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New Printables for January


Now available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships:

Bark Patterns * Winter Willow Study * Shivering

I’m excited to share 3 new notebooking pages with members here on the Handbook of Nature Study! These will spice up your January nature study sessions as you look at some winter-related topics.

(See the end of this post for more information on how you can become a member.)

 Bark Patterns Notebook Page

Winter Willow Study Twigs and Buds notebook page

Shivering in Animals notebook page

Bark Patterns Notebook Page: With most trees stripped bare of leaves before spring, right now is a great time to get a good look at the wonderful variations of pattern, color and texture that form the trunks and branches of local urban trees. With a little practice, you’ll be able to easily identify many local tree species by name just by looking at their bark. Here is a website you may wish to look at: Tree Bark and Twig Guide.

 Winter Willow Study Notebook Page: Twigs and Buds: We will be continuing our seasonal willow study in January and this notebook page is perfect for recording your willow observations! You can see the Autumn Willow Nature Study for more willow study ideas.

Shivering Notebook Page: Have you ever wanted to learn more about why animals shiver? This notebook page will get you started and then give you a place to write down all the interesting things you learn.

Note: If you have any subjects you would like me to create nature notebook pages for, please let me know in a comment here on the blog or in an email:

Printables for Members Button

Print a complete list of printables available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships by clicking the button above.


Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Use the discount code NATURE5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Trees and Their Twigs

Outdoor Hour Challenge Tree Study Twigs

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Tree Study Twigs
From the Archives and found in the More Nature Study Winter Ebook

Don’t be fooled like I was about tree study in winter! There is so much to learn from a tree twig with a little help from this Outdoor Hour Challenge, the Handbook of Nature Study, and a little time spent collecting some tree twigs. Find an idea in this challenge that works for your family.

As a heads up for next month- Be on the lookout for a tree to use for a tree bark study. The February 2017 newsletter will be focusing on tree bark. There will also be a new printable in the member’s library soon that will help you keep track of 6 trees using photographs. This week’s challenge is going to get the ball rolling for your winter tree study.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter 2016 More Nature Study

If you are interested in purchasing an Ultimate Naturalist Membership at this time, you will gain access to the custom notebooking pages that go along with each of the challenges in the ebook.

Ultimate Naturalist Library June 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

Note: You do not need to purchase the ebook to participate but they are handy to have for planning and for the regular and advanced notebook pages included in each one. Click the graphic at above to go over to check out the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

Spring Plans!

We will be working through a new series of wildflower challenges starting in April using a new ebook that will publish sometime in March. The new wildflower ebook will also be added to the Ultimate Naturalist Library so if you purchase a membership now, you will have the new ebook as soon as it is available. I will posting details about the new ebook soon.


Notebooking Pages Winter Membership SaleDon’t miss this opportunity!

Please note I am an affiliate and recommend this product after using it with my family for many years.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Looking for Twigs

Twig Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

From the Archives

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Twig Study

This is an easy nature study idea that all can enjoy! Young children can help gather some twigs and older students can go deeper to learn more about the twig’s parts and function in the life cycle of the tree.

You may wish to view these additional entries for twig study ideas:


More Nature Study Winter Wonder

For members of the Handbook of Nature Study, you will find this challenge in the More Nature Study – Winter ebook. Included in this ebook, there are three different notebook pages for you to use in your study of twigs plus a variety of graphics to help you learn more than you ever thought possible about this interesting topic.


Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

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Buds and Catkins – Our Spring Nature Study

Bud Study - Spring 2012
We still have plenty of tree buds to use in our nature study this week as part of the More Nature Study Book 3 study of Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms assignment. We went out after dinner last night to observe and gather some specimens for our study. Can I just say that we were intrigued with the variety we have right in our own backyard?

Mr. B and I both sketched buds into our nature journal. There has to be no better way to really see what a bud looks like than to try to sketch it in detail. Picking the correct color and seeing the different ways that buds are shaped lead to really truly *seeing* the subject.

Bud Drawing - Nature study
Advanced Study Notebook Page from More Nature Study Book 3

Mr. B used the advanced notebook page from the ebook to try his hand at sketching an enlarged bud using the grid paper. He thought this was hard…..I think he just needs a little practice.

Sweet Gum Bud
Sweet Gum Tree Bud

What a glorious bud he chose to sketch! This is the sweet gum tree bud…it looks like it is ready to burst open at any moment. We placed it in a glass of water to see if we could get it to open up in our window sill.

Birch in the Sunset
The vertical twig hanging down has our string on it…still no leaves.

We also observed the birch catkins we have on our backyard tree. This was the same tree we used in our twig study and we found the branch with the string marker. Not much of a change yet so we will continue to watch our twig as the season progresses.

Birch Catkins and Leaves
New leaves on this twig of the birch tree and some catkins too.

