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How Nature Study Enriches High School Biology In Your Homeschool

Just how to include homeschool nature study as part of high school biology? Here you will find a break down of nature study suggestions and accompanying resources for each module of your homeschool biology lessons. I really think it depends on the family and how much nature study you have time to fit in with your high school age children.

How to include homeschool nature study as part of high school biology? Nature study definitely enriches high school biology. Here is a break down of nature study suggestions and accompanying resources for each module.

Homeschool Nature Study and High School Biology

There are two ways to approach homeschool nature study with high school biology.
1. Start with nature study and supplement with a text.
2. Use a text and supplement with nature study.

If you decide on approach number one, take each area of focus in the Outdoor Hour Challenge and add in supplemental information from a textbook.

Please note that affiliate links are included in our recommendations below. Please see our disclosure policy.

Using Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology

  • OH Challenge: Garden Plants =Text Module 8 and 15
  • OH Challenge: Insects =Text Module 3 and 12
  • OH Challenge: Trees =Text Module 14
  • OH Challenge: Mammals =Text Module 10 and 16
  • OH Challenge: Flowerless Plants =Text Module 4 and 14
  • OH Challenge: Birds =Text Module 16
  • OH Challenge: Crop Plants =Text Module 8 and 15

For the second option, here is how I enhanced the Apologia biology text with nature study ideas…many of these ideas are on my Biology Squidoo Lens.

Module 1: Microbiology for Homeschool

Read biography of Carl Linnaeus
Read Microbe Hunters, chapter 1 Leeuwenhoek

How to include homeschool nature study as part of high school biology? Here is a break down of nature study suggestions and accompanying resources for each module.

Module 2: Microbiology and Homeschool Biology Pond Study

Read Microbe Hunters, chapter 2 Spallanzani and chapter 3 Pasteur
Start a pond study to complement the study of microscopic organisms-protozoa
Use A Golden Guide to Pond Life
Read biography of Louis Pasteur
Field trip to a pond: Complete nature journal pages for things observed in real life.

Enjoy a Turtle Homeschool Nature Study.

Module 3: Continue Pond Study-Algae


Handbook of Nature Study section on insects of the brook and pond
Examine pond water under the microscope.
Complete nature journal pages on pond insects you observe.

beautiful moss homeschool nature study

Module 4: High School Biology Nature Study Focus on Mushrooms and Other Fungi

Work with yeast
Work with molds
There are some ideas for study in the flowerless plants section of the Handbook of Nature Study.
Take a nature walk to look for mushrooms and then complete nature journal pages for each one identified.

Modules 5-7: During These Modules We Used Local Field Guides to Identify Various Subjects From Our Nature Walks Each Week

The Biology Coloring Book by Robert Griffin-color appropriate pages to help visualize the abstract concepts in these modules

Homeschool nature study is definitely a part of high school biology! Here is a break down of nature study suggestions and accompanying resources for each module.

Module 8: Gardening for High School Biology

Growing pea plants to support Mendelian genetic study (just for fun).
Read a biography of Gregor Mendel. (The picture book Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas looks like a wonderful way to include younger students).
Grow radishes as part of experiment 8.4
Worked on a garden plan for the following summer.

Module 9: Homeschool Rocks and Minerals Study

Read a biography of Charles Darwin
Handbook of Nature Study section on rocks and minerals
Using a field guide we identified several local rocks and made nature journal entries for each one.

Module 10: Mammals Study for High School Biology

Identify a local mammal and then draw where it fits in the food web.
Learn about your local watershed and then diagram it or draw a map for your journal.
Complete nature journal entries for mammals observed during this module.

Find more ideas in this Mammals Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges.

Module 11: Invertebrates for Homeschool Biology Studies

Dissection of an earthworm
Nature study focus on Invertebrates-garden snails, earthworms
Handbook of Nature Study section on invertebrate animals other than insects
Complete nature journal entries for invertebrates observed during our Outdoor Hour time
Complete a one small square activity and look for invertebrates or signs of invertebrates in your own garden or yard.

