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Whether you are a year-round homeschooler, a full-summer-break homeschooler, or even a combination of those two – if you’re looking for some great ideas for summer Nature Study in your homeschool, I’ve got five of my favourite that I would love to share with you!
Why Do Nature Study?
I won’t go into a big dissertation here about the benefits of nature study. However, if it’s something you’ve wanted to try, or if it’s something you’ve not heard of before, here are my top reasons to do nature study in your homeschool:
- Nature study creates a connection to science that your children can engage in from a very young age – and really helps to set a firm basis for future science studies
- Nature study helps to create a sense of awe and wonder at the natural world. Learning to follow the wonder will help your children in all areas of their studies.
- Nature study helps your children feel a sense of responsibility to our earth, and a deepening sense of their interconnectedness to the world.
- Nature study makes science INTERESTING. Don’t we all remember our early science studies as being a bit dry, disconnected, and full of terminology and labs and textbooks? What if we had learned from an early age that science was FUN and interesting and full of these great connections and curiosities? How would our relationship with science have differed?
- Nature study enriches a child’s life. It makes the world WIDE and full of new things for your child. Also, keeping a nature journal allows your children to connect their science studies with creative and artistic outlets as well. It’s not often that we make a connection between science and art, so nature study/nature journalling is a great way to do this.
- Nature study keeps us outside – and healthy! Fresh air, exercise, and sunshine – what better way to spend our days?
What About Summer Nature Study?
I know what you’re probably thinking, our kids all spend a ton of time outside! Especially in the summer! I know all too well, though, how easy it is to let things slide down the list of priorities – behind ice cream, waterfights, and beach days, we MAY find Nature Study.
There is a little more to nature study, even summer nature study, than just ‘being’ outside. It’s about being intentional with our time, allowing ourselves to slowly wonder at the natural world and ask a LOT of “why” questions. It is really easy to BE outside and still miss all the little amazing things that are going on around us. The beauty and intensity of nature in the summer months makes it the IDEAL season to connect with your natural world.
Five Ideas To Get Your Summer Nature Study Going:
- Bird watching! I will say here that my family is truly blessed to live in a rural-ish area of Northern Ontario. Teeming with wildlife, beautiful lakes and trees, I do live in a great part of the world for nature study. The easiest way to do some summer Nature Study is to look for your local birds. Either in your back yard, or at a nature park if you have one, or take a drive down a country road. I guarantee if you slow down, and watch the sky and trees, you’ll spot some beautiful local birds. With the help of a great local field guide, a small notebook to note when and where you spotted the bird, and if you’re feeling artistic – grab a sketchbook and try drawing your favourite bird.
- Tree Identifying: We started in our backyard first, and we’re still working on this one! We purchased an Audobon Field Guide To Trees, and have slowly been working on identifying all the trees that are on (or very near) our property. This has been a fun project for the kids – at the end of it, we’re hoping to compiled some pressed leaves from all of the different trees, and make a journal from a small sketchbook. We will track how the trees change and grow as summer turns to fall and then winter.
- Hiking: Take advantage of local hiking trails, state or provincial parks, or forge your own trail in a wooded area you know well. Pack a bag with the necessities: water, snacks, field guides, notebook, sunscreen, and a camera. Take some time ahead of the hiking outing to check out if there are wildlife issues you need to be aware of (I happen to live where there is a LOT of black bear activity, so we always ask about sightings and what we should do if we spot a black bear). Remember that a hike is not a race to the finish, take your time and really notice as much as you can along the way. Look for mosses, fungi, animals, birds, and flowers. Make notes, and if you are comfortable with sketching, stop and make a few sketches as you go. See things, smell things, touch things, and listen to the sounds around you – I won’t suggest you eat things on a hike, unless it’s the snacks that you packed! When you return home, have your kids make a small booklet to remember what they did and saw, or a list of questions they have about the things they saw. You could have your children do a freewrite or written narration about their experience.
- Backyard Building Projects: This is my oldest son’s absolute favourite thing we’ve done all summer. He chose a topic, in his case it was backyard birding, and he used what he learned to create, plan, and build a handmade bench for birdwatching in our backyard. It was ‘project based homeschooling’ on a very small level. He and I sat down, he told me what he wanted and I asked him some open-ended questions to help him narrow down his vision. We designed his bench, measured it, priced materials, and then he and his stepdad went out to get everything he needed. He measured and built it by hand (with some help with the cutting of the wood). And for my “nature sketching resistant” 10 year old son, this was a PERFECT to help him make those connections between what he knows about birds, and what he thinks would make a good birdwatching bench – and even where would be the best place to put it in the yard.
- Nature Study Scavenger Hunt: This has been a great way to get my kids to pay closer attention when we’re out on a hike or playing in the yard – just a simple list of things to look for (or pictures for those kids who aren’t reading yet), a container to collect them all, and off they go! Kids love to hunt for things. You can even make it fun and offer a little prize when they’ve completed the hunt – maybe a mini ice cream party in the backyard, or popsicles at the beach. Whatever would be fun for your family – the sky’s the limit!
These are just a FEW ideas to get you and your family on to some fun summer nature study adventures! The goal is to slow down, pay close attention, and find fun ways to document what you see and learn. Showing your OWN wonder at the beauty of the natural world around us will inspire your children to wonder as well, so don’t forget to get in on the fun with them! Happy nature trekking!