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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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Taking an Autumn Hike and Looking for Signs of Mammals

Have I been studying nature or have I been studying about nature?

“The free open air is the best background for all work in nature study. The conventionalities of the schoolroom fall away. The artificial distance between teacher and pupil disappears, and as friend to friend the group talks. It is this that makes work in nature study at its best so delightful.

The wealth of material is very great, and the suggestions that come from things in their proper places are much more abounding than those that arise in the artificial conditions of the school room.”
Excerpt from The Study of Nature – by Samuel Christian Schmucker. 1908.

Getting outdoors and looking for signs of mammals is an excellent way to learn more about their habits and ways of living. We decided to take a family hike to look for signs of mammals as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. The weather was perfect for a little hike to the river so we headed out the trail, keeping our eyes open for various signs of mammals. We have had quite a bit of rain over the last few days so the ground was actually quite soft and muddy.

Only dog tracks were found….disappointing.

We did see some scat on a log but I restrained myself from taking a photo. It looked like fox scat which is fairly common in our area.

We made it to the river and soaked in the moment while we discussed the lack of tracks. Deciding to shift gears and look for other signs we took another trail back up the to the car. We saw a few cones that the squirrels had munched and few suspicious looking holes among tree roots.

We finally found a spot that had some definite animal holes so we stopped to explore the area a bit.

There were a few holes around three feet apart at the edge of an open area. We didn’t see any distinguishable prints around the holes. They appeared to be around 3 inches wide.

As the boys investigated, they found quite a bit of fur scattered around the area. This is one of the fluffs.

This reminded me of the rabbit fur we found on another trail….but I am now not convinced that it is the same kind of fur. I wish I were better at identifying things.

One thing is for sure. This walk has led to much internet research about our local mammals and narrowing down the possibilities. There is always something to be curious about and something to learn. I keep reminding myself that Anna Botsford Comstock said that we don’t need to feel ashamed when we don’t know something….that makes me feel so much better.

Interesting Link: Ground Holes 

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Oregon Coast Hiking – Picture Perfect

Chetco Point, Brookings OR

I just need to face the facts and accept that my boys are now the family leaders when it comes to hiking. They shoot ahead and find all sorts of things to be interested in as they hike along together. My hubby and I take a slower pace but then again, I am always stopping to capture some of the images that inspire me.

Harris Beach Bunny

This is a photo Mr. B took while we were hiking down to the beach. The rabbits like to hide alongside the trail and since the boys were ahead of us, they spotted the cute little beach bunnies first.

Azaleas Harris Beach

The trail winds down the cliff and the wild azaleas are amazing in June. The pink against the blue backdrop of the ocean and sky is dazzling. This is at Harris Beach State Park….our favorite.

Twin Berries

Here is one of the many types of berries that are to be found on the coast trails. Twinberry Honeysuckle is such a great shape and color. I am going to be drawing it in my nature journal this week as I catch up on my journaling.

Indian Sands Oregon Coast Widlfowers and Ocean

We hiked another section of the Oregon Coast Trail which leads down to the Indian Sands. This area of dunes leads down to a rocky steep coastline and the views both north and south are amazing.

Indian Sands Oregon Coast Wildflowers

Here is a better look at the dunes covered with wildflowers in June. Indian paintbrush, clover, beach strawberries, Douglas irises, lupine, dandelions, yarrow, and many more are found growing low to the sand….it is always windy here so be ready to be blasted with sand if you hike down to the edge.

Salal

Here is a close-up of one of my favorite plants…salal.

Salal Nature Journal with Watercolor Pencils

It made it into my nature journal on this trip. After dinner, I would sit at the picnic table and review with my field guide all the things that we saw that day. I then would pull out my nature journal, watercolor pencils, and my Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip pen and I am all ready to record a special subject from our day. It only takes a few minutes and it is a wonderful way to add another layer to your hiking experiences.

So there you have a glimpse into our coastal hikes which I think we ended up putting in about twenty miles over the course of four days. I can think of no better way to get to know an area.

You can read about our tidepool adventures in this entry: Oregon Coast-Tidepools of Wonder.

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Ideas for Garden Critter Nature Study – June Newsletter Suggestions

Roses in the Garden

As part of the June Newsletter, I suggested that you try to find a garden critter to observe and study using the Handbook of Nature Study. There are already quite a few challenges that feature critters that you may come across in your own garden. Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge does not need to take a lot of time. In fact, I originally started the challenges and expected participants to only spend 10-15 minutes outdoors with their children. You do not need to make your nature study into a unit study or complicated. In fact, the simpler the better since it usually means the children are following their interests. If you already own the Getting Started ebook, you can use the first five challenges along with the suggestions in the June Newsletter.