Earthworm Study for Your Homeschool

Module 12: High School Biology Study on Insects

Nature study focus on arachnida (spiders) and/or insects and/or lepidoptera
Dissection of a crayfish
Handbook of Nature Study section on insects
Complete nature journal entries for insects observed during our Outdoor Hour time.

marine biology studies for homeschool biology

Module 13: Amphibians and Fishes

Dissection of a perch and a frog
Nature study focus on amphibians
Handbook of Nature Study section on fishes
Handbook of Nature Study section on amphibians
Keep an aquarium and use the Handbook of Nature Study suggestions for observations.

More in Homeschool Ocean Study and Marine Biology Resources.

Module 14: Plants

Collect leaf samples and make a pressed leaf collection
Nature study focus on flowerless plants
Handbook of Nature Study section on flowerless plants

plants and wildflowers for high school biology study with homeschool nature study

Module 15: Garden Flowers and Seeds

Insectivorous plants-observe a Venus Flytrap or Sundew
Nature study focus on garden flowers-parts of a flower
Collect and press flowers
Germinate seeds
Handbook of Nature Study section on plants/garden flowers
Start a seasonal tree study for a tree in your own yard

The Ultimate List of Garden and Wildflower Nature Study for Your Homeschool

The Ultimate List of Birds Homeschool nature study using the Outdoor Hour Challenges

Module 16: High School Biology Nature Study Focus on Birds, Reptiles or Mammals

Handbook of Nature Study section on birds
Handbook of Nature Study section on reptiles
Handbook of Nature Study section on mammals
Keep a pet and make observations based on suggestions in the Handbook of Nature Study.
Hang a birdfeeder and keep a log of birds that visit.
Go bird watching and make journal entries for each bird you identify.

The Ultimate List of Birds Homeschool Nature Study Resources Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges

You can see how you can take an idea and then expand on it using nature study. If you use the basic ideas I have illustrated with the biology topics, you can make a study of nature high school level. Keep everything relevant to your local area and it will be a joy to work on each week. Your family will learn so much together as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenges.

SaMore Resources For Your Homeschool High School Biology and Nature Study

All of the Outdoor Hour Challenges that pair with homeschool high school biology are included in Homeschool Nature Study membership!

You’ll receive new ideas each and every week that require little or no prep – all bringing the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get Outdoors!

Homeschool nature study definitely enriches high school biology! Here is a break down of nature study suggestions and accompanying resources for each module.

Spublished August 2009 by Barb

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Homeschool High School Nature Study Ideas

These homeschool high school nature study ideas are meant to encourage your family to consider continuing with some natural science even in the teen years.

These homeschool high school nature study ideas are meant to encourage your family to consider continuing with some natural science even in the teen years. We want to encourage you to include nature study in your high school plans. Our family kept regular times to be outdoors together exploring and observing nature in our own backyard and neighborhood.

Mr. B’s Nicaraguan butterfly

The tone of nature study changes during the teen years and as they find what interests them and develop that interest you can see how this is a life-long passion that will grow as they do. My grown children still surprise me with photos of things they see while on their own adventures…sharing things they know I will enjoy seeing. During Mr. B’s recent trip to Nicaragua, he captured images of a butterfly and a bird for me…sharing them like souvenirs when he came home.

Homeschool Nature Study Ideas For Teens

Mr. A sent me a photo of a snake from his New York hike. I don’t know that I am anxious for them to share snakes with me but it is something he is interested in knowing more about. He has a completely different habitat to explore in New York and with all the experience we had here as he was going through his teens using the internet and field guides to identify things, I know he will be learning so much about the plants, animals, birds, and reptiles of his new area.

These homeschool high school nature study ideas are meant to encourage your family to consider continuing with some natural science even in the teen years.

Honestly, as my children are getting older, they are having to dig deeper to find something they are interested in learning about but the desire is still there. I am feeling the need to spend even more time with them outdoors as they reach their teen and teen+ years, stepping up the observations and learning.

