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5 Ways to Use Your Magnifying Lens in Homeschool Nature Study

Looking for ways to encourage your child to explore things in nature? Using a magnifying lens in homeschool nature study is not only fun for children but it helps them see more clearly the wonderful world of objects we have all around us. Try one of the ideas below to help your child get started making careful observations of natural items.

Looking for ways to encourage your child to explore things in nature? Using a magnifying lens in homeschool nature study is not only fun for children but it helps them see more clearly the wonderful world of objects we have all around us. Try one of the ideas below to help your child get started making careful observations of natural items.
photo by Amy Law

5 Ways to Use Your Magnifying Lens in Homeschool Nature Study

“Adults should realize the the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 61

#1 – Nature Station With a Magnifying Lens

Create a magnifying glass station with natural items either indoors or outdoors. Collect a few things to have on hand to start but them encourage your child to find a few of their own while outdoors playing or during a nature walk.

Looking for ways to encourage your child to explore things in nature? Using a magnifying lens in homeschool nature study is not only fun for children but it helps them see more clearly the wonderful world of objects we have all around us. Try one of the ideas below to help your child get started making careful observations of natural items.

#2 – Square Foot Nature Study

Use your magnifying lens in homeschool for a square foot study. There are plenty of ideas here on my blog to help you get started. You can follow-up with this entry: Small Square Study-Living vs. Non-Living.

Examine Insects with a Magnifying Lens

#3 – Examine Insects With a Magnifying Lens

Collect a few insects to examine close up with your magnifying lens. Look for dead insects in window sills, in the garden, or in spider webs. If you can capture a live insect and put it in a clear container, use the magnifying lens to get a closer look. Have your child observe closely the wings, the legs, the antennae, or the eyes of insects using a magnifying lens. Another tip is to place the insect on a mirror and then you can see the underside easily.

Looking for ways to encourage your child to explore things in nature? Using a magnifying lens in homeschool nature study is not only fun for children but it helps them see more clearly the wonderful world of objects we have all around us. Try one of the ideas below to help your child get started making careful observations of natural items.

#4 – Create a New Level of Tree Homeschool Nature Study

As part of a tree study, use your magnifying lens to examine the bark, the leaves, and the cones or acorns of a tree in your yard or neighborhood. You can also use the magnifying lens to compare two trees with careful observations.

For more ideas to use with your magnifying lens and my recommendations for products, you can see my Squidoo Lens: Best Magnifying Lens Plans and Activities.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Homeschool Nature Study Lens Activity

#5 – Use the Outdoor Hour Challenge Homeschool Nature Study Magnifying Lens Activity

Discover the wonder of ordinary objects using this magnifying lens in homeschool nature study activity. Use the suggestions on the page to spark some ideas for objects to collect and observe. There is a place to record a few sketches and some follow-up thoughts if your child is interested in keeping a record of their magnifying lens activity.

Homeschool Nature Study Activities

Find this activity in Challenge 8 Getting Started in Homeschool Nature Study Guide available in membership and HERE.

A magnifying lens in homeschool nature study is fun and helps children see more clearly the wonderful world of objects we have all around us.
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Outdoor Hour Challenge #9-Summer Small Square


Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 – Summer Small Square

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

This simple Outdoor Hour Challenge has always been a favorite in our family. We had a small square study in our own yard and another one going on over in my dad’s yard. My science loving boys looked forward to visiting their squares and most of the time they were eager to record their observations.

Give the option for a nature journal page or just take some photos!

Small Square in the Oaks

Here are two entries from our past square studies:

Our Square in the Woods – Autumn

Year-Long Oak Tree Study

 small square activity summer

Summer Nature Study Tip

Start a small square study in your yard. After you finish, leave the markers up and revisit the square in a few months during the autumn season. Look for new items or any changes that might have occurred in your small square. You could even keep this going into the winter and then on to spring for a full year’s cycle. Mark your calendar as a reminder to look at your square each season.

Additional Ideas


Small Square Study – Living vs. Non-Living: Here’s a printable notebook page for you to use with your small square study.


Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

If you have access to the Getting Started ebook, there’s a custom notebook page that you can use alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 if you wish, or a number of blank pages you can print and use instead.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level.



Have you ever seen the One Small Square books from Donald Silver? I own the whole series and we have used them numerous times in our nature study. My boys loved the illustrations and I appreciated the simple activities suggested in each book. Check them out at your local public library or online at Amazon. Click the link above to go to Amazon….please note that I am an affiliate for and will receive a small commission if you make a purchase. I own and highly recommend this series of books.

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Seashore Observations

Nature Book Club Seashore Observations and Printable

Handbook of Nature Study

Nature Book Club – July

Seashore Observations Using One Small Square

This is the perfect time to plan a trip to the ocean and take a nature walk with your children! As part of the latest edition of the Nature Book Club Link-Up, I’m sharing a terrific book and activity to inspire a closer look at the ocean, the beach, and tide pools!

