Nature study is one of my favorite activities, but honestly, I don’t love the cold winter weather. It can be so easy to think that nature study is only for the summer months but there are so many beautiful things in nature that can only be studied during the winter. So I really try to make an effort to come up with ideas that keep us warm, happy and having fun doing winter nature studies.
These nine activities will make winter nature study fun and doable in your homeschool.
1. Study Animal Tracks
Winter is the perfect time of year to find and study animal tracks. The freshly fallen snow means that tracks are easily visible. You can find tracks in your own backyard or head to your favorite conservation park.
Take photos of the tracks you find, and when you get back home where it’s warm you can make drawings of them in your nature journal. Look the tracks up online and try to figure out what animal made them and learn more about them. This can become a fun unit study on learning about animal tracks.
2. Start Birdwatching
Winter is a great time to start feeding birds in your own backyard. You might think that you don’t have many birds around, but you will be amazed at how many visitors you get just a week after putting up a bird feeder.
Your children can practice taking photos of birds who visit your feeder and try drawing them in their nature journals. Research the birds and learn more about their songs, migration patterns, and feeding habits. Try keeping a tally board near a window overlooking your bird feeder and keep count of how many types of birds visit your feeder. Are the birds that come in the morning different than the ones that visit in the evening?
3. Study Evergreen Trees
We are surrounded by many types of evergreen trees, and our local conservation parks have many more; winter is the perfect time to study them. Have fun learning about evergreen trees in the winter. Go on a nature walk and keep count of the different types of evergreens that you find. What is different about the growing location of each type? Do some prefer dryer areas and others wetlands? Compare the types of needles they have. Are some soft while others are hard? Do they have different lengths and scents?
4. Exploring Up Inside Trees
There are so many things that happen up inside trees that we can’t easily see during the summer when they are covered with leaves. Take a nature walk and look closely up at the tree branches. What do you see? Look for bird nests, vines, seeds, and maybe some birds or squirrels.
5. Learning About Ice
Have some fun learning about how ice forms. Find some icicles near your home and measure them. Then measure them each day for a week and record how they have changed.
- How much longer did they get?
- Did they get wider also?
- Has the color changed at all (white or clear)?
Fill up containers with water and place them outside to freeze. Time how long it takes for ice to form on the top. How much longer does it take for the container to freeze solid?
Try adding table salt to some of the water containers. Do they freeze faster or slower than the plain water containers? What if you have containers of different thicknesses? It’s fun to try a wide range of mixtures to see what happens.
6. Learn About Snow
Winter is, of course, the perfect time to learn all about snow. Read some weather books about how snow forms. Let your kids fill up containers of different sizes of snow and bring them inside. Measure how deep the snow is in the container and weigh it. After the snow has melted, measure how deep the water is and how much it weighs and compare it to the snow measurements.
Take a magnifying glass outside and look at snowflakes close up. They are beautiful jewels to look at! A fun activity is to practice macro photography and take photos of your snowflakes.
7. Take An Evening Nature Walk
Bundle up warm and head out in the evening for a quiet nature walk. In the winter, the skies are so clear that it’s a wonderful time to get a good look at the night sky. The evening is also just the right time to go for an owl walk. If you’re quiet and lucky, you just might spot an owl coming out on his nightly hunt. We have snowy owls and barn owls here, and it’s always a treat when we can get a glimpse of them.
8. Indoor Nature Study
Sometimes, it just gets too cold and stormy to venture outside; that’s a great time to bring nature study indoors. Round up a selection of nature books and documentaries and have fun studying animals and plants from around the world.
Nature study doesn’t have to be limited to what you can see and touch locally. We are lucky to live in an era where we are able to learn about nature anywhere around the world in as much detail as we would like to at anytime!
9. Have A Winter Scavenger Hunt
Round up your kids, friends, and anyone who’d like to join in and have fun doing a winter nature scavenger hunt! Why not make some fun prizes and have a hot chocolate party afterward?
Doing nature study in the winter might not seem easy at first, but if you take a few simple steps to make sure you are warm and comfortable, it really does become a fun experience!