These homeschool high school nature study ideas are meant to encourage your family to consider continuing with some natural science even in the teen years.

Charlotte Mason Style Exam Questions for Homeschool High School

Several of the courses included in Homeschool Nature Study membership include Charlotte Mason style exam questions for advanced students. Author Barb McCoy says, “This series has proved to be a huge success in our family, helping to bring nature study up to a level for my teens. Also, I saw families with large age ranges of children completing the challenges together, each on their own level and enjoying it.”

Include Nature Study in Your High School Plans

Gradually I have learned the value in allowing some leeway in the high school nature study 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.

By Barb November 2013. Updated by Tricia January 2022.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Nature Study with Teens – Adapting to Different Needs

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 4 – September 24, 2021

Nature Study with Teens – Adapting to Different Needs

“Nature Study – It is the intellectual, physical, and moral development by and through purposeful action and reaction upon environment, guided so far as needed by the teacher.” John Dearness, 1905

“Some children are born naturalists, but even those who aren’t were born with natural curiosity about the world and should be encouraged to observe nature.”
Charlotte Mason, vol 2 page 58

The Challenge of Teens and Nature Study

Once my children were teens, our nature study sort of stalled out. I made the mistake of presenting our outdoor studies in the same way that I had always done with them in the past. I would pick a topic, share some information from the lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study, and then we would be out on the search for the subject. It was a habit but not really the habit I had set out to create. Where was the enthusiasm I had seen when they were younger? Why did we end of feeling like it was an item to check off our to-do list? I knew we could do better.

These questions led me back to the internet to research more closely how nature study develops into upper level science.

“The Field Lesson. When planning a field lesson, three points should be kept in mind:
First. The aim, to bring the children into sympathy or in touch with nature, through the study of that part of nature in which they have been interested.
Second. The conditions out of doors, where the children are at home, where they must have greater freedom than in the schoolroom, and where it is more difficult to keep them at definite work, and to hold their attention.
Third. The necessity of giving each child something definite to find out for himself, and of interest to the children so that each will try to find out the most and have the greatest number of discoveries to tell.”

Nature Study and The Child, Charles B. Scott, 1900.

I found with my teenagers that there needed to be a different sort of follow-up to our nature observations…more than just a nature journal. They needed to be more connected to their nature study by finding patterns and relationships between past experiences and new ones.

“But true science work does not stop with mere seeing, hearing, or feeling; it not only furnishes a mental picture as a basis for reasoning, but it includes an interpretation of what has been received through the senses.”

Nature Study for the Common Schools, Wilbur Samuel Jackman, 1891

This is the part of nature study I found the most meaningful to my children. To take what they already knew and to build on it with new observations, developing a real interest in knowing more. I could no longer just relate facts, no matter how interesting the facts were.

Here is the key: Teens need to find the answers to their own questions and then express those answers in a way that makes sense to them.

3 steps to a better nature journal experience

My research found that this pattern – observation, reasoning, expression – is nothing new or unique to nature study. This pattern is the process that all science is built upon. I have created a printable that explains this process and you can download and read it here:

Three Steps to a Better Nature Study Experience

What Can Parents Do?

It would be ideal if all nature study could be spontaneous but that hardly seems practical in a busy homeschooling week. For ease of scheduling, there must be some provision for getting outside each week (or in a perfect world it would be every day).

Aim for three things in your nature study: to really see what you are looking at with direct and accurate observation, understand why the thing is so and what it means, and then to pique an interest in knowing more about the object.

What if my teen is still not interested in nature study?

Sometimes, despite all my efforts, my teens’ interest wasn’t equal to my interest in nature study.  I could take them to the most fascinating places to explore and they would just want to sit and talk or take a walk by themselves. The setting was perfect and the subjects abounded, but they are more interested in throwing rocks or digging a hole.

