The topic for discussion today is : “How do you do Nature Studies where you live?”
I remember when I first started homeschooling, I didn’t know what a Nature Study even was. (I figure there are people out there that don’t know either, so I will start at the beginning…) I didn’t understand what the big deal about them was. They didn’t do a subject called “nature” in Public School…. I wondered if it was really even something to be worried about.
Over time, listening, and researching this thing that kept popping up on message boards, and in forums, I finally checked out the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock., from my library. (beware… it is a BIG, I mean BIG THICK book…. it was sort of scary lookin’. I like the online version better, it is less frightening.) That is when I got it. Nature Study could be defined as the Art of Observation. What you are really doing, is teaching your child how to actually SEE the world around them. It is a stop and smell the roses sort of class.
Armed with that information…. that the teaching of a Nature Study doesn’t have to follow a set of rules, and seeing how it integrates itself into all areas of study, I was eager to start this new “class”.
Now to the part you have all been waiting for…. How we do Nature Studies where we live.
I live in a mixed community. We are definitely a city, but at the same time, desperately clinging to our agrarian roots. It is common to see a house with a barn, horses, chickens, goats, or even the wild turkey roaming on a fairly busy main street. Our opportunities may be more varied than someone from a major city, where tall cement prevails over tree dotted hills. The biggest thing that we do for Nature Study time, is GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!… I know, sounds hard doesn’t it?
We will go for walks along the river, we will talk about why the sparrows all build their nest on one side of the bridge and not the other. We look at bugs. We pick up leaves and try to classify if it is a monocot or a dicot. We pick flowers in the yard and we bring them in and cut them up. We identify all the parts of the flower. We pick up rocks and see what lives under there. We hunt for snakes. We watch the crows in our pine tree, and look for their nest every year. We investigate why the birds at daddy’s office only live under the roof tiles on one side of the building and not the other……. We care for our pets, the rats, the dogs and the cat…. and we watch the things they do.
For larger animals, we have friends that have a farm. We have helped with chickens, goats, pigs, and now cows…. we learn about the animal and their differences by being around them. We can observe the differences in feathers from a chick to a full grow chicken. We have seen every size and color of egg. We learn why eggs start out small, and how long it takes for it to get to a regular egg size. We learned about the protective coating chickens have on their eggs naturally. We learned why chicken cluck after they lay an egg…. ( it is so you will notice them and not their cute new egg…). We have killed, plucked and eaten our fair share of extra roosters… We have bottle fed baby goats, watched their horns and hooves grow. We have felt the change if their soft baby fur to the more coarse adult fur. We have milked a cow. We have helped load pigs to take to the butcher.
Those are some of the things that we do when the weather is good. Around here it can get COLD and it does snow…. So what do we do then…. is pretty much the same as in the summer, it just requires heavy coats, gloves and hats. We get out of the house!… When we have had a snow, we look around and see how the snow fell. We ask questions like…Why did the snow fall here and not there? Why did it pile up in this corner? What in the world causes this poky ice on our fence? Is the ground frozen? How do we know?
Another way we study nature is to grow a garden. We learn about seeds, soil, decomposition, insects, all sorts of stuff.
Nature Studies aren’t hard to find…. you need only open your eyes and ask questions.
So don’t be afraid of the name, or worried you might not be doing it ‘right’, just go out and look at the big wide world around you, and see what you can see.
If you want to read about how other homeschoolers study the world around them; click on the big cruise ship at the top of the post!