Thinking about creating a simple nature study? Discover why it’s beneficial and how to get started!
Why a Simple Nature Study?
The benefits of nature study are vast and endless. Natural science and earth science provide us the opportunity to study the world around us. Beginning at our fingertips and moving down beneath our feet, or up above our heads, there is so much to learn and understand about the world we live in.
Nature study affords us life skills by building on an education that we will carry with us forever. From the identification of edible or poisonous plants to recognizing the patterns and cycles of our environment – we are living in a diverse and dynamic world always worthy of attention and care.
Before You Begin
Before I dive into our method of a simple nature study, please know: you are never too young (or too old) to start! Pre-speaking children are interacting with their environment; learning through trial and error, tactile stimulation, and cause and effect. Adults at any age can manage stress, become more aware, and connect with the world more deeply through observation and understanding.
Nature study can mean a lot of things to different people. It can be: trekking through the woods, performing science experiments to show the water cycle or seed growth, collecting specimens, looking at illustrations or photographs in field guides, or using 3-part cards to learn the names of species and life cycles. It can be one or all of these things! It is up to you and how your family learns. For us, nature study is a combination of all of the above. In any case, I like to follow a simple sequence: read-> observe-> record.
Before we dive into a study, we like to read about it. (This is apart from regular open hikes and outdoor time we share.) Reading about our topic helps to jumpstart our brain. We think of questions to ask. We make connections in our minds. We are more aware of what to look for when we DO go outside. We could walk for hours, and while it would be enjoyable, we wouldn’t have the capacity to make sense of what we were witnessing. Reading and studying photos FIRST, gives us a starting point of what to take notice of when we are seeing it before our very eyes in the wild.
Now that we have laid the groundwork, let’s go out and SEE with our very eyes! With the recent information fresh in our minds, we can focus our attention to take notice with perspective. Were we learning about bluebirds? Let’s search for birds with orange chests and blue wings. Were we learning about monocots vs dicots? Let’s search for flowers with either 3 or 5 petals. Were we studying tracks? Let’s find some mud and identify which ones we know!
Now that we have read and seen, let’s discuss and record! This is the part of the process where my children can describe what they’ve learned and what it means to them. We will discuss connections. We will write what we notice. We will draw what we see. We will research more when we get home.
One of our all-time favorite curriculum companies that helps us achieve this is CM Simple Studies. Each guide follows a book with discussion and narration prompts for every chapter. We get to start with beautiful language from living books, truly opening our minds and our hearts in a gentle way and at our own pace. We’ll read one chapter, research further (maybe listen to some calls of an animal, or find websites about identifying a plant), then go out and explore!
This method is simple for us without overwhelming or bogging down our weeks. It doesn’t require ‘me’ to have all of the answers. It doesn’t require me to prep or plan. It’s simply learning alongside my children by sharing a desire and thirst for knowledge and experience.