I knew the value of getting teens to get outside and see the wonderful things that existed right there under their noses. I knew I could not force them to do nature study but giving up was not an option. The answer is patience. The best way to handle this issue was to allow them the space and time to experience nature on their own terms.

In My Experience:

Here is a real-life example My two boys and I regularly made visits to my dad’s pond together.  When younger, they would go right to the business of scooping up water and critters and talking in excited voices about what they were finding. But once they reached the teen years, I noticed a different atmosphere, an attitude of “we’ve been here and done that”. I tried to remind myself that this was their normal teenage reaction to just about everything. They rarely appeared to be too excited on the outside. More often than not, they would later on relate the whole experience in a more favorable light to their dad or one of their siblings. Apparently, the outside of a teenager doesn’t accurately reflect the inside at all times.

So if you have older children and they appear to not be interested at first, don’t give up. It may be that they just aren’t showing it outwardly but inside the experiences are deeply affecting them. Don’t give up on the habit of nature study with your teens.

Enhancing a Nature Walk with Teens

Digital Photography: A love of the natural world does not come automatically for all children and sometimes we need to find a way to hook them into getting outdoors. Most of our children have a lot of screen time each week. Rarely are they without a device that has a camera function. Take advantage of this tool in enhancing your time outdoors!

Although there are advantages to taking a walk “unplugged”, there are distinct benefits to allowing your teens to take photos as part of their nature study time.

  • It slows them down.
  • Helps them focus and really see an object.
  • Everyday things in their own backyard can now be captured and viewed.
  • They can see the beauty.
  • They make their own connections.
  • Perfect for our teens…they are comfortable with the technology and love to share with their friends.

For more thoughts on nature photography, see the June 2014 Newsletter in the Ultimate Naturalist Library.

Ultimate Naturalist Library Members:

  • Three Steps to a Better Nature Study Experience posted in the Getting Back to Basics- The Habit of Nature Study section of the Library.
  • December 2012 Newsletter Article – Is Nature Study Relevant to High School Science?
  • June 2014 Newsletter – Nature Photography
  • August 2015 Newsletter – several articles on building a nature library (especially helpful are suggestions for field guides for older students to use in their studies)
  • May 2017 Newsletter Article – Interest Driven Learning – Ocean Creatures

More Nature Study ebooks and Nature Study Continues ebooks

Please remember that many of the OHCs include an Advanced Study option and accompanying notebook pages. If you are a member, please look in your Member’s Library to see which ebooks contain those suggestions for older students as part of the nature study lesson. My children used those lessons when they were in high school as part of their biology courses.

You may be interested in this entry found on my blog: Nature Study as Part of a Biology Course

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Members can click here to log into your account to download any of the Member’s items listed above.

If you are not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

 

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

If you are an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.

 

 

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Redwoods National Park – Tips and Hikes

Redwoods National Park – Tips and Hikes

We have spent quite a bit of time over the last decade exploring Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. Redwood National and State Parks is actually a network of parks that cover an extended area.

 Redwood National and State Parks

Near-by State Parks

You can view and download the most current park newspapers here: Redwoods Park Guide.

There are five visitor centers that operate with Redwood National and State Parks. You can find them listed here: Redwoods Visitor Centers. 

As I tried to write this post, I realized the scope of what we have experienced in these parks is more than can fit into one neat little package. I know most of you probably think that Redwood National Park is just about the big trees but in reality, this park has such a diverse habitat that it really can’t be experienced just by getting out of the car and viewing the famous trees or even stopping at the visitor’s center.

Redwood National Park needs to be experienced by walking or hiking out into the forest where you can stand quietly and soak in not just the majesty of the trees but the melodic sound of birdsong, the fragrance of the forest floor as you walk, and the beauty of the wildflowers and ferns that crowd in the understory. Hiking trails are abundant.

