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Homeschool Ocean Nature Study and Marine Biology Resources

Looking for some help in starting a homeschool ocean nature study or marine biology with your children? Wanting to learn more about tide pools? Looking for help with homeschool lesson plans? Not sure what to do or where to get started?

A homeschool ocean nature study is a fun and exciting family activity. With resources for a marine biology, exploring tidal pools and more!

Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them.

Psalm 69:34

Ocean Nature Study, Ocean Life, Tide Pools, and Aquariums: A Great Marine Biology Unit Study

I’m going to pull together the ocean nature study resources and materials that I found planning our study of marine biology. My boys used these ideas while homeschooling high school but much of the information is absolutely appropriate for younger students. I invite you to read more about how families can learn about marine life together. Tricia has a resource on Homeschool Marine Biology for Multiple Ages.

With a little effort, you can make a homeschool ocean study a fun and exciting family activity.

I am a huge fan of interest driven learning for life. My boys have had an interest in the ocean since they were very little. Not only were they curious about the typical things like sharks and dolphins, but they also wanted to know more about the things that are often hidden from sight deep under the ocean’s surface. As a homeschooling family, we were able to create opportunities to follow their interests, to feed the curiosity that they had about ocean life.

In high school, we made a more formal study of marine biology. All of their previous experiences with ocean creatures in real life were connected together as we worked through this curriculum. They had memories of so many of the topics from personal and up close observations. There could have been no better way to learn these things.

“One is completely stunned by the incredible resourcefulness of the Creator.”

~Carolus Linnaeus, creator of the modern biology classification system

I love when we can combine our personal interests into our homeschooling plans. Our family thoroughly enjoyed our year focusing on an ocean nature study and marine biology because we made it fit our learning styles. It gave us a legitimate excuse to take trips to the ocean, combining school subjects and pleasure. Sometimes it felt like we were having too much fun to call it “school” but that is the freedom that homeschooling gives us.

A homeschool ocean nature study is a fun and exciting family activity. With resources for a marine biology, exploring tidal pools and more!

Homeschool Marine Biology Lesson Plan

Our family used a textbook as the spine for our ocean nature study and marine biology study. In addition, we used some more specific resources that fit the learning styles of our children including a scientific coloring book, field guides, and an additional activity book.

The books and resources we used are listed below. Please note these are Amazon affiliate links to products I have used, owned, and loved.

We used Exploring Creation with Marine Biology (Tricia’s review) as our basic textbook with our high school age boys. This text is a perfect fit for our family and we enjoyed the topics, the information, and the sequence of learning. Each week we learned something new and interesting that we could draw from on our field trips.

Note: If your children are younger, you could use Apologia’s Exploring Creation: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. (Tricia’s review)

As a supplement we used the Marine Biology Coloring Book for our notebooks. I have one visual spatial learner who learned so much from using this coloring book. It’s so much more than just a coloring book and has high school level information that supplements the text above. I highly recommend using it alongside any marine biology text you choose.

These Outdoor Hour Challenges are a nice complement to your Homeschool Ocean Nature Study:

Tide Pool Life Nature Journal Page Set

Tide pooling is a great family activity for your ocean nature study and can be incorporated into field trips and vacations!

Tide Pool Life Notebook Page Set is included with Homeschool Nature Study membership. This is a larger set (14 new pages) of notebooking pages for you to use to learn more about tide pool life. These pages will fit in nicely with lessons and research of note only tide pools, but also marine biology, invertebrates, the beach, and swimming things.

Handbook of Nature Study Seashore course

Seashore Homeschool Nature Study for Tidal Pools

There are pages for:

  • Barnacle
  • Chiton
  • Clam
  • Crab
  • Hermit Crab
  • Kelp
  • Limpet
  • Mussel
  • Sand Dollar
  • Sea Anemone
  • Sea Cucumber
  • Sea Slug
  • Sea Snail
  • and Sea Urchin

With a little preparation, exploring tide pools can be a great hook for additional ocean nature study. Once we observed something in its natural setting, our boys were eager to identify it and learn more.

Listed below are some of our many family tide pooling adventures.

Additional Homeschool Marine Biology Resources

I kept these resources on our nature shelf during our ocean nature study of marine biology. They were used often as we created nature journal pages after our beach and tide pool experiences.

