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The Ultimate Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Mammal Homeschool Activities Included with Membership

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

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

Can you believe all of these mammals resources you will find in membership? You will also find a continuing series on mammals plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

first published 2011 by Barb and updated by Tricia 2022

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Raccoon and Skunk Nature Study

Summer Raccoon and Skunk Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Summer Raccoon and Skunk Nature Study

From the Archives and from the Summer Nature Study ebook

Are you having fun using all your senses with the Outdoor Hour Challenge? Use the ideas in this week’s challenge to engage your child’s senses as much as possible.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning about these two interesting mammals that are active at night. We’ll probably be focusing on raccoons this time around since we have some that live in our neighborhood.

Make sure to read the lessons in the Handbook of Nature Study as a way of preparing for a future raccoon or skunk sighting.

 

Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Using Your Senses

Join us for this exciting series of nature study topics as we work through the Summer Nature Study – Using Your Senses ebook.

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

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

 

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Mammal Study Big Grid Nature Study

The Handbook of Nature Study newsletter topic this month was a focus on mammals. I was hoping that everyone could find a local mammal not only to learn about but to observe up close.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (3)

I know this is a challenge that depends on creating some opportunities to be in the right place at the right time AND to be ready to seize the time when it happens. Well, I have been keeping my eyes open this month. Here are the results.

 deer november 2015

We spied a deer in our front yard last week…a buck! This was a great reminder that I haven’t completed a nature journal page for our local and very often spotted mammal. This buck was just walking up the street, taking his time, and looking for an easy meal. This is a California mule deer…..this year, especially with the drought, we have seen more and more deer right in our neighborhood.  We have no vegetable garden to speak of so they are not as unwelcome as in the past. They are just trying to survive in a very dry habitat.

Doing research for this entry I found out that it is illegal to feed deer in California: Keep Me Wild Deer.

deer pair buck mammal november 2015 (1)

Then,  we saw these two in our neighborhood this week. The buck was most definitely keeping a close watch on the doe. She seemed annoyed more than anything else. We actually spotted this pair three times this day and the last time she had curled up inside a big leafless bush. He seemed to be trying to get inside the bush too but his antlers were in the way.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (1)

One thing we have seen an increase in is “near misses” as we drive along. I can’t tell you how many times there are deer that leap right out in front of my car. We had an incident just two days ago where we had to slam on the brakes or hit a rather large deer. My husband and I were a little shaken up and our dog riding in the back of the Highlander was knocked over but we all survived. My husband has had two major collisions with deer int he past and we have seen with our own eyes how much damage it can do. With the increase in the population of deer living in so close of quarters with humans and their vehicles, the increase in deer strikes on roads and highways is something to always be aware of in our part of the world.

mammal tracks (2) raccoons

Looking for tracks is easier after a good rainstorm! We drove down by the river after a day of rain and walked along the sandy shore until we found some prints. The ones above where just under the water line in the very shallow water. I couldn’t tell if they were old prints and the water had covered them up or if they were fresh prints where the raccoon had walked in the water?

mammal tracks (4) deer

There were many distinct deer trails along the river and this one is an easy identification with the two hoof marks.

The most useful reminder for me this month from the newsletter is the Mammals Big Grid Study page (page 4). It has lots ideas that can fit any habitat or any level of nature study interest. There are 24 ideas there to choose from or mix and match. If you are a subscriber to the blog, make sure to download and save your newsletter so you will have access to this Big Grid Study page for future reference.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (2)

Other Miscellaneous Mammal Related Experiences This Month

We had fox scat right in our own driveway. I didn’t take a photo….aren’t you glad? We know we have red foxes in our neighborhood but we weren’t able to actually observe any this month.

Squirrels! This is a busy time for squirrels in our neighborhood. We have lots of oaks and they can be spotted scurrying up and down, around and across. I never get tired of watching these little acrobats. We have Western gray squirrels in large numbers in our area. There are also red fox squirrels that visit us in our yard. Both of these squirrels are tree squirrels and can be found in, under, and around our birdfeeders.  You can read my entries on fox squirrels here: Sad Story of Our Walnuts.