There are beaches to explore with crashing waves. A fern canyon with the trickling sound of a stream is to be found at Prairie Creek. You can hike to a waterfall in Jedediah Smith Redwood Park…just past the Boy Scout Tree. I give the Boy Scout Tree Trail a five star rating because it is one you can truly experience the redwood forest while hiking virtually on your own. We have hiked this several times, continuing onto the waterfall, and have felt the awesomeness of this habitat like no other place.

I realize not all of you have as much time as I do to explore the redwoods. If nothing else, drive the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway or Howland Hill Road. Stop along the way, get out of the car, and just drink it all in. Take some photos of your children with this giant trees so they have a record of their visit. Maybe it will spur them on to bring their children some day.

Now for some glimpses into some of our family’s memories of Redwood National and State Parks.

My two youngest boys have accompanied us every redwood forest hike and visit. They love the opportunity to hike under these tall trees and love even more to find a fallen tree to walk on or crawl over. This is a boy’s playground and along the way the grow to appreciate how special a place this is to explore.

Many of the trails wind under and around the massive trunks, mostly smooth unpaved paths lined with ferns and other green plants. The sun peeks through from time to time but for the most part these hikes are in shadow.

Among the redwoods you will find many flowering plants. This surprised me the first time but the splashes of color cannot be missed with all that green for a backdrop. Redwood Sorrel carpets the forest floor and has delicate flowers.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, the rhododendrons bloom like crazy. We enjoyed this hike on our first visit to Redwood National Park and I have never forgotten its beauty. This is an easy hike that your whole family can enjoy. It was more crowded than some of the other hikes but still worth the effort.

This was a memorable day for our family and I am so glad we were able to have a fellow hiker snap a photo for us. We had such a great hike together, teenage boys can be such fun. Now that they are growing up, I can appreciate the times we spent outdoors experiencing things together.

This is Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek State Park (Part of the series of redwood parks near the national park.) We were able to hike all the way up the canyon from Gold Bluff.

This is Fern Falls at the end of the Boy Scout Tree Trail in Jedediah Smith State Park. We had a picnic lunch here at the base of the falls and I remember working in my nature journal as well. A great hike and a great day!

This is the coastal beach at Gold Bluff at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Lots of room for boys to run off some steam along the sandy beach.

Roosevelt Elk can usually be seen within the national park. We have found a herd along Davidson Road several times, right off the highway.

Here is a typical landscape seen during a hike among the redwoods. Amazing! I never get tired of it even after visiting many, many times.

I told you…boys love to find a fallen tree and climb up. It almost always merits a photo.

This image was from our last trip to Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. We took the drive along Howland Hill Road, practically all to ourselves. We parked the car at a turnout and walked about a mile along the road. It was quiet, damp, and so very enjoyable. It is mostly unpaved and very narrow so don’t take an RV or trailer. We have done this drive four times and have never found traffic to be an issue. One time the road was closed so check at the visitor’s center before heading up.

Here are a few other things to do if you are still looking for just the right activity for your family:
Things to Do Redwood National Park. 

We have experienced Redwood National Park in summer, autumn, and winter. All were enjoyable with the appropriate clothing. The north coast of California can be damp at any time of the year so plan to layer up. June has been the driest and sunniest time to visit the park.

You can read more about our redwoods experiences here:
Redwood Dreams – 2010
Hiking Jedediah Smith Redwoods – 2011

We have camped at:
Patrick’s Point State Park
Prairie Creek State Park
Jedediah Smith State Park

If you don’t want to camp, you can stay in near-by Crescent City, CA. 

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Question From Reader: How to Get Started

Questions from a Facebook Fan: 

Would you be able to offer any tips on how a family just starting out doing it should approach it? Or maybe what inspires you and how you make it work with your family?

Nature study is something that started rather slowly in our family. We had always been outdoor sorts of people but the desire to learn more deeply and routinely about the things around us spurred me as a mother and home teacher to schedule time each week to focus on something of interest to my children.

At first, I would send the boys outside to find something to draw in their nature journal. They would obediently pop out into the backyard and find a little something to sketch and label. It was a good start but this kind of “nature study” didn’t reach their hearts.