Golden Guide Seashore Life

Seaside Naturalist

Seashore – Northern and Central California

101 Questions About the Seashore

marine biology aquarium field trips

Homeschool Nature Study Ocean Field Trips: Aquariums and Snorkeling

  • Oregon Coast Aquarium – We visited this museum just a few weeks ago and it was fantastic! The aquarium displays are gorgeous…a mixture of art and natural beauty. I printed out the field trip packet and we all completed the pages as we visited the aquarium.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium – This is the premier aquarium on the California coast. We love the setting and the layout of this aquarium. The “backstage” programs are well worth the effort of planning ahead.
  • Then we introduced the boys to snorkeling while on a trip to Hawaii. This added a new dimension to their personal experience with fish of the coral reef. It was exciting for them to swim with the fishes! Read about it here: Hawaiian Fish in My Nature Journal.

Hands On Homeschool Lessons for the Seashore

Our sister website, You ARE an ARTiST, has many ocean and seashore art lessons that go well with any marine biology study, including a whole section of sharks!

  • Starfish
  • Sand Castle
  • Sea Turtle
  • Crab
  • Clown Fish
  • Sand Bucket
  • Jellyfish
  • Night Shark
  • Undersea World

Our Homeschool Nature Study members enjoy a sand castle art lesson in their Seashore course!

More Homeschool Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenges for the Whole Family

You will find hundreds of homeschool nature studies plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges 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!

Take advantage of the opportunity, especially in high school, to feed your child’s passions. We never regretted our decision to include a formal study of marine biology into our sons’ teen years.

You never know where your study will take you!

If you have any resources you have used in your study of marine biology, feel free to leave me a comment sharing the titles or ideas.

A homeschool ocean nature study is a fun and exciting family activity. With resources for a marine biology, exploring tidal pools and more!
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Channel Islands National Park – Tips and Images


This month I will be sharing another of the Western United States’ National Parks. The Channel Islands National Park is one many are not aware of and no little about its beauties.

Channel Islands National Park – link to the official website. There are many things to do if you visit this national park like hiking, camping, kayaking, whale watching, diving, and learning more about the plants and animals that make their home here.

Our family visited in 2008 as part of a trip to the coast of California. We stayed a couple nights in Santa Barbara and then went down to Ventura where we could catch a ferry boat to the Channel Islands. On the mainland in Ventura, California there is a Visitor’s Center that has telescopes where you can look out over to the islands but not much else.

For the rest of the entry…click back to an archived entry to see super images and lots of details.

Channel Islands National Park

You can read more in this series of posts to learn more about specific national parks:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Redwoods National Park

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Hawaiian Fish in My Nature Journal

Fish are a more difficult nature study topic for our family than I expected! We have been several places where there are fish but we have not seen any up close and personal. Since last week’s challenge was to draw fish, I remembered that I had a journal page with a variety of fish so I decided to share that with you.
Which led me on a merry chase to find some images to share with you too!

I drew lots of fish in my nature journal last November (2012) during our trip to Hawaii. We went snorkeling quite a few times and I was trying to keep a record of some of the more beautiful fish we encountered. Snorkeling is a fantastic way to observe fish in their natural environment which on the Big Island of Hawaii is the coral reef.

All of the photos in this post are from the past….once I started digging through old photos I actually found quite a few to share with you.

Snorkeling is one of those activities that all my children enjoy. It is a really frugal way to spend time in the water and have nature study at the same time! We taught all the kids to snorkel in the swimming pool and when they felt comfortable we ventured into the ocean. My kids are all confident swimmers and they all caught on really fast. We rented their gear the first time but now we all have our own and we pack it along for every trip.

We have seen many fantastic things snorkeling like Green Sea Turtles, eels, Spinner Dolphins, and a rainbow of tropical reef fish. There is nothing more surreal than swimming along side by side with a big sea turtle. They are just as curious about you as you are about them!

My favorite are the Yellow Tangs! There can be whole schools of them along the reef if you are lucky. I think these photos are from the Big Island, Kona side at a place called Kahalu’u. The water is shallow, there is a sandy entrance and it is perfect for beginners to try. This is where I learned to snorkel.

This is a video I found on YouTube and it gives you a really good idea of what snorkeling at Kahalu’u is like…including what it sounds like. All those little snapping sounds are what you hear and if you want to know what it is you can click over here: Little Pistol Shrimp...

