth.

Columbine at Crater Lake

Wildflowers were next on the list of things to see in the park and we headed to the Castle Crest Wildflower Trail which was a short drive from the visitor center. Overwhelmingly beautiful!

Wildflowers Castle Crest Crater Lake

There were so many flowers in bloom of all shapes and colors. There is a creek running down the hillside which provided the background soundtrack of babbling and rushing water. There were many, many insects including a hummingbird moth that we observed for some time.

White bog orchid Crater Lake

I was super excited to discover a “new to me” wildflower growing in abundance along the trail. The White Bog Orchid was so delicate and beautiful! I’m hoping to add it to my nature journal soon.

Plaikni Falls Crater Lake

Our last stop before heading back home was Plaikni Falls. This is on the east side of the lake and it’s a very easy two mile round trip hike on a fairly flat trail. The falls themselves are a cascading series of falls that you can hike to the base of and then look up to the top. We sat on some rocks and let the cooling mist get us a bit damp. People were taking off their boots and soaking their feet in the icy water. I was glad we had saved this for the rather hot afternoon.

I know we’ll be making more trips here in the future since it is an easy hour’s drive from home.

You can read my previous entry for Crater Lake Here: Crater Lake National Park Tips and Images

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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – March 2017

Outdoor Moms Journal @handbookofnaturestudy


Outdoor Mom’s Journal

March 2017

We have had so much rain that the thought of traveling somewhere warm and more on the dry side was very appealing. My daughter and I had started planning this trip way back in August because she lives in New York where the winters are far too long for that California girl.

Big Island Landscape @handbookofnaturestudy

One of my favorite places to be warm and beachy is on the Big Island of Hawaii. It made sense for all of us to rendezvous there for a winter escape. The added bonus was this year our friend was able to round out our group to make it more fun. This was her first time traveling to Hawaii so we got to see all of the things through her eyes and enjoy sharing our favorite places.

We have been to Hawaii several times but never during the month of February so that part was new to all of us. What a treat! We were able to see whales just off the coast as they breached and spy hopped out of the water.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (5)

Snorkeling just about every day gave us plenty of opportunity to see the colorful fish and sea turtles in abundance. I love the feeling of just floating around in the water and watching the turtles as they feed off the coral. One afternoon we boarded a boat and did some serious snorkeling in Kealekekua Bay.  The conditions weren’t perfect, but we still saw plenty of interesting things including a puffer fish.

Akaka Falls Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (8)

The day the weather was gray and a little misty, we ventured to the Hilo side of the island.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We hiked to Akaka Falls which are amazing and the walk down to them is lined with all sorts of interesting plants.

Hawaii Volcanoes Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Later that day we made it over to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The internet has been full of images of the lava lake and the lava spilling over into the ocean so we were hoping to see this in person. We were able to see the actual lava lake in the caldera of Kilauea but we weren’t prepared for the 8 mile round trip hike to see the lava “fire hose” going into the ocean. The weather was turning rainy too so we decided we would be satisfied with the lava that we could observe from the museum’s lookout. Totally worth it!

Coffee Tree Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We visited an actual Kona coffee farm for a tour and tasting. The experience was even more special because we saw cardinals singing and a chameleon hiding in an orange tree.

Chameleon Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

I never thought I would see a chameleon up close like that and they are amazing creatures.

Sea Turtles Waikoloa Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We did lots of beach walking in Waikoloa where we were staying but you need to put aside your preconceived idea of what a “beach” is to do that. These are not white sand beaches but rather black lava rock with coral washed up on the shore. It was fun to do beachcombing and we nearly always saw whales off shore and sea turtles sleeping on the beach.

I squeezed in some nature journaling time while there and I have a short list of things to research and record now that I am home. I will be sharing my journal entries in a separate post next week!

Sometimes taking a trip is not really a vacation but this one allowed me to relax, spend active and quiet time in nature, and enjoy the company of my family and friends.


Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Just a Note about the Cost of Traveling

We make our trip fit our budget by taking advantage of air miles for free tickets, researching condos for the perfect location and amenities, cooking almost all our own meals, and then planning activities that are within our financial reach. Also, traveling with other family members and friends allows us to split costs like food, gas, and the condo. Our condo had snorkel gear, chairs, beach umbrella, and boogie boards for us to use while we were there, so check into that benefit if you are thinking about booking a condo on the islands.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Read more about my experiences: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

How Do You Join?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this week we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…


Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can use the free monthly newsletter along with the Handbook of Nature Study book for your nature study. Adding a membership gives you access to the Ultimate Naturalist Library’s ebooks and printablse which provides members with even more in-depth studies each month.