Here are a few links to challenges that you may wish to think about using as part of the Garden Critter suggestion in the June Newsletter.

Beans and Sunflowers Sprouts

Have fun exploring your garden or yard for something interesting to learn more about in your nature study. You might try to go outside early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperatures are cooler and there may be more critters moving around.

Make sure to follow up your study with the chance for a nature journal entry. Look up the answers to any questions your children may have either in the Handbook of Nature Study or at your local library. After you make your blog entry about your garden critter, submit it to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Remember every entry to the carnival is an entry in my June Newsletter Giveaway for a Squirrel Buster Birdfeeder.

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Desert Walking Again….Just a Glimpse

I can always tell when I am ready for a road trip. It is a very good thing that we live in a place in the world that with some driving we can totally change our environment. From snow to the desert sunshine…I feel so much better.


The desert is getting really close to bursting out in blossoms. This is a cholla cactus putting out its buds.

Here is what the cactus looks like as we hike along in the desert.


I added this photo for those that know how much my husband is into alternative energy. He was amazed at the wind turbines out here in the desert.

A little rock climbing went on. Well, maybe A LOT of rock climbing. How about this natural arch?


Here is one critter that we saw while we were out hiking in the desert…he sat still for a very long time while I took a few photos. If you click on the photo you should be able to see his blue spots.


My husband spotted the desert cottontails in this area of the trail. Very, very cute little mammals to observe!

One last photo….here is the star of our desert hike. The Joshua tree is a unique plant that we are just now starting to get to know.

Winter will soon change to spring. Sigh.

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Rabbit Tracks! Mystery Solved!

Rabbit Tracks in the Snow

Both Jennifer and Theresa suggested that the mysterious fur on our trail could be from a rabbit. I thought they were onto something because the fur was so soft, just like a rabbit’s fur.

We were able to hike the trail on Friday after the big snowfall and we were amazed to see that the trail had many spots that you could clearly see rabbit tracks.

I think our mystery is solved.

Thanks for all the ideas and help in figuring out our mystery fur.

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Beavers, Fur, and Rocks: Our Family’s Outdoor Hour Challenge

This week we took time to review a little bit about beavers since we regularly visit an area where we see evidence of them. If you read my blog regularly, you have seen photos of the beaver lodges and the trees gnawed on by beavers.


My son really enjoyed watching the YouTube videos on beavers and we read the section in the Handbook on muskrats.

Our outdoor time this week was spent exploring an area off the trail we normally take. It led us to what we are now calling Fern Gully. This area is found by following what we think is a deer trail down off the main trail and into a steep little gully. We have heard water running in this area before and we presume that when it rains hard enough there is water running down the rocks. We will test our theory the next chance we get.

Here is another photo looking the other way down the gully.

There are lots of blackberry vines. We are interested to see how this area looks in the summertime. We imagine it being a cool place to sit in the shade. It should be interesting to see how the area changes as the seasons change.

We found more fur on the side of the trail…a lot this time.

We still are puzzled by the fur mystery. I looked at it very closely and it is really fluffy and very soft. It is white…with a slight yellowish color to it. There is no blood or tracks or other signs of struggle. I have no idea where it came from but this is the third spot on the mile and a half trail that we have seen this fur. Last week we began to wonder if it was a dog’s fur but it just doesn’t feel like any dog fur that I have felt before. Someone suggested in a comment that it could be sheep’s wool but it is no way the texture of wool and there are definitely no sheep in this area. Hmmmm…still wondering.


We came across an area that has these wonderful quartz rocks. Really, really pretty.

Here is the backside.

I am so interested in studying rocks but I am nervous about being overwhelmed with trying to identify them. Any suggestions?

Well, that wraps up this post for our Outdoor Hour Challenge this week. We had some adventures and some good questions this week. Last night we had two inches of snow so we were able to complete our Winter Wednesday snow activities from a few weeks ago. I was glad that we had planned ahead of time and had the experiments in our mind as it began to snow. I will post those results soon.

 

Quartz samples

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #44 Mammals: Rabbits and Hares

Outdoor Hour Challenge #44
Mammals: Rabbits and Hares

1. Read pages 214-219 in the Handbook of Nature Study.

In this case, I would actually mark sections to read to your child about rabbits as a way to introduce them to an animal they probably haven’t seen in the wild. You do not need to read the whole section on rabbits but only as much as you think they will be interested in hearing. If you are using The Burgess Book of Animals, you may wish to skip reading from the Handbook of Nature Study to them altogether.