This is our favorite place to snorkel on the Big Island of Hawaii….Honaunau Bay or Two-Step Beach.  It is an easy two steps into the water from the rock’s ledges. It is an amazing place…can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here is the view from the shore looking out into the bay. This was a busy weekend afternoon and there are lots of people enjoying the snorkeling. My boys are in the center of the photo walking on the rocks. The water you see off the rocks is a calm area where there are lots of fish and sea turtles. You can see a person sitting on the edge of the rocks towards the left side of the photo and that is where the ledge is to step into and out of the water easily.

The last time we were here there was a pod of resting spinner dolphins just out in the bay. Amazing!

Moorish Idol

I wish I knew the names of all the fish but I decided it is a life project and try to learn a few new fish each time we snorkel. I purchased a field guide and page through it to identify fish I remember seeing.

Some of the fish are really big and don’t seem afraid of you at all.

Some fish swim in large schools and even though the photos don’t show it, they sparkle and shimmer in the sunlight. Sometimes if the light is just right, you see lots of fish and can get carried away swimming after them.

So even though I haven’t found any fish this week to draw in my nature journal, I had lots of fun going through all my images from past snorkeling trips to share with you. I encourage you to try snorkeling if you ever have the opportunity.

Have you seen any fish this week?

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Oregon Camping – Beaches, Tall Trees, and Tidepools

We all were aching to get on the road and start our week long camping trip in Oregon. Part of the joy of driving to Oregon are the views along the Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast. Amazing! The photo above is between Arcata and Crescent City along a stretch of the coast that at this time of year is ablaze with lupine…the fragrance is divine as you walk through the vegetation to the sandy beach.

When the boys get out onto to the sand for the first time it is pure joy! They stretch their legs after a long car ride and enjoy the Northern California wide open sandy beaches. We walked a long way, looking for beach treasures as we went. Then it was back into the car for the last leg of the trip over the California/Oregon border and up to Brookings and our beloved Harris Beach.

Yes! This is our campsite this year which overlooks the Pacific Ocean…looking westward and perfect for watching the sun go down each day. We were surprised at how light it was late into the evening…sunset was about 9 PM each day but it was light much longer than that.

Two of the days we were there we were able to take advantage of the negative tide and do some serious tidepooling.

Lots and lots of anemones to be seen…large and small!

Look carefully in this image and you can see the sea star’s “feet” that are clinging to the rocks at low tide. There were so many sea stars of many colors, sizes, and types. I love being able to see up close all the things we learned about from books.

I brought along a Stomp Rocket for the family to use on the beach. This was a fabulous idea and the boys (and mom and dad) each had turns stomping the rocket and watching it propel off down the beach.

We spent many, many hours walking the beaches and collecting colorful rocks…sometimes my pockets were all filled to capacity. I enjoyed sorting my rocks by colors on the picnic table at the campsite. I left them out each night and in the morning the dew would make them shiny and shimmery again.

These were my favorites…the red, green, and gray ones.

I also like this colorful kind which sort of looks like wood. I have a couple more rock related entries to share with you next month as part of my nature study goals and collecting various kinds of rocks. This was a great way to keep nature study at the forefront of our a good goal.

Mr. A was my fellow photographer at the tidepools. He was willing to really get out where he might slip and get wet to capture some great images of his own. He uses his cell phone camera and they turn our really great.

Here is a shot of my other photography buddy…Mr. D. He is more of an artist with his camera and takes his time to get just the right shot with the right setting. His images are amazing. This was also the very first time that our Kona dog has gone camping with us. She settled right in and had a great time. The wonderful thing about Oregon is that dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are on a leash. She was able to take every hike with us…love Oregon!

We spent two different days in the redwoods hiking in the quiet stillness. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was so very refreshing. I already miss it. I am checking off another new hike on my 2013 Nature Study Goals, two down and two to go!

Can you just imagine how far you can walk on this Oregon beach? It was a windy day but it wasn’t cold so we took advantage of the open space and just roamed for a very long time. (I collected a few rocks too.)

Hello Mr. Snail!

Oh wow! These ferns were amazing! I loved seeing the black stems and the graceful way the fronds grow.

Aren’t they just incredibly pretty? I knew that our California Maidenhair fern had a black stem so I though maybe they were related. I looked it up when we got home and sure enough! This is the Northern Maidenhair fern.