The theme of the link-up for July is BEACH, SAND, AND SHELLS so after you read my entry, you can follow the links at the bottom of this post to see what my fellow club members are offering as part of this month’s nature study encouragement.

Here is the book I’m featuring: One Small Square – Seashore

You can look for it at your public library or it’s available from Amazon (note that I’m an Amazon affiliate and there are affiliate links in this entry).

july nature book club graphic

One Small Square – Seashore

I love every single book in the One Small Square series (by author Donald Silver). The illustrations alone make them an attractive and interesting series of books for children of all ages. The straightforward suggested observations are easy to follow and give you fantastic ideas of what to look for when you visit a particular habitat.

The seashore edition will not disappoint you with its colorful pictures of clearly labeled creatures and plants you may observe during a typical trip to the ocean.  The activities are simple and use common supplies like a magnifying glass, paper, pencil, hand trowel, etc.

Seashore Observations Notebook Page Activity

Seashore Observations Activity

Use my new Seashore Observations printable activity to inspire some enthusiasm for a beach nature study. You can print the page, fold it in half, and insert it in most nature journals. I would suggest printing it ahead of time and taking it along with a pencil or pen in your beach bag. Use the prompts to encourage observations and the grid as a scavenger hunt activity. Fill in the boxes with sketches and/or words of things of interest your child found on the beach.

Download a copy here: No longer available for free download.

Only available here in this blog entry until 7/31/18.<<<<<< Members have access to this printable in their library>>>>>>>>

Keep it fun!

You can read about some of our beach nature study adventures in these entries:

Also, if you’re a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you’ll want to check out these archived newsletters for additional beach nature study ideas.

  • June 2012 Ocean Beach
  • June 2017 Beach and Fish

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Here’s more information on becoming a member: Join Us!


nature book club main graphic

Note: This post is part of a monthly series of posts I’m writing as part of a fantastic group of nature loving women who I’m linking up with on the 20th of each month. There’s a topic of the month and we’ll all share a book and activity that goes along with that theme.  You can use the links at the bottom of this post to see all of our books/activities. Use the linky tool below to share your own nature walk related links this month too.

Check out these other links for more nature walk ideas from Nature Book Club Co-Hosts!


Past Month’s Themes:

Link Up Guidelines

    • Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
    • The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
    • You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
    • By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature posts.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Small Square Bits

Outdoor Hour Challenge Small Square Small Bits @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Small Square – Bits

How about we do a small square study this week? Pay close attention to your square and see if you can observe some lichen or moss. If you do, use the ideas in the March 2016 newsletter to complete a nature journal entry as well as your small square study.

Look for small bits of things in your square…challenge your child to look closely and to try to identify as many objects as possible.

Here is the original Outdoor Hour Challenge for a small square nature study: Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 (from the Getting Started ebook).

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Autumn Cattail and Small Square Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Autumn Cattail Study with a Small Square Study Too!

Additional Activity – Cattail Acrostic Poetry Activity 

Just for fun, I have created an acrostic poetry notebook page for you to use to go along with your cattail study. For each letter in the word “cattail”, have your child write a word or phrase that describes the cattail. Use the box on the page for a sketch, a rubbing, or a photo. This is meant to be a fun way to extend your cattail study so you might offer to help your child or you can skip it until a future date.

Cattail Acrostic Poetry Printable Activity

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started Ebook, you may wish to completeGetting Started – Challenge #9 Small Square Study. You can use the ideas in this challenge to complete a small square study at your cattail habitat. Use the accompanying notebook page to record your results.

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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy


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Outdoor Hour Challenge-Small Square Study Living vs. Non-Living

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
How about a Small Square Study this week? Use the directions from Challenge #9 to complete your own careful study of a square foot in your backyard or neighborhood. Look for signs of insects as you observe your square with a hand lens. Use the printable notebook page below to record your nature study or make a record in your nature journal using words and sketches.

Printable Activity Notebook Page:
This week the challenge extra is a free printable notebook page to go along with your square foot study.

Small Square Study – Living vs. Non-Living: As you complete your small square study, categorize the objects you find between living (or once living) and non-living. There is a place to list your items and sketch them too.

Getting Started Suggestion:
This week the challenge comes from the Getting Started ebook (Challenge #9). If you own the ebook, there are custom notebook pages to print to go along with this study.

You can also read more information on the square foot study on my Squidoo Lens: Nature Study in Your Own Backyard.

If you need an explanation of how the Outdoor Hour Challenge is going to work from this day forward, please read this entry:
Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge – How to Steps and Explanation.

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2011 Winter Series #8 One Small Square and Winter Wednesday #7 Winter Insects

***Winter Series #8 One Small Square-Winter 
(You can also read my Squidoo Lens: Square Foot Nature Study.)

***Winter Wednesday #7 Winter Insect Study
A couple of extra links for winter insects:
Where Do Insects Go In Winter?
Where Have All The Bugs Gone?

