Monday, September 16, 2013

A Simple Way to Start Doing Nature Study, Part 2

In part one, I shared a bit about our goals and journey towards a simple, natural approach to nature study.  Today, I want to share a bit more about what nature study looks like in our home these days.
Sample from our "nature notes" book
At the moment, we’ve fallen into a daily and weekly pattern for our “formal” nature study.   Daily, during our Tea Time, we take a minute to record any “nature notes” we might have.  This might be a bird or flower or insect we’ve noticed, or a change in weather patterns, or whatever.   For example our “nature notes” for the month of August included:
  • 8/7 – Michelle and a friend saw a yellow bird with a black stomach and stripes of black and yellow
  • 8/7 – We watched a brown bird with red feet pull a strip of bark off the banana tree and fly into the bushes – maybe there is a nest there?
  • 8/8 – Very cool and cloudy weather (but no rain) this week.
  • 8/9 – Note: Let’s try to find out the name of the yellow flower that hangs over the bush in the backyard.  (ETA: They are buttercups)
  • 8/13 – James and Elizabeth saw a small light-blue bird on the fence.
  • 8/13 – G. (the gardener on our compound) told us the plant along the back fence is Indian bamboo.
  • 8/14 – The H’s rescued some little baby kittens whose mother died.  Their tails are as long as Michelle’s (7.5yo) finger.  They are really noisy – mewing.  They are only as big as Michelle’s hand.  Mrs. H dips a plastic thing into a bowl of milk and the kittens suck it.
  • 8/15 – Elizabeth saw Lily, the C’s pet antelope {Yes, our neighbors really do have a baby antelope in their backyard!} She likes to eat leaves and grass.  She has a short tail.  She likes to play.
  • 8/15 – Michelle saw a tortoise at the B’s house.  Mr. B bought it from a kid while he was jogging.  It is little and has a shell.  It moved faster than I thought it would!   James found a Croton plant in the backyard.
  • 8/19 -  We found some Barbados flowers in the front yard.  The weather is starting to change to more sunny – a little bit.
  • 8/22 – Michelle noticed some little tiny yellow flowers in the grass.  The B’s lost their tortoise.
  • 8/27 – It rained last night for the first time in quite a long time.  The weather is getting warmer.
  • 8/28 – James saw the same light blue bird again on the phone wire.  Michelle saw the first tiny mangoes on the mango tree.
We are using one of the templates from this set of nature notebook pages from Fisher Academy.  This gives us a place to record what we’ve noticed and have it written down for future reference, especially if it is something that we want to be sure to research further or try to identify.   By organizing it by months, I hope that it will give us a feel over time for the “seasons” we experience here in the tropics (since they aren’t so cut and dried as those further away from the equator).
One of Michelle's recent nature journal entries, identifying and describing some of the plants in our yard
Then, each week, we carve out a space in our schedule to make an entry in our nature journals.  This is something we do all together – this includes Mama!  Even my 3 year old usually will at least sit an scribble in her ‘notebook’ too.  Sometimes we sit outside and draw something together, if there is something in particular we noticed that morning.  Other times, we will pick something we’ve recorded in our nature notes to research a bit further or sketch.   We are city-dwellers so aren’t able to take nature walks or hikes on a regular basis, although we do take advantage of those opportunities when we can.  (Thankfully, we have enough fascinating flora and fauna right in our backyard that I think we will be well-supplied with nature study topics for a long time!)
Recent entry in my nature study notebook - I have a little series going called "What's Growing in our Yard".  This is a Croton.
And that’s it, pretty much.   This is not to say that we’ll never choose a topic (like birds or mammals) to study more in-depth.  There is certainly a time and a place for that too. (Ambleside Online has a suggested Nature Study rotation, and Naomi has a great post here about choosing a “special study” for her Year 6 daughter.) But my goal is even for those more detailed studies to be borne out of our natural interests and curiosities as we continue to develop familiarity with the environment around us, rather than a lesson plan introduced by Mama.
James (age 5) decided to draw a map of our yard
So if you are one of those mamas who is feeling stuck with starting into nature study, relax.   Don’t worry about it if you don’t know anything: you don’t have to know anything to begin.   Just take one thing at a time.   Make a point to try to ‘see’ something new each day.  Share that with your kids.   Do a little research to find out what it is.  Take a minute to jot it down or sketch it.  Rinse and repeat.
I think you will be surprised by what discoveries you will make.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent ideas, Jen. I confess that Nature Study was one the subjects I was the most apprehensive about as we began our journey into the CM philosophy of education. And when the gargantuan Handbook of Nature Study arrived in the mail, I was floored. But I soon realized that there was nothing to be anxious about. My children love, love, love nature and always have. And we live in a rural area on a farm, so the opportunities for studying nature are endless.

    Here's what we do at our house: we pick a (monthly) subject for nature study, and do that once per week on Thursdays. But Thursdays are also our nature journaling days when we take a walk and sketch whatever we see, which makes for a great day of "school". :)

    Thanks for sharing!