Fox Squirrel
This image is from my archives…taken in my front yard.

Here is a link to a mammal nature walk from three years ago that you may be inspired by: Taking an Autumn Hike and Looking For Signs of Mammals.

 Outdoor Hour Challenge Mammal Nature Study Index @handbookofnaturestudy

You can find all of my current mammal related challenges under the “mammal” tab at the top of the website. There are quite a few specific challenges and some free printables for you to use with your mammal study. If you are a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you can find the coordinating notebook pages for each challenge in the ebook noted next to each mammal challenge.

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Summer Raccoons and Skunks

Summer Raccoon and Skunk Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge:

Finish off your summer nature study with this week’s challenge to learn about the raccoon and the skunk. These are both great animals to share with your children, allowing them to learn a few facts for future reference.

Special Activity: Mammals Lapbook from Hearts and Trees

Mammals lapbook @heartsandtrees

This lapbook from Hearts and Trees is a fantastic way to introduce mammals or to dig deeper into a mammal study for your family. Pop over to Hearts and Trees to see all the details.
Getting Started Suggestion:

If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #3.  Take some time this week to work through this challenge and then follow up with a simple drawing in your nature journal. You can record your drawing in your nature journal or use the accompanying notebook page.

Autumn nature study continues cover 2d

Our next Outdoor Hour Challenge will by on September 5, 2014 and we will be starting a BRAND NEW series of nature study challenges from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook. You can find the details for this ebook in this entry: Introducing the Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook. All members of the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships have this ebook ready for download in their download area.

OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover Button

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Florida Nature Study – Exploring a New Habitat

Spending part of my time in Florida immersed in nature study was a highlight of my recent traveling adventure. I prepared ahead of time by purchasing a wonderful book focusing on the Florida Gulf Coast. Wow! There was a lot to be excited about! My trip was specifically to Sanibel and Captiva Islands and then a few days in Naples, Florida. Getting the opportunity to explore a new to me habitat is thrilling!

Since my time was limited but I did have a sweet ride in my friend Tricia’s sponsored car from Kia Optima Hybrid, I wanted to have a general plan for our time outdoors. I narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities and we decided that we would visit Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. We started off in the nature center browsing the exhibits and then I asked at the information desk what they suggested we do to make the best use of our two hours that we had available.

They handed us a map and directed us to take the wildlife drive that wound its way through the refuge and would take about an hour and a half. They also suggested that we drive over to the Bailey Tract and look for gators there.

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

We followed their advice and thoroughly enjoyed our time driving along the one lane road through Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. There were many birds right by the side of the road so we could stop and observe or take photos as much as we wanted. What made it really nice was the fact that the Kia Optima Hybrid is super quiet while running on the battery. We did not scare away the wildlife turning the car on and off….it was awesome.

We saw a mama raccoon and her *four* babies as they walked along the road and then across right in front of us. The whole drive was full of wonderful discoveries like the Roseate Spoonbill and the Anhinga who was sunning himself. What a great time we had and so many memories were made in a short period of time! I was so glad I had taken the time to prepare a little before leaving home.

Alligator and other Reptiles at Bailey Tract

Tricia and I were hoping to see a Florida gator on this trip and we were not disappointed. Along the way we also were treated to many butterflies and a few lizards. I can’t tell you how much fun we had hiking out to look for the alligators. We found one lying in the sun, half in the water and with one eye open. Another item to check off my life list!

South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island

Sanibel and Captiva Islands are known for their fantastic shell beaches. As a native California girl, I have spent my fair share of time at the beach looking for shells, but shelling on these Florida islands is much easier and more rewarding. Tricia and I spent one afternoon walking in the sand, wading in the water, and collecting a few beautiful shells in the Florida sunshine.

Our view from our hotel room was out onto the marina and we saw dolphins a couple of times over the weekend. Two times I saw osprey with fish in their talons flying over the marina. There were nesting platforms along the back side of the beach and one morning I saw some osprey on the their nest. What a great sight!