On our last day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has a wonderful visitors center. We spent some time viewing all the nature displays and gathered some pamphlets for future use. We had a picnic lunch and then adventured out to the beach which is so very beautiful. Driftwood, dune plants and flowers, and a nice sandy beach are just what we needed to end our trip on a high note.

We were so happy that our trip turned out with gorgeous sunny skies for the majority of the week. We were able to do a lot of hiking, a lot of exploring, and enjoyed each other’s company while visiting the Southern Oregon Coast.

Until next time….

Have you seen the new product over at If you own a Lifetime Membership over on Debra’s website, you can log into your account on and download your set right now. If you aren’t already a member over there, you can purchase the set separately or I would highly recommend a Lifetime Membership so you can access all of the 1000’s of notebooking pages she has to offer. ($4.95 for the set or get started with your membership with $10!)

Marine Invertebrates Notebooking Pages

Please note I am an affiliate for and have used the notebooking pages with my family for years!

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Southern Oregon Beaches – Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

Our recent trip to Oregon let us sample the different kinds of beaches there are along this section of the Pacific Coast. The coast of Southern Oregon has become our summer getaway of choice. We enjoy the break from the hot temperatures at home and we cooled off with the misty foggy days of the Oregon summer.

Would you like to see some of the beaches we visited along with some of the treasures we found to observe and record in our nature journals?

McVay Rock tidepools and rocks (6)

Let’s start off with the most southerly location we visited, a little gem of a beach with lots and lots of agates and pebbles, McVay Rock. This has become one of my favorite rock beaches and it has tidepools too! The boys enjoyed searching for the most colorful or interesting rocks. This was a great location to start our Outdoor Hour Challenge on Rocks. Although we didn’t examine any granite, we took advantage of the time to closely examine some other rocks.

Whaleshead Beach (16)

On the other side of Brookings, Oregon we spent some time exploring Whaleshead Beach. The sun was out and we walked the sand, climbed over rocks, and watched the sea birds flying.

Whaleshead Beach (13)
There were colorful flowers and grasses growing along the rocky cliffs. It hardly seems possible that this dudleya can grow right on the rocks but it does.

Pistol River (8)
This is a close-up of another beach we visited at the Pistol River in Oregon. It was early morning and we had the beach to ourselves. We had to walk over sand dunes and then over a flat area to get to the shore. There were lots and lots of empty shells…the birds must feast here when the time is right.

Pistol River (2)
Here is a view down the beach with the shorebirds in the distance poking their beaks in for a morning meal. We have friends that come here to go clamming but we were just on a refreshing beach walk as we traveled up the coast.

Bullards Beach Sunset Kite
Here is another beach we camped at on our trip, Bullards Beach near Bandon, Oregon. This image is in the evening and if you look closely you can see horses in the distance and a family having a bonfire up sheltered in the pile of driftwood.

Bullards Beach (11)
Here is another section of the beach early in the morning. Look at all that driftwood!

Bullards Beach lighthouse
This is the lighthouse at Bullards Beach and you can see the sandy dunes and grasses that border the actual shore. Behind the lighthouse is the Pistol River outlet which is where all the driftwood comes from during certain parts of the year.

Cape Arago (3)
Farther up the coast, we visited Cape Arago and Simpson Reef. It was a wet day but we braved the rain to observe the sea life down on the rocky islands. I had my binoculars and we were able to see sea lions resting on the rocks and in the water.

Rock and Shell Nature Journal (3)
Rocks and shells are rather difficult to draw in my nature journal. It is an exercise in slowing down and really looking at the object before you put your pencil or pen to the page.

Rock Shell Collection
We had a great time looking for rocks on this trip. Not much granite to look at but we did see many things to capture our interest and to look up in our field guides.

Just looking at these photos makes me want to turn around and go back to Oregon.

You can find other rock related challenges here on the Handbook of Nature Study blog.
Quartz Study
Sand and Soil
Salt Study

If you are interested in more of our Oregon Coast adventures, here are some links.

Oregon Coast Trail

Have you seen the new product over at If you own a Lifetime Membership over on Debra’s website, you can log into your account on and download your set right now. If you aren’t already a member over there, you can purchase the set separately or I would highly recommend a Lifetime Membership so you can access all of the 1000’s of notebooking pages she has to offer. ($4.95 for the set or get started with your membership with $10!)

Marine Invertebrates Notebooking Pages

Please note I am an affiliate for and have used the notebooking pages with my family for years!