Currently there are no tree blossoms in our yard. The plum is done and the pear and apple are not yet blossoming. We found a few more interesting things to gather and bring inside for our bud study.

Walnut Tree Twig with Buds
Walnut Tree Twig with Buds

The most interesting thing from our study is the walnut tree twig with its unusual buds…both color and shape. We had never taken the time to really examine the walnut tree bud before so it was a surprise. It was a fun exercise to try to get the sketch right in my journal. It helps to know a little bit about twig anatomy so you notice all the important parts like the leaf scars and the lenticels.

Maple Tree Keys
Silver Maple Buds and Key

The maple tree buds are all burst open and you can see the keys in the image above. If you are interested in doing your own Spring Maple Tree Study, you can look back to a previous study we had here on this blog. You may wish to use the free printable: Spring Maple Tree Notebook Page

Birch Catkins
Birch Tree Catkin – April 2012

So this was another wonderful study with my teen. He did a little grumbling at first about doing the study this week since he thought there wasn’t much to learn but as you see above once we got started there were many things to be interested in. If all that he gleaned from this study was that all tree buds are unique and we can identify trees from twigs and buds, then I am a happy mama.

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More Nature Study Book 3 -Spring Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms

maple bud  
More Nature Study Book #3
Spring Tree Study – Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms

This challenge is aimed at getting you outdoors and looking at trees early in the spring. What should you be looking for? Try looking for buds, catkins, or blossoms. The challenge is not specifically about willow trees but the willow is covered in-depth in the Handbook of Nature Study and contains information you can apply to other trees. Since everyone has varying conditions, adapt this study to your local trees and their current stage of growth.

In the winter we looked at twigs. If you have a twig you have been watching, make sure to wrap up your study this week with a journal entry and final drawing.

Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read pages 651-654 of the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 179 on the Willow) and pages 648-650 (Lesson 178 on the Horse Chestnut). Read for information about the twigs, buds, and pussies.
  • View this page on catkins and note what to look for during your outdoor time. Explain that the “tassels” of the oak and “pussies” of the pussy willow are really flowers. Catkins appear before the leaves. There can be male and female catkins. Ebook users: Use the illustrations in the ebook to learn about the different ways buds can look and be arranged on the twig.
  • Interest arousing YouTube videos: Horse-Chestnut Bud and Birch Buds. Fascinating.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Go outside and look at the buds, catkins, or blossoms on trees in your yard or neighborhood. Ebook Users: See chart in the ebook for blooming times for common trees.
  •  Gather some twigs with buds, catkins, and/or blossoms to bring inside for observation. Place each twig in a jar with water and label with the tree name if possible. Note: Catkins and blossoms contain pollen.
  • Advanced Study: Watercolor a spring blossom if you have one to observe in person.
  • View this video on YouTube which shows birds feeding on willows.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • Use your senses to observe your buds, catkins, and/or blossoms. (touch, sight, smell). Make a record in your nature journal including a sketch. Make sure to record the length of your bud and as many details as possible including color. Ebook Users: Optional coloring pages: Horse Chestnut and Pussy Willow.
  • Watch your buds over time and see what happens. Record how long it takes for the buds to open. Place a piece of white paper under the jars with catkins and observe what happens over the next few days. Record your observations in your nature journal or on a notebook page.
  • Examine your bud to determine what type it is using a hand lens.

Advanced study:

  • Extend your study to include information about the tree your bud came from using a field guide or the internet.
  •  If you haven’t dissected a bud yet, use a bud you collected as part of this challenge. Each bud is different so take your time to remove the scales and layers as you go. View this image to see how you can record your work in your nature journal.
  • Sketch your catkin and research how the catkin functions as part of tree reproduction. Use this link to learn more about classifying buds: Buds. This one is an excellent visual guide: okPlantid.
  • You may be interested in previous spring tree studies: Year-Long Tree and Spring Tree.

Elizabeth shared this link with me and it is a perfect citizen science project to go along with this challenge. Project Budburst. Free printable journal pages you could use with this challenge too!

You can read about our Spring Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms study:
Buds and Catkins – Our Spring Nature Study

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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Forcing Spring Buds – Leaves and Blooms Update

Forsythia blossom (1)

Have you tried forcing twigs to blossom? It is the perfect easy late winter nature study project for any family.

This is an activity that we enjoy every year.  In February, we cut and bring in forsythia twigs to force the buds to bloom indoors. This year we added some additional twigs and buds to our collection and they are starting to unfold. The project is so easy and it is not too late to try your hand at some twigs from your yard.

Birch leaf

This birch leaf is from our Twig Study earlier this winter. It has little spring green leaves opening…love the texture and the shape.

Buckeye leaf and bud (2)
We also collected twigs from one of our hiking trails and even though they all looked a little different at the beginning, we realized now that they are opening that they are all from buckeye trees.

Buckeye leaf and bud (1)
It is such a simple project with some fascinating results. We cut the twig, placed it in a jar of water, and then set it in the window sill. After that, you just need to be patient.