The Beach at Captiva Island and an Osprey Nest

There were shore birds, skimmers, gulls, sand pipers, pelicans, and plovers. It was a bird fest for this nature loving gal.

Pine Flatwoods at Corkscrew Swamp

Tricia left for home and I met another longtime friend at the second location I was able to explore. I stayed in Naples, Florida and was able to visit Corkscrew Swamp Sactuary. There are miles of boardwalks to investigate as they make their way through a variety of habitats. Slash pine and baldcypress were the main trees but there were some palms and saw palmetto too. The sound of birds singing and the cries of Red-shouldered hawks overhead were the soundtrack for the morning. We also learned to identify the Gray catbird by its call.

Epiphytes or Air Plants

We hiked the complete trail loop and took our time as we stopped to use binoculars and video to try to identify the various birds. There were naturalists out on the trail as well and they were super helpful in giving us information and help when we couldn’t identify a bird. This place was awesome and another place I highly recommend if you ever visit the gulf coast of Florida.

I was overwhelmed by all the things to take in…from the overall impression of the new to me habitat to the calls of some really big birds like the Great Blue Heron and the Anhinga. We saw more gators, squirrels, and more new birds to add to my life list like the Great crested flycatcher, the Pileated woodpecker, and the Carolina wren…all very exciting! I was able to use my iPhone to identify or confirm our sightings and then use the notes section on the phone to keep track of their names. Sometimes technology has its place in nature study and this was one time I was super glad to have it along.

Anhinga and Great Egret

One last stop on my whirlwind nature study adventure…the mangroves at Clam Pass Beach Park. My friend who lives in Naples was able to fit that into our day right at sunset. We walked part of the trail and then rode the shuttle the rest of the way…finding the sun just starting to set and people gathering to try to observe the infamous “green flash” at sunset. We soaked in the mangroves and I saw my first ever Blue jay (we have Scrub jays and Steller’s jays here in California).

Bald Cypress at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Florida

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to include some nature study and hiking into my trip to Florida. What a rich experience I had between the wildlife refuge, the beach time, and the time spent wandering the Florida swamps and mangroves.

I have already recorded my time in my nature journal….I did a quick sketch of the view from our window while in Florida and then finished it up at home with watercolors and details from my notes. I have the memories all tucked away in my heart and in a few good photos.

Would like to see some of Tricia’s Florida nature study images? Pop over to read her entry on her blog: Hodgepodge. While you are over there…check out her review of the Kia Optima Hybrid!

Kia Optima Hybrid Review

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Nighttime Critters – Our List from the July Newsletter

Chiminea
Summer evenings outdoors….with our chiminea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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OHC Summer Series #12: Raccoons and Skunks

Summer Series #12
Raccoons and Skunks

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Observe any mammal up close: fur, teeth, ears, eyes, paws. Use a flashlight to see if you can see eye-shine in the dark.
  • Smell: Close your eyes and smell the night air. Can you smell a trace of skunk?
  • Touch: Feel different kinds of mammal’s fur and compare: soft, bristly, thick, coarse, smooth.
  • Hearing: Listen closely to hear any mammals in the dark: rustling in the leaves, scratching, barking, howling, sniffing, eating.

Inside Preparation Time:
1. Read pages 245 to 250 (Lessons 60 and 61) in the Handbook of Nature Study for information about skunks and raccoons. Highlight some points that may be helpful when you have a chance to observe a skunk or raccoon in person. You can also use the links in the follow-up section for additional resources for these two mammals.

Link to tracks to look for: raccoon and striped skunk.
2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 190-209 and 212-226. Use the territory maps to discover what kind of skunks you may have in your area. Also you can use the exploration ideas for activities to learn more about skunks and raccoons.

Outdoor Hour Time:
This week you can spend fifteen minutes outdoors at any time of the day if you are interested in looking for signs of mammals. In the evening you may be able to smell the fragrance of a skunk. If you are out during the day, you can look for mammal tracks, holes, scratches on tree trunks, scat, hollows in the trunk of a tree, burrow, holes in the lawn.