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Oregon Coast – Tidepools of Wonder

Spending time on the Southern Oregon Coast has become one of our favorite family destinations. I gave the men the choice of where they wanted to go camping and they unanimously chose Brookings, Oregon. Harris Beach State Park to be exact…..same as last year. There is something nice about really knowing a place, returning to see favorite beaches and then having some new adventures as well.

Low Tide Harris Beach Oregon
This photo shows how low the tide was for us…you can clearly see the normal waterline.

We hit the low tides of the year again so there were plenty of opportunities to tidepool in the early mornings. Surprisingly, there was not one morning of fog the whole time we were camping there so it was easier to get up early to hike down to the beach and explore.

Following my own advice, I gathered our field guides which included our new field guide for seashore life. We had paged through this one quite thoroughly and became a little more familiar with what we might see in the tidepools and along the shore. Our efforts paid off and we spotted some new things as we tidepooled.

Sunflower Star Harris Beach
We saw several sunflower stars and they are amazing creatures. We even watched one crawling!Can you see the tracks in the sand where he has moved? Really awesome to see in real life.

Cramped Quarters Purple Sea stars and Anemones
Everyone tries to hold tight when the tide lowers so here you can see many sea creatures crammed into the crack in the rock. I love the purple Ochre sea star.

Harris Beach Purple Snails
Yes, these are living creatures too. They have little snails inside and you can see them moving when you stand still. There were hundreds of these all over the rocks.

Harris Beach Tidepools Limpets
These are some kind of limpet which is also a sea creature. It has a tongue or radula that it uses to each algae off the rocks.

Tar Spot Algae
This is one we would have missed if we hadn’t studied our field guide before going down to the beach. It is Tar Spot and is a kind of algae. Cool huh?

Green Anemones
Can you say anemone? Look at this colony on the shore rocks…..amazing.

Gumboot Chiton
Here is another new creature for us and it is really alive! It is a Gumboot chiton and it has a large muscular foot attached. Our field guide says it can live for 20 years!

Leather Chiton Harris Beach
Another chiton, this time a Leather chiton. These were new to use last year and we knew just where to look on the rocks to see them. They look like rocks but they too are a living creature.

I will save our Coast Trail hiking for another post and I also have Redwoods National Park hikes to share as well. Stay tuned!

Harris Beach Sunset

Just another perfect Oregon Coast sunset…..we watched the sunset every day on our trip. There is just something amazing about being still and quiet, waiting for the moment when the sun dips below the horizon. Peaceful.

Hope you have many a summer sunset to watch.

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Low Tide Marine Life: Southern Oregon Coast

Southern Oregon Low Tide Marine Life @handbookofnaturestudy

We had an opportunity while on our Oregon Coast camping trip to take advantage of an extremely low tide to view spectacular marine creatures easily. We have done quite a bit of tide pool exploring in the last couple of years but this was by far the most awesome experience ever.

The colors of the marine life are shockingly beautiful with their pinks, bright greens, oranges, and purples. I will share a few of my favorite photos from the experience.

Tidepool with anemones and sea stars
Sea stars and anemones were everywhere you looked, the most I have ever seen in one place.

Sea star really close up
We all loved getting a close up view of the sea stars and feeling their textures. We each had a favorite color.

Leather Star 2
This was the first time we saw this particular kind of sea star, a leather star and it was really interesting to look at. He sort of looks like he is waving to us in this photo.

Sun star
How about this sun star?

Orange snail
There were also loads and loads of barnacles, mussels, and snails. I think the orange one is THIS. I think the striped one is THIS.

Talk about mussels…..some rocks were just covered in them.

Leather chiton
This was the most fascinating creature that we observed during the low tide. The leather chitons were exposed on the rocks and we could really get up close. Yes, it is a living creature.

Red worm
One morning we were out in the tide pools there was a volunteer naturalist helping answer questions. It was a treasure to have her there and we spent quite a bit of time exploring side by side. She was a wealth of information and I learned so much more by watching her movements and looking in places she suggested. She pointed out this worm. I think it might be this red ribbon worm.

Sea birds
It was an interesting perspective to see the sea grasses laying down flat because of the lack of water. The sea birds were having a delicious breakfast as they sat on the rocks. Even though it looks like the water is really close, we never got wet. Someone was always watching to see when the water was moving back in but we had plenty of time to rock hop and examine this habitat very closely.