Although few of us will have access to a real rabbit of any sort to study up close, children will enjoy reading about the rabbit and then remembering some facts about rabbits for any future opportunities that may arise. Be creative and see if you can visit a pet shop that has rabbits that you can observe or let others know that you are studying rabbits and they may know someone who owns a rabbit that you can study with your children.

Here is a great link to read with your children that includes photos of the cottontail rabbit as well as images of the rabbit’s tracks.
Cottontail Rabbit

2. Supplemental Reading in The Burgess Animal Book for Children: Read Stories 1-3. After you read each chapter, stop and pause for a little discussion about the animals in each story. See if your child can narrate back to you a few facts about each animal. If narration is new to your child, you may need to prompt them at first but it does get easier as you practice. Use the illustrations if you need to get them started.

“The purpose of this book is to acquaint the reader with the larger groups-orders, families, and divisions of the latter, so that typical representatives may readily be recognized and their habits understood.”
The Burgess Animal Book, Preface

3. Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors on a nature walk. Ask your children where they think that they might see a mammal. If you have snow or mud, look for animal tracks of any kind. Look for any other signs of animals as you walk. Look for gnawing marks on trees and plants. Look for scat or cones or seeds left from a meal.

“The cotton-tail thrives amid civilization; its color protects it from sight; its long ears give it warning of the approach of danger; and its long legs enable it to run by swift, long leaps.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 218

Don’t forget that you can also observe other mammals if you have the opportunity. Cats, dogs, squirrels, and horses may be available. You can draw attention to the similarities and differences between a rabbit and these other mammals. For example: How are a cat’s and a rabbit’s ears different? Why do you think they are different? How are a cat and a rabbit alike? (both have fur, both have four legs, etc.)

4. For your nature journal this week, try sketching two different kinds of rabbits. Use The Burgess Animal Book as a reference or you can Google Cottontail rabbit, Northern hare, Swamp rabbit, Snowshoe rabbit, Jack rabbit. (Please preview before you share with your children because many times the images are of dead rabbits.) As an alternative to a nature journal, see the resources below for printable activities.

Rabbit Lapbook on Homeschool Share
Rabbit Coloring Page

ns_ultimate

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Snowshoe Adventure: Tahoe Snowshoe Hare

This was an outdoor weekend spent in the Sierras. We spent an afternoon taking a hike on snowshoes. It looks really cold and dreary in this photo but it was really not all that cold…above freezing by a few degrees. I could have done with a few less layers. 🙂 I took off my gloves for awhile and that helped. Most people we saw on the trail were on cross country skis but we enjoyed the crunch, crunch , crunch of snowshoes. I was on the lookout for mammal tracks.

We saw lots of canine tracks beside the trail but as we worked our way up from the lake into the conifers, we were rewarded with these tracks.

In this area there were many little “rabbit trails” giving us a clue as to what sort of mammal was in the area. I came home and discovered that they are more than likely Tahoe Snowshoe Hare tracks. (Lepus americanus tahoensis) See snowshoe hare.

We are new to identifying tracks so if anyone thinks they are from a different animal, please leave me a comment.

Not only did we see some mammal tracks but we were treated to a “new to us” bird. The red-breasted nuthatch. He was seen clinging to the side of this pine, sticking his head into little holes looking for some bark insects. He moved easily in all directions while clinging to the bark. Amazing.


Red-breasted nuthatch

I was busy taking photos when a bunch of ducks flew into view. We saw them later eating some seeds that a fellow hiker had left along the shore. They were later joined by a few Canadian geese.

So I think we had a successful outing….we did manage to find some mammal tracks in the snow and that was our aim.

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 217,
” An interesting relative of the cottontail is the varying hare or snow-show rabbit that lives in the wooded regions of north-eastern North America. Of all animals he is one of the most defenseless; foxes, mink, and other flesh-eating inhabitants of the woods find him an easy prey. He has not even a burrow to flee to when pursued by his enemies…..He has one important advantage over his enemies: twice each year his heavy coat of fur is shed. In the summer the coat is a reddish brown that so blends with his surroundings that he is hardly noticeable; in the winter it is perfectly white so that against a background of snow he is nearly invisible.”

Anna Botsford Comstock has included pages 215-219 with information on the cotton-tailed rabbit. I found these pages very useful in coming up with a way to study our snowshoe hare. Even though the information doesn’t completely apply to our hare, we can adapt her activities to our study.

Winter nature study at its best.