We have had such amazing results that we are going to cut some more twigs today. I think the plum tree would be a great candidate for this project. I will post our results when we see some blossoms. 🙂

Tabletop Carrot

So did you start a tabletop garden of your own? We have been watching our carrot first grow roots and now it is putting lots of energy into making leaves. This is another simple and fun project that your family can try at any time.

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Winter Twigs – Noticing the Details, Training Our Eyes

Twig Study Notebook Page
Notebook Page from More Nature Study Book #2

This was the study I was most interested in when I wrote the new More Nature Study ebook. It truly is something we have never studied before and I was interested to see what we would learn.

We chose three of our backyard trees to collect twigs from: sweet gum, white birch, and pear. Later we added a twig from our silver maple and a few branches from our forsythia bushes. All week I have been enjoying just looking at them in the vases…still not taking the time to do the study.

Well, the time finally came to actually do the formal study after we had done lots of casual observations. We pulled out the new ebook, printed off the notebook pages, gathered our tree field guide, and fired up the internet. I love doing nature study with older kids since they can ask and then answer many of their own questions with the tools we have at our disposal.

Here are some of our observations:

1. Mr. A cut the twigs with his knife so we could observe the shape of the pith inside. They were all round inside.
2. Each of the twigs had different shaped terminal buds, with completely different colors.
3. We have never noticed the leaf scars before and now we know what to look for.
4. The lenticels on each twig were very different. Now we can use this observation to identify a tree since we know what we are looking for.

Twig Study and Notebook Pages
Stay Tuned for a Bud Study in the new Spring Ebook 3/5/12

This study has brought into focus once again the design of each living thing around us. Who would have thought that you could identify a tree by looking at its twigs and buds? I enjoyed getting to know how to use a new tool with the Winter Tree Finder guide. All of us are going to look at twigs with a new eye now and some new vocabulary as well. This study would be a perfect supplement to a high school biology course.

If you are looking for more winter tree study ideas, you can click over to Winter Series Challenge #2.

Buds 1 30 12
We were sitting outside in the warm afternoon sunshine and noticed that the silver maple has burst open its buds. We then noticed that there were probably a hundred bees buzzing in the top of the tree. Is it early for the bees to be so busy in the trees? I’m not sure. This is where a nature journal record is valuable. Stay tuned next week for a free printable to keep track of your seasonal “firsts”.

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OHC More Nature Study Book 2 – Twigs

Twigs in a Vase - Beginning our Twig Study

“Many times children are familiar with trees in spring, summer, and autumn but they have no knowledge of them in winter; yet trees in winter give much delight to those who know them as they do in summer. Oftentimes I have gone out on a winter day with my botany can and filled it with twigs for the pleasure that the colors and form gave me.
Home Nature-Study Course, Cornell University 1906

More Nature Study Book #2
Winter Tree Study – Twigs

Inside Preparation Work: 
1. Read the Tree Study section staring on page 623 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 172). Pay special attention to #3 in the section on Winter Work. Take note of the lesson’s observation suggestions to keep during your nature study of winter twigs. You may wish to read the links in the follow-up activity and the additional links listed below before you go outdoors so you will be equipped with some vocabulary to use casually during your observations.
2. Optional reading if you have access to a willow tree: Read Lesson 179 in the Handbook of Nature Study (starting on page 654). Use the ideas in the lesson to study willow twigs and buds.

Marking our Twig for Twig Study
Advanced Study Option

Outdoor Hour Time: 
1. Outdoor time this week should include a few minutes gathering twigs. Select twigs from three different trees to take indoors for closer observation. It would be helpful to know the names of the trees you collect your twigs from but not necessary. We came inside and marked each twig with little name tags This is primarily a challenge about comparing and contrasting twigs from various trees.
2. Advanced activity: Tie a string on a twig attached to a tree. Observe and record in your nature journal the twig’s changes for a few months.

Follow-Up Activity:
1. Use the questions from Lesson 172 to get your child started making observations for each of the three twigs you collected (or just one twig for younger children). Make sure to use your sense of sight, smell, and touch to make careful observations. Record your thoughts in your nature journal or on the notebook page (ebook users only).
2. Place your three twigs on a table. How are they different? Look at size, shape, arrangement of the buds, as well as the size or shape of the buds. Compare two buds on the same twig. Can you see the leaf scars where the leaf dropped off?
3. The main parts of the twig in winter are the buds, leaf scars, and lenticels. Sketch your twigs in your nature journal or on the notebook page, drawing everything you see and labeling the parts neatly.
4. Advanced follow-up: Complete the Twig Study notebook page (ebook users). Dissect a bud from your twig and then record your observations.

Additional Websites: 

Structure of a twig

You can view our twig study here: Winter Twigs – Training Our Eyes.

More Nature Study Winter Wonder

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy