With spring finally making an appearence and tiny flower buds spotting the trees, now’s the perfect time to start your own Nature Notebook. Maybe you want an idea to connect neighborhood kids or reach out to a new family. The best part is that they’re great for kids and adults of all ages.
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Nature notebooks, which follow the Charlotte Mason style teaching, are a great way to stay outdoors and explore, no matter the season. It can be done in 10-15 mins or stretched out over an hour. Whether you homeschool, run a daycare, or are out for summer break, all you need to get started are:
*A Composition notebook (we stock up on these in August before school starts. $.50 at Walmart)
*Pencils with good erasers
*a few (but not required)
learning style can be implemented into any family, regardless of where they live; on a city block, suburban sub-division, or out in the boonies. Start by drawing a simple tree. Label and date it, then write one sentence about where you were when you saw it or something you know to be a fact about the tree, and bam! You’re done!
Now, of course, depending on your skill level, you can add more to this. A two-year old might draw a line with a bunch of squiggles on it, while the 12 year-old should be able give more detail. The point is to pay attention to your surroundings and just draw something you see.Look for dandelions, weeds, a bird