Remember that one of the main aims of this series of challenge is to train your senses. You may not find a raccoon or skunk to observe up close but you can use all your senses to learn more about your own backyard. Keep the suggestions above in mind as you spend your fifteen minutes outdoors for this challenge.

Follow-Up Activity:
You can use the provided raccoon notebook page or the skunk notebook page from the Summer Series ebook.

You can read these previous Outdoor Hour Challenges for additional resources for these two mammals:
Outdoor Hour Challenge #50 Skunks and Badgers
Outdoor Hour Challenge #52 Raccoons

If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Raccoon Study: Outdoor Hour Challenge for Mammals

This post is long overdue. As I was going through all the past challenges, I realized that I never posted our study of raccoons.

In our neighborhood, we have raccoons. Big raccoons for the most part. They always surprise me when I see them because they are large, curious looking animals. We have had them look in our windows and french doors at night with their shining eyes. We have had them sit in open doorways and look in at us. They have been known to carry away whole bowls full of cat food. I had a big Tupperware container filled with catfood on the back deck and they would come at night and remove the cat food, carry the pieces over to the water dish, and proceed to wash the food and then eat it. We could see their hand prints on the deck and around the bowl. They are clever creatures indeed.

Last summer Mama Raccoon would bring her young ones in the middle of the night to climb the trees just outside our bedroom window. You could hear them making noises in the dark as they played and climbed. I am not positive but I think they would go up the tree and eat the seeds from the pods from the magnolia tree. They would rustle around in the limbs of the tree and if you shone the flashlight out there, their eyes would reflect like glass.

Here is a notebook page that Mr. B made for his nature journal about raccoons.

If you can’t read the bottom I will type it here for you to read. It makes me smile.

“One of the most adaptive mammals ever, the raccoon can make a living almost anywhere. Eating nearly everything it can put its hands on, raccoons aren’t ones to be starved easily. Some live eating grubs and fruit, but the majority of these sneaky thieves steal pet food, bird seed, and any valuables it could pawn off later for a good price. When caught in the act, they will climb the nearest tree and flaunt their invincibility by falling asleep up there. Guard dogs will do next to nothing because they will fight with ninja-like prowess when cornered.”

Funny.

This time of year our chances of seeing and observing a raccoon are very high. I hope we see one again soon.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #52 Mammals-Raccoon


Outdoor Hour Challenge
#52 Mammals-Raccoon

Here is a video from National Geographic about raccoons…very short. I want to warn those that have sensitive young ones that this video shows the raccoon eating crocodile eggs and babies…briefly. You will want to preview.
Raccoons

“None other of our little brothers of the forest has such a mischievous countenance as the coon. The black patch across the face and surrounding the eyes like large goggles, and the black line extending from the long, inquisitive nose directly up the forehead give the coon’s face an anxious expression; and the keenness of the big, beady, black eyes and the alert, “sassy” looking , broadly triangular ears, convince one that the anxiety depicted in the face is anxiety lest something that should not be done be left undone; and I am sure that anyone who has had experience with pet coons will aver that their acts do not belie their looks.”
Handbook of Nature Study, pages 247-148

1. Read pages 247-250 in the Handbook of Nature Study about the raccoon. If you want to share some additional resources, there are some listed at the end of the challenge.

“The raccoon lives in hollow trees or caves along the banks of streams. It sleeps during the day and seeks its food at night. It sleeps during the winter.”

2. Supplemental reading in The Burgess Animal Book for Children: Read Story 31. Use the illustration on page 206 to prompt some simple narrations from your child.


3. Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors on a nature walk. Raccoons hibernate in the winter so there will be little chance of actually observing one this week. Instead, look for any animal tracks in the snow or mud. Keep your eyes out for any mammal that comes your way this week.

4. Record in your nature journal any interesting objects you found this week.
Did you see a bird or a mammal to record?
It might be fun to make a list of all the mammals you have seen during our focus on mammals over the last eight weeks.
Complete a mammal notebook page for the raccoon to record interesting facts you learned and want to remember.

Additional resources for this challenge:
Raccoon coloring page
Raccoon notebook page on Enchanted Learning
Raccoon information:
Online book with audio about raccoon
Raccoon tracks