Read more about it!

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Burdock Nature Study

Burdock Plant 8

Here is our burdock nature study happy to have had a chance to see it in person!

Hiking in Utah we saw an area with these plants that had HUGE leaves. I was intrigued and took a photo so I could later look it up in my field guide. I had no idea that what I was looking at was first year burdock!

Burdock Plant 1

Later on in the hike, we spotted these blooming plants and I was pretty sure what we were seeing was burdock. I had read all about this plant when I was writing the current ebook and was sort of on the lookout for it in our travels this summer. I apologize for the blurry photos but it had started to rain and we were moving quickly off the mountain.

Burdock Plant 3

Here is a closer look at the leaves.

Burdock Plant 6

And here is the underside of the leaf. It is much whiter than the top of the leaf.

Burdock Plant 4

Here are a couple more images we took to document our discovery.

Burdock Plant 7

In reflection, the plants and flowers are much larger than I anticipated.

The flowers look like prickly balls with purplish color. The flower is ringed with spiny hooks all around.

We noted that the first year leaves are large and wavy looking while the second year plant with the flowers are much smaller and less wavy.

This was a case of preparation in identifying a wildflower/weed…reading up on things and then looking for them when you are out for your Outdoor Hour Challenge time creates such a sense of satisfaction. Since the Handbook of Nature Study was written for a specific region, many of the topics are not found naturally in California. This never stumbles me since I view the time reading and researching topics for future use a very valuable tool in learning more as I go through life.

Did you find some burdock this week?

Cocklebur weed walking trail (3)

But, guess what? We found something right alongside our walking trail that looks remarkably like burdock. We snapped some photos and made some observations.

Cocklebur weed walking trail (7)

Doing some additional research online, we found out that this plant that looks like burdock is a the cocklebur plant!


Both the cocklebur and the burdock plants are in the asteraceae family…which is probably why they have some of the same characteristics.

What a great find and discovery!

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Family Weed Study (No Teasel Here)

Teasel New York Trip
The first teasel I ever saw was in New York at Anna Botsford Comstock’s cottage on Cayuga Lake.


This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge was to look for and observe some Teasel. We were not expecting to see any teasel this week and we didn’t…not too disappointed and we didn’t let it stop us from taking some hikes to see some other weeds with prickles and interesting flowers.

yellow star thistle

We observed something with prickles….Yellow Star Thistle. This is a menace in our neighborhood and I immediately pull it out by the roots if I see it in my yard. We have friends that have a honey business and they insist that star thistle honey is the best. It is very light tasting and is one of my favorites.

curly dock 1

We also observed some Curly Dock. It is so colorful in the landscape right now. (More information on Cal Flora.)

curly dock 2

Sometimes you just need to go with whatever subjects present themselves.

King Fire Sunday

We are experiencing the King wildfire in our area which is a little scary. Each day we looked at the smoke and clouds and wondered how far it would come our way. Some of our friends were evacuated but so far we are safe here at home. The drought conditions in California are so severe and those dry conditions coupled with heat and windy afternoons make for perfect “fire weather”. This is from the bottom of my road.

King Fire Wednesday

This is from yesterday in town looking towards the fire. They call those clouds above the smoke “pyrocumulous“.


We are all praying for the fire to be contained and for all those evacuees to be allowed home to their homes. My husband is working on this fire but is in management with a job behind the scenes at base camp. He is tired but doing okay…this is what they do and they are accustomed to being under stress in emergency situations.

Hope you had a chance to get outside and look for some teasel or other weeds this week!



OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover Button

This Outdoor Hour Challenge is included in the new Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook. It is only one of fifteen nature study topics included along with notebook pages and coloring pages. If you have an Ultimate or Journey level membership, you will find this ebook in your library!

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Family Salvia Flower Study

Salvia Flower Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

We were so excited to start the new series of Outdoor Hour Challenges this week with the Salvia Flower Study.We even went out and purchased a new type of salvia to begin our study with.

I was interested in researching more about salvia and the name “scarlet sage” as listed in the Handbook of Nature Study lesson.

Salvia Study 1

We tried to observe a bee in our salvia but not this time. We did talk about how the bee needs to duck inside to reach the nectar wells.

Now that I am looking at these images in a large format on my computer, I can see the fuzziness of the salvia which is just like the sage we have in our front yard.

Salvia Study 3

The leaves on our two different salvia plants are completely different.