If you are currently experiencing lots of snow (like we are), perhaps today is not the day to do this challenge. Pick one of the other challenges from the winter series: Filter snow, melt snow, look for animal tracks, observe some birds, or notice tree silhouettes.

There are plenty of challenges that you could try or do again this week if you can’t do the small square or get outside to look for insects. I look forward to reading about your family’s nature study this week. I am so enjoying glimpsing into your winter world and all of the bird study entries from last weekend.

Join Our Homeschool Nature Study Membership

An image showing the full collection of Nature Study courses

Connect With Our Homeschool Community On Social Media

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

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Winter Series #8 One Small Square-Winter Study



Outdoor Hour Challenge
Winter Series #8

One Small Square-Winter
(See also Outdoor Hour Challenge #9)

one small square
Outdoor Hour Time:
Four rocks
Optional: small garden trowel and magnifying lens

Measure off one square somewhere out in your yard or near-by park. I prefer to do this somewhere I can dig up a few inches of soil and not get into trouble. Use your ruler to place rocks in a one foot square plot. Use the yarn to mark off the edges of your square.

Now the challenge comes in. See how many different things you can find in your square. Now that it is winter, you may need to dig a little snow up to see if there is anything hidden in the snow or under the snow. If there are leaves, lift them up and see what is underneath. If there are rocks or gravel, scrape them aside and see what is underneath. If there is grass and you have permission, use your trowel to dig up a few inches under the grass, moving it carefully to the side to replace when you are done observing. Use your hand lens if you have one along with you on your challenge. If you would like more information on square foot nature study, you can click over to my Squidoo Lens: Square Foot Nature Study.

Follow-Up Activity:
After your outdoor time, take a few minutes to discuss what you found in your small square. Make note of any items you want to research further.

“Make the lesson an investigation and make the pupils feel that they are investigators…….The ‘leading thought’ embodies some of the points which should be in the teacher’s mind while giving the lesson; it should not be read or declared to the pupils……..The outlines for observations herein given by no means cover all of the observations possible; they are meant to suggest to the teacher observations of her own, rather than to be followed slavishly….If the questions do not inspire the child to investigate, they are useless.”
Handbook of Nature Study

Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you used your hand lens during this week’s challenge, encourage your child to draw something they saw that you would not normally see like a small insect, worm, or seed. Your child could also make a list of things that were found in the small square in addition to the drawing. You can use the provided notebook page in the Winter Series ebook, a blank notebook page from the sidebar of my blog, or your nature journal for your observations.

square study woods 6
One time we did a really big square in the woods and we kept the yarn up for a complete year. We would go back and make observations in each season. I would highly recommend this activity if you have a place you can mark for a whole year.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Year Long Tree Study-Our Oak

Children should also become familiar with trees at an early age. They should pick about six in the winter when the leaves are gone, perhaps an elm, a maple, a beech, etc, and watch them during the year.”
Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1, page 52

Way back last August of 2007 we started our first tree study out in the woods. We took a piece of yarn and staked out a big square around the tree and did observations within that square and then also about the tree. The oak is really big and has lots of interesting things about it.

Here are a couple of the older entries to compare with this entry.
August Tree Study
Our Tree In The Woods: October

Here is our yarned off square. You can barely see the purple yarn unless you click and enlarge the photo.

Not much there except a few new little baby oak trees.

And near-by there was this poison oak turning red… out for that stuff.

Then we noticed that as we walked we were being stuck by this plant….star thistle. I would consider this a WEED! Our backyard had this plant growing all over the backside when we moved in twenty years ago and my husband has very lovingly removed it all one plant at a time. We found you have to pull it up roots and all in order to get rid of it. It is an invasive weed in our area.

After we got back to the car, we realized our shoelaces and socks were covered with stickers of all kinds. They stick like velcro.

Well that wraps up our year-long tree study for now. We will probably keep our yarn up and continue through another year to see if we see any more changes.

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Our Small Square: Outdoor Hour Challenge #9

We had a chance today to enjoy the spring weather and complete our small square project. My son picked the spot and marked it out for us. Right away he picked the big objects out but I challenged him to list all the small items he found in his square. He used his magnifying glass and we used a small stick to dig around in the dirt a bit and we found a few things to be interested in.

We found quite a few of these clusters from the tree near the square. I suspect they are full of pollen since I noticed when they are on the tree that they send off little “puffs” of something every so often in the breeze.tree bud seed thing

Then we found some of these little plants that are not grass or dandelions.
little plant

A few misc. seeds were underneath the leaves in our square and we have no idea what kind they are.

doing our square
We both enjoyed digging around in the soil and we did see one small ant.

Here is his journal entry for the day.
small square journal
We are both interested to identify the tree that the clusters came from so that is our assignment for the next week. It is hard to identify since it currently has very small leaves and doesn’t look anything like the tree we see in the summer.

That was our Outdoor Hour assignment this week, nothing fancy right in our own yard but still very interesting.