There’s no doubt about it. Summer is a great time to get out and play. And explore.
And do some nature study when nature is in its prime.
If you are nature study beginners or just want some new life in your existing studies, try these 6 tried and true methods.
1. Insect Collecting
When our youngest was littler, he loved to collect insects and keep them as pets. He had a grand time hunting and setting them up in a small enclosure with everything they needed which he learned from reading, of course. As he grew older, he wanted to start an insect collection which is a different approach.
Instead of a catch and (eventually) release hobby, entomology is the study of insects and often includes a collection of insects that you pin and preserve as a specimen. Two different philosophies there, but both are fun for nature study. You can even do special collections of just butterflies or all beetles. See what you can find!
Below are listed some of our favorite books for both capture and release and starting a collection of insects.
Resources for Insect Collecting:
- Pets in a Jar– This book is all about collecting and caring for small wild animals. Not only does it include insects but also other small invertebrate animals.
- Pet Bugs– A kid’s guide to catching and keeping touchable insects.
- Insectigations– A set of 40 hands on activities to study insects
- Peterson Field Guide to Insects– Covers the characteristics of insects and their various orders along with identification
- Entomology the Study of Insects– Five posts that introduce insect collecting and the supplies you need to get started.
2. Wildflower Studies
Wildflowers are a consistent favorite among children and adults alike. One of the best things about wildflowers is that you can follow the blooms all summer long. If you take a regular walk with your children through the same areas, you can chart out which flowers bloom at what time.
The enjoyment of wildflowers includes studying them, identifying them, painting them, and pressing them. Here are some resources to help you with your wildflower studies.
Resources for Studying Wildflowers:
- Wildflower Identifying & Pressing– Everything you need to get started collecting, identifying, and pressing wildflowers
- Tips for Botanical Illustrating– Want to get better as illustrating plants and flowers? Here are some tips from an artist.
- National Audubon Society Guide to Wildflowers– Lovely pictures and descriptions to help you identify the flowers you find.
3. Pond Exploring
Throughout the summer, we are eager to explore places of water. Ponds are teaming with life and they make a wonderful nature study all year long.
Study what lives in the pond, what lives around the pond, types of ponds, and observe the critters that live there.
Resources for Pond Studies:
- Peaceful Ponds– a pond nature study from Nature Explorers
- One Small Square Pond– a wonderfully illustrated book showing all the things you can find in and around a pond in just one square inch. It’s a great survey of pond life.
- Art & Nature Study with Beatrix Potter– A lovely nature study of all things including ponds.
4. Creek Adventures
Summer time is always fun in the creek! You can hop on stones, turn over rocks, listen to the water running, and walk on the banks of the creek.
Bring along a container for creek water so that when you turn over rocks and find critters, you can observe them in the container. Light bottomed containers work best because they allow you to see the critters best. If you carry a hand lens, you can see them close up.
- Incredible Creeks– a creek study
- A Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America– a guide for identifying invertebrate creatures in both pond and creek water
- Nature Journal Calendars– a year’s worth of nature study ideas and printable calendars to keep track of your observations.
5. Star Gazing
Watch the summer sky in your area of the world. All you need is a place to observe that is absent of light pollution (yes, that’s a thing). You want to be where you can see the stars come out without confusing them for lights on earth.
You can learn the difference between a planet and a star when you are looking out at night. Do you have an observatory nearby? Our family likes to visit ours every Friday night in good weather to see through the large telescopes.
Resources for Star Gazing:
- Audubon Field Guide to the Night Sky– You’ll find information about what you see in the sky at night including star charts
- Star Charts– Orient the chart to the summer sky in your hemisphere and identify the stars you should be able to see on a clear night
- Google Sky Map– We love this app for holding it up to the sky when we don’t know which planet or star we are looking at.
- The Sky this Week– One of many websites designed to keep you informed about what’s happening in the sky each week. You’ll want to keep your eye out for eclipses, meteor showers, etc.
6. Garden Studies
Grow something in the summer season. You could grow a small container garden with favorite flowers or special vegetables. It would be a themed garden like a pizza garden. Try your hand at raised beds.
Just make sure whatever you choose is small and sustainable, particularly if you’ve never grown a garden before.
Resources for Garden Studies:
- Gardening with Children– A fantastic book that outlines science lessons with gardens
- Roots, Shoot, Buckets, and Boots– Themed gardens and whimsical with practical ideas on gardening with kids
However you decide to spend your summer, make some time for outdoor exploration!