We gave up on the nature journal idea for at time and with some pushing from the ideas of Charlotte Mason we began spending more time together in the backyard and hiking on local trails each week. I found that just immersing ourselves in the outdoor life helped grow the seeds of nature study more than anything else.

As we began noting changes in our backyard and along our favorite walking trails, the boys became more interested in coming home to look up and identify things like mushrooms, birds, and trees. I think their eyes needed to be able to see things before nature study meant much to them. I became more passionate about nature study and purchased the Handbook of Nature Study so I could use it in our studies. I was totally and completely overwhelmed by the book and actually gave it away.

The nature journal came back after a period of time when the boys realized they could journal things that interested them, in a way that meant something to them. For our family, notebooking pages helped us over the hump. Not needing to feel overwhelmed by a blank page was a relief to them.I was happy they were keeping a record of their observations and discoveries.

Eventually I found a copy of the Handbook of Nature Study again and I was determined to use it with my family. It was from that process that this blog was born. I stopped trying to use the HNS as a field guide and began using it more as a teacher’s guide like it was intended to be. It helped make nature come alive for our family. We used the suggestions in the lessons in that book as the basis for our exploring creation in our backyard and neighborhood.

I always suggest that families start with the first ten Outdoor Hour Challenges, making sure to read the pages in the introduction of the Handbook of Nature Study as suggested in each challenge. Anna Botsford Comstock’s words there are what created in me a better method of teaching “nature study”. She showed me the simple way to offer nature learning opportunities to my children. She really did become my mentor.

Just get started even if you just work through the first five challenges. After completing those challenges, you will start to see the pattern that I use here on the blog and with my family to create a nature study atmosphere.

Over time, our family developed a way of life that encourages nature study every day. There are field guides in various places around the house like bird books near the window where we hang our birdfeeder. We regularly take walks together.  I still keep a nature journal but my children have not kept up that habit as young adults. They prefer to take photos and then share them on Instagram and on Facebook. It warms my heart to see my children still taking time to notice the natural treasures that come their way like sunsets, wildflowers, butterflies, birds, and rocks.

This is what I encourage you to remember if nothing else:

Nurture a love of the outdoors and the interesting things you find there with your children as they are growing up. Train their eyes to see what is there in front of them….stop and look and listen. These are skills that will make them happier people and better students in all areas.

 

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Autumn Flower Study – Asters of All Kinds

White Daisy (aster)

“The asters, like the goldenrods, begin to bloom at the tip of the branches, the flower-heads nearest the central stem blooming last. All of the asters are very sensitive, and the flower-heads usually close as soon as they are gathered.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 507

I love a good flower study! Reading in the Handbook of Nature Study I learned that the aster has both a disc flower and a ray flower…like a sunflower. Aha! I can see it now that I have slowed down to really look at this pretty flower from the aster family, a Shasta Daisy or an Ox-Eye Daisy…not sure which

We happened to be at the beautiful summer garden found at Tallac Historic Site and I was excited to find a whole range of asters to observe.  We had been on a quest to find some goldenrod but settled for any flowers in the aster family we could find. (We did find some goldenrod…see last flower photo.)

Can you see the disc and ray flowers?

I think you can really see the disc flowers once the ray flowers wilt back. This daisy helps show the way the different kinds of flowers grow in this daisy flower head. Point that out to your kids the next time you see an aster.

Purple Coneflower

How about this flower in the aster family? The Purple Coneflower is one of my favorites and I grow it in my garden every year….well actually it just comes back to life in the spring so I don’t have to do too much to it.

So now come a bunch of images that show the variety that this flower family can produce. Starting with this really large yellow aster with the long ray flowers.

These were some of my favorites! I love the multi-colored flowers and the Black-eyed Susans all mixed together. I am going to make sure to plant an area of my garden with seeds like these so I can enjoy their beauty all summer long.

Drooping ray flowers really show this flower off at its best! I am going to put this one in my nature journal…watercolors or markers? Not sure yet.

Edit to add my journal—I ended up with colored pencils.

This aster was not in the garden at Tallac but was on the trail around over by Taylor Creek. There was a whole section of them blooming. I love the classic lavender and yellow color combination. This may need to go in my nature journal too.

Eureka! We finally saw some goldenrod in bloom. We had seen lots of dried up goldenrod during our hike but this was the first blooming plant we spied. The goldenrod completed our hunt for all kinds of flowers in the aster family.

NOTE: If you haven’t read the narrative section in the Handbook of Nature Study on the goldenrod plant, you are missing out. Make sure to read the Teacher’s Story for Lesson 132 before you study your goldenrod flowers.

Here we are…the intrepid aster hunters. My oldest and youngest went with me this time and it was great to have them along. They are both a lot of fun.

Mr. B took a break from flower hunting to stack some rocks and strike a pose. Like I said, always a lot of fun with these nature-loving kids.

Don’t miss out on the chance to do your own goldenrod, aster, or chrysanthemum study this month. Pop over to the challenge and print out the free Autumn Garden Nursery Mini-Book printable if you need to make this a quick and easy nature study week.

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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 trip..love 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….

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Our Oregon Coast Wildflower and Weed Grid

This is the Oregon Coast Edition of the Wildflower and Weed Grid Study! I had a fun-filled week of hiking and beach-combing in Oregon and we had our eyes out for as many wildflowers as we could possible find. It wasn’t hard because each trail had an abundance of wildflowers for us to enjoy.

I tried to capture as man of them as I could to share with you in this post.

Blue Oregon Iris – These are a frequent flower along the trail.

Sea pinks along the shore…blowing in the wind, casting cool shadows.

Our campsite was filled with clover and daisies. Imagine…daisies so plentiful they seem like weeds!

Cow parsnip lines the roads and pops up along the shore. Some of these plants are super tall and the flower heads are enormous.

Inside Out Flower was found in the shady spots and it is one of my favorites from this trip. I decided to include a special page in my nature journal for it (see below).

We found patches of lupine along the Humbug Mountain Trail. This trail was a new one for us and what a view! It was a lot of fun to adventure up and we look forward to taking this trail again.

The Monkey flower was amazing! There were areas along the moist gully that just screamed yellow from this pretty flower.

A familiar sight along any redwood forest trail this time of year is the rhododendron….this one was a pale pink. This was spotted along the Shrader Old Growth Trail. This is a fun hike out of Gold Beach and worth the long dusty dirt road to get there. We had the trail all to ourselves on this morning. There is nothing like being out in the wilderness hiking along hearing the birds and nothing else.

One day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has an awesome visitor’s center and several trails. The beach there is wide and open which invites you to walk a long way next to the shore. This Sea Verbena was growing along the sandy dunes. My boys were entranced by all the driftwood and they spent about an hour just hunting among the piles for interesting shapes. Boys.

These are pretty little Seaside daisies….another one I really like and will be adding to my nature journal. I think the delicate fringe-like petals are the best part of this flower.

Smith’s Fairybells…another shade loving plant we saw a lot of as we hiked.

It always makes me happy to see where flowers naturally grow to make pretty color combinations. These sweet peas and daisies were found right along the edge of the bank in our campground.

Seaside Tansy…the interesting part of this plant are the fern-like leaves. They also grow right along the dry cliffside going down to the beaches.

This Tiger Lily was actually in Del Norte County, California. The drive up Hwy 101 takes you through Redwoods National Park where the Tiger Lilies are blooming profusely along the road. I had to stop and capture one for you! Gorgeous!

We found Wild Bleeding Hearts too! We have these planted in our garden here at home but it was fun to see them growing in their natural environment.

Aren’t these lovely? Western Azaleas grow in Harris Beach State Park and we always look forward to seeing their happy blossoms.

We saw many Wild Cucumbers blooming but this one had its fruit already formed. Isn’t it interesting? It is in the gourd family and you can see why when you see the fruits.

Here are the flowers from the Wild Cucumber.

I know this is a non-native invasive plant but we saw it on many of the trails. Wild Radish comes in a variety of colors…white, soft pink, light lavender.

This is my first unidentified wildflower…if anyone knows what it is you can leave me a comment.
EDIT: I think this is Yellow Parentucellia...figwort family. Range: Western Washington to NW California.

This is my second unidentified wildflower…yellow ones stump me for some reason.

This we saw in a pond at Lagoon Creek which is technically in California. Yellow Pond Lilies were blooming all over the pond.

So there you have all the interesting images that I could pull from my camera. We did see quite a few more and if you look closely at my Wildflower Grid nature journal page you will see them listed.

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Yosemite in Spring- Waterfalls and Biking

 Nature Study Goal – Visit Yosemite in all four seasons.

Our spring trip to Yosemite National Park happened this past weekend…under brilliant blue skies and with warm spring breezes. Our original plans were for my husband and I along with the two younger boys to make the trip. When it came down to it, my nineteen year old and I were the only ones who were able to go. Fire season came early this year so my husband had to work a fire in Southern California. See? I always make plans but then remain flexible.

We were up and out of the house early and hit the road for the four hour drive to Yosemite. The time went by fast and I have to say it is super nice to have children that can drive me places while I enjoy the scenery flash by the window. After an uneventful trip there, we parked at Curry Village and took the shuttle to the trailhead at Happy Isles.

 The trail to the bridge below Vernal Falls is mostly paved and sections are rather steep. The biggest obstacle are all the people! This is a popular day hike and on this particular Saturday….lots and lots people from all over the world. My son commented on how many different languages he heard as we hiked…Yosemite is a world-class destination for sure.

The one thing I really like about this hike is that you can hear and see the river as you hike. This makes it appear cooler and it reminds you that there will be a spectacular view just around every corner. I am always amazed at the power of water.

Here is what the lower trail looks like as you go from Happy Isles up to the bridge below Vernal Falls. Granite boulders and slabs surround you and the river runs along one side.

From the bridge up the trail to the falls the trail turns into slippery wet granite steps. You can tell how steep they are by observing how much the hikers are leaning over as they climb.This part is called the Mist Trail because you get the spray from the waterfall drenching you with water. I didn’t capture it this time but you can see whole rainbows in the misty air coming off the waterfall as you look over and back. Amazing!

Want to see how wet you get? Here is a video: Mist Trail at Yosemite National Park

At last! I am up at the top of Vernal Falls after a last heroic effort of encouragement from my son. He was such a great hiking partner and really cheered me on when I thought I had gone as far as I could up the HUGE granite steps and then inching my way up the last ledge with just a hand railing to keep me from falling off the cliff. See my smile? I was happy to up there and it was so very much worth the effort for this 50+ year old woman to be there. It helps that I have lost 40 pounds in the last three months…not so much weight to haul up the trail.

Here is the video from the top: Vernal Falls.
We had lunch and then hiked further up the trail to the bridge below Nevada Falls which was beautiful this time of year. We took our time going back down the trail and called it a day. Our tent cabin at Curry Village was super clean and comfortable. I think I slept better that night than I have in the last six months. I highly recommend the tent cabins at Curry Village for a camping experience without the fuss of taking your own equipment.
Milkweed with Half Dome in the distance
Our second day was spent biking around Yosemite Valley on the bike trails. This is my favorite way to take in the sights and we made the grand loop from Curry Village to Yosemite Village and then around the Swinging Bridge back to the Lodge and then on back to Curry Village where we had our car parked. There are 12 miles of biking trails around Yosemite Valley and you can rent bikes from Curry Village or Yosemite Lodge.

My son took a panoramic photo of the valley floor with Half Dome in the background and me on my bike. Awesome morning ride and we can hardly wait to go back and do it again this summer.

We are always sad to leave but we made some great memories and I feel great for having accomplished the hike to the top of Vernal Falls.