Sea stars
The memories of this tidepool adventure will be with us for a very long time.

Mr D at the tidepool
It was such a moving experience and we all felt blessed to have been able to take advantage of the opportunity.

I will try to post some of the photos from our hikes in the redwoods soon….awesome in a different way. If you are wondering what beach this is, we were at Harris Beach in Brookings, Oregon. I highly recommend this state park for camping and exploring the southern Oregon coast.

Have you seen the new product over at If you own a Lifetime Membership over on Debra’s website, you can log into your account on and download your set right now. If you aren’t already a member over there, you can purchase the set separately or I would highly recommend a Lifetime Membership so you can access all of the 1000’s of notebooking pages she has to offer. ($4.95 for the set or get started with your membership with $10!)

Marine Invertebrates Notebooking Pages

Please note I am an affiliate for and have used the notebooking pages with my family for years!

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Oregon Coast Trail-What Are You Waiting For?

Western Azalea

We spent four days hiking several sections of the Oregon Coast Trail……a trail that extends from the California border to the Washington border along the Pacific Ocean.
Thunder Rock Indian Sands Campsite Day 5 (12)
This trail has some fabulous and surprising views and the sections we hiked were mostly within the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor. If you ever have the chance to even hike a mile or so along this trail, grab it and enjoy the tall trees, the green ferns, and the views of the rugged and awesome Oregon Coast.

Harris Beach 1
We camped at Harris Beach and four out of the five evenings were just like this….clear, sunny and filled with beautiful waves. We walked on the beach every night after dinner and then we would go back to the campsite and build a big campfire and roast marshmallows.

Thunder Rock Indian Sands Campsite Day 5 (48)
The first section we hiked started at Indian Sands and just like its name suggests, it has some huge sand dunes. The trail is a little sketchy at some points and you have to really hunt for signs but it is worth the effort. The dunes were perfect for running down or rolling down if you preferred.

Just around the corner from the dunes, the trail turns into a narrow path through wildflowers and Sitka spruce. Yes, that is the trail right along the cliff’s edge. It was a spectacular section of the trail and the wildflowers are so thick you have a hard time seeing them all. Wild strawberry, Indian paintbrush, wild iris, clover, daisies….I can’t even remember all the different flowers. We came back a second time to rehike this section because it was awesome.

Foxglove 1
The foxglove was dazzling and the forests were dotted with purple blossoms here and there. I love purple.

Another section of the trail leads down to China Beach. The trail was not well worn and was very narrow in sections but the wildflowers were spectacular. I loved this place and spent lots of time looking at all the different wildflowers. While I was busy doing that, the boys were busy doing something else.

Cape Blanco 1
Another day we drove farther north and caught up with the trail at Cape Blanco. It was a little cooler and definitely more windy here and if you look closely in the background of the photo above, you will see the lighthouse. This was a fantastic place with a huge campground. We would like to come back to Cape Blanco some day and camp for a few days to explore more. This time though we hiked the bluffs and then headed down to the beach to see if we could find some tidepools.

Cape Blanco Wildflowers
Monkey flower, clover, and lupine all make a lovely mix of colors.

Cape Blanco Tidepools
We did find a few tidepools and these snails in the splash zone. We watched them climb around for a few minutes and then we had the most fabulous time watching the birds at the beach. We saw mostly crows and turkey vultures but a few swallows, gulls, and songbirds as well.

Thunder Rock Indian Sands Campsite Day 5 (13)
The next morning found us hiking along the section of the Oregon Coast Trail at Thunder Rock. The trees were so thick along the path that it was quite dark and eerie. We had the trail to ourselves and when we broke out of the trees, we saw the view above. A spectacular cove with an arch rock and pretty clear water.

Indian Sands snail on trail
This invertebrate was crossing the path and he was the most beautiful snail that I have ever seen, if that is even possible for a snail to be beautiful.

Thunder Rock Indian Sands
The turn around spot on this section of the trail was a place called Secret Beach. The water was here and the beach, although small, was very nice.

I encourage families to consider a trip to the Oregon Coast and try some of the Oregon Coast Trail….you will not soon forget the beauty and the wonder of this unique place.

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Nature Study is Not a Drill: How I Learn to Be Flexible

“If nature study is made a drill, its pedagogic value is lost. When it is properly taught, the child is unconscious of mental effort or that he is suffering the act of teaching. As soon as nature study becomes a task, it should be dropped; but how could it ever be a task to see that the sky is blue, or the dandelion golden, or to listen to the oriole in the elm!”
Handbook of Nature Study page 6

I know our family would never keep up our interest in learning about the world around us if it wasn’t something we enjoyed. I do think that it takes just one person to get excited about something and then everyone seems to catch the excitement.

I am sometimes that person but more and more it is the boys who are finding and exploring and drawing my attention to things that they see as they are outside. I have learned to follow their lead.

It is a little uncomfortable to just allow things to happen in nature study. There is always the risk that what interests your children will not be something you are interested in or that you know anything about. I can’t tell you how many times that happens in our family. Gradually I have learned the value in allowing some leeway in the topics we learn more about because I can see the growth in my sons’ love for and connection to the world they live in. I hear their appreciation for the complex system of life that was created for us to enjoy and benefit from.

Here is a real life example:
Most of you know we went to Oregon last month as a family vacation and as a way to learn more about marine biology. I had prepared these wonderful notebooks all about invertebrates that inhabit the tidepools of the Oregon coast. Great plan…or so I thought.

As the trip progressed I realized that the children were more interested in marine mammals than in invertebrates. Had I brought a book on marine mammals? Nope. I started to feel a rise of panic as we hit the third day and I was still fascinated by the sea stars and anemones in the tidepools and they were busy finding sea lion bones, watching sea otters play in the water, and sea lions on the rocks.

We decided to stop and go down into the sea cave along the Oregon coast where the Stellar sea lions winter over. The boys were excited to take the elevator down to this cave that is said to be one of the largest sea caves in the world, twelve stories high.

There were no sea lions in the cave at this time of year but pretty soon they will all be back inside after having time out at sea to bulk up for the winter. It was still a fascinating place and the boys were grateful we were willing to stop and pay the price of admission.

I could have made them go along with the original plan but it became clear that this was their experience on this trip. They had seen sea stars before and anemones were cool but they didn’t do too much to really observe. What they wanted was to watch the playful antics of the sea otters and sea lions and harbor seals.

Switching gears happened and by the time we reached Newport and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, they were primed to actually stop and read the signs and information on the displays for the marine mammals. We had printed out the aquarium guide ahead of time and this helped them to go on their own through the aquarium. This was a first for our family. The boys went on their own and my husband and I enjoyed the aquarium by ourselves.

We met three times during the day and each time they were full of things they wanted to talk about and to actually take us to see. The last hour was spent with the boys being the tour guide through the aquarium showing us their favorite things.

Number one on their list were the sea otters. They could have filled a whole research report with the observations they had made watching the sea otters play and be fed and then groom themselves. It was a big lesson for me. They obviously had spent quite a bit of time at the sea otter tank just watching and joyfully getting to know this wonderful creature.

I hope that you will learn from my experience. Nature study can become totally driven by the teacher and become a chore and a drill or it can be a source of excitement and joy as you explore and learn together.

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Coastal Marine Biology: Family Style at the Tidepools

We were able to fit in some time at the tide pools along the Oregon Coast. We have started a study of marine biology this year and it was a perfect time to investigate up close the life in these pockets of water and at the rocky shore line.

The first thing we learned was that we needed to know the high and low tides for each day. It made a big difference in what we would see. One day we timed it just right and we found ourselves all alone at a great area of tide pools.

There had been a storm during the night before and the area was covered in seaweed. The whole beach area was filled in with piles of kelp….mostly bullwhip kelp.

The boys quickly learned how to look carefully in and around the crevices of the rocks for interesting things to view.

We saw anemones.

Hermit Crabs


Sea Stars


Someone in our family got wet because he was not paying attention to the waves coming in. I thought he was going to be stranded out on the rocks but he made it in safely……a little wet though. If you look closely in the photo above, you can see him way out on the rocks.

We all learned so much from this experience and now when we read in our textbook about marine life, we have a better understanding of just what they are talking about.

The Handbook of Nature Study has a few pages of information about marine invertebrates. Page 418 talks about shells of Florida and the East Coast and page 430 has a little information on seashore creatures.

After our tidepool adventure, the boys decided to build a structure with driftwood, rocks, and seaweed. This became a tradition on this trip and they came up with very elaborate ways to build on the beach.

Great memories and a lot of learning.

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