Monday, March 26, 2012

How We Do Nature Study

I find it rather interesting that despite the fact that we are currently living in the most URBAN setting we have ever lived in (in a fourth story apartment right in the middle of the downtown area of a small-mediumish French city), we have also been having the most fun and most success with our times of nature study.  I am finding that nature study doesn't have to be complicated - I think part of my problem in the past was that I overcomplicated things and tried to make our times of nature study into a big, detailed event that was too hard to keep up from week to week.   Simplicity is key, I think.   Simply taking the time to notice what is happening around us.

If you are like me (grew up city-girl through and through so I really don't have much nature knowledge), sometimes you need a little inspiration.  We usually have a nature-themed read aloud going as part of our school time - currently Outdoor Secrets.    We read about catkins a couple weeks ago and the very next day happened to see some on a bush while we were out and about!   I am also really liking following along with the challenges on the Handbook of Nature Study blog.   Barb provides ideas that can be as simple or as detailed as you'd like them to be depending on the interest and ages of your children.  She often provides links to YouTube videos and other info if you want more details, and if you purchase her ebooks there are heaps of recording sheets as well.  Fun stuff.

By way of are a couple of the studies we have done recently:

We purchased a couple of pansies from our local market and took time to look carefully at them.  Can you find the little face?  Michelle then used the prompts from the notebooking sheet that came with our ebook to write a simple poem about pansies (she dictated it to me, then copied into her nature journal in her own handwriting):
Happy Pansy
Happy Green and Curly Leaves
2 Petals for the forehead, 2 for the cheeks, 1 for the chin
Blooming, Jumping Petals

Yesterday, we took a Sunday-afternoon walk through our city and noticed some of the signs of spring.  Europe was in the midst of a deep-freeze when we arrived here, so there has been a definite transformation!  Some of the things we observed:
The tree outside our window is in bloom and if you look really carefully you can spot a couple of birds...
Probably just sparrows, but the first birds we've seen AT ALL except for pigeons since we've been here, so it was exciting to us.

The planters along the sidewalks around town were planted with purple and white kale when we arrived (I wish I had a picture...not something I've seen before!), but have recently been replanted with beautifully colored flowers:

Including some surprises yet to bloom....something to check back for to discover what they are:

We recorded everything on the notebooking page that came with the free March newsletter and pasted into the book we are making about our Year in France:

So that's what we do!  Simple!  The kids are getting a wonderful introduction to the natural world around them and gaining skills in observations and making connections that will serve them well as they move into more formal science study.   Perhaps most importantly taking time to notice God's creation around us...even in the city...has brought much joy to our busy days.


  1. Welcome to the OHC! I am so glad that you are finding things of interest even in the city. Spring is such a wonderful time to begin to see the world come alive. I love the pansy study and the poem is perfect for your daughter's nature journal. I look forward to seeing more entries from your family and see how you find more to learn about in your neighborhood.

    Thank you so much for sharing your entry with the OHC.

  2. hello jen, my family and i live in nyc . . it's nice to see another city family finding nature in planters and plots about town. we also cherish the few glimpses of cardinals, chickadees and mockingbirds that show their faces after so many pigeons. we have little sparrows that stay all year. they're very sweet. that might be nice for us to try and do a little study of them one day! happy spring! we look forward to reading more about your nature studies in france :)

  3. It really is amazing how much nature you can find to study, even in not so naturey places. We are inbetween, in the suburbs, so we don't have all that amazing stuff like Barb often sees, but more green and wide open spaces that it sounds like y'all have.

    Enjoyed seeing how you do it. :)

  4. Thanks for the kind comments ladies. I am still finding my blogging groove, but we have been having so much fun with nature study this year that I'm sure I will be blogging about that more. =)

  5. Good idea pasting the sheets into the notebook, I will have to start doing that.