Our autumn flowers have been a little slim pickins this year. But there have been some surprises around the yard, including this sunflower that came from a seed that fell from the birdfeeder right into a pot on my back deck. I wasn’t sure it was going to actually bloom but here it is!

sunflower pollen (4)

It is gorgeous and we enjoyed watching the bees visit it…no wonder! There is so much pollen coming from this sunflower that they can actually just bathe in it as they fly in and out.

sunflower pollen (1)

Look at that pollen!

Zinnias (2)

These zinnias are from my dad’s garden…he had saved seeds from last year and sprinkled them in his flower bed a few months ago. Now, they are blooming like crazy with a variety of flowers that dazzle the eye.

lantana (1)

He also has a bank next to his driveway that he has filled with different colors of lantana. This one is my mom’s favorite color and the hummingbirds and butterflies love it too. This is a great plant to have in your garden to attract birds and insects for observation. (Note to self…plant lantana when we can have a garden again.)

backyard nature  (1)

Our little explorers were more interested in watching birds this week and not going on a flower hunt. Maybe next time….

backyard nature  (4)

We also looked at ants this week since there was a whole nest of them under a rock we turned over to look for insects. Can you believe all the leaves that have fallen already in my backyard?

marigold sketch (2)

I forgot to take photos of their flower drawings but here is mine.

Insect sketch

Here is a sketch that one of the boys did of a black widow spider. He had seen one in his garage and decided to draw it using a book I have on how to draw insects.

It was a really great week observing flowers as the autumn season starts. We will continue to keep our eye on flowers as we work through the next few flower challenges.

OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover Button

This Outdoor Hour Challenge is included in the new Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook. It is only one of fifteen nature study topics included along with notebook pages and coloring pages.  If you have an Ultimate or Journey level membership, you will find this ebook in your library!

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Our Summer Tree – Mystery Continues


Summer Tree leaves and sunlight

I am continuing our study of the mystery tree…our year-long tree study that we began in springtime. I am frustrated about its identity and have spent lots and lots of time scouring my field guides and the internet for just what kind of tree this is in our yard. I know it is not a native tree which only complicates matters.

Leaf of summer tree

Here is the leaf.

Bark of summer tree

Here is the bark.

Summer Tree

Not much to go on since it doesn’t currently have flowers, seeds, or pods.

Summer tree mystery tree

I got excited when I found this tree, the Hardy Rubber tree. It looks like the right bark and leaf but the rubber tree doesn’t turn color in the fall like my mystery tree.

Here is a link to our spring entry: Our Spring Tree – Officially Starting a New Tree Study.

Something I recently learned about another tree in our yard, the tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). It is a host tree for swallowtail butterflies! I love that I have a great habitat for the caterpillars right in my front yard among my other butterfly, bird, and bee habitat. Read more about hunting for swallowtail caterpillars in this post over at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

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Evening Walk – No Mosquitoes

We set out to look for and observe some mosquitoes (as part of the OHC Mosquito nature study) a couple of evenings this week with no luck. I know…sad to NOT observe any mosquitoes which is a weird thing to say. We even sat by the little slow moving stream where we thought for sure we would find some mosquitoes but there wasn’t a single mosquito to be seen.

Instead, we decided to look at all of the interesting things we could find along the trail and here are a few of our images.

Deer at sunset

The deer are all coming in close to town because of the drought. This one was peacefully grazing along the trail in a meadow.

Queen annes lace june 2014 (3)

The Queen Anne’s Lace is blooming all over the place…not very tall this year but lots of flowers to enjoy.

Queen annes lace june 2014 (2

There are Sweet peas blossoming as well…seen slightly in the background of this image.

Queen annes lace june 2014 (1)

Here is a side view of the Queen Anne’s Lace…so very interesting!

toyan berry (3)

The Toyan berry is blossoming right now…this will be covered in red berries come the late fall.

manzanita (2)

The Manzanita is developing berries…I love the way they look.

Pond water with Fish @handbookofnaturestudy

I have the privilege of taking care of two little boys this summer…a little each week. We are going to be doing some of the Outdoor Hour Challenges together since they are avid outdoor kids and love anything that creeps, hops, and slithers. I took over some pond water for them and along with the water I also got four little fish in the jar. These boys spent some time finding a little aquarium, cleaning it up and watching the fish. I was not successful in capturing some mosquito larvae like I had hoped but the boys still had a blast with the little fish. It is going to be a fun nature study summer with them.

We have been spending lots of time outdoors in the evenings so maybe we will eventually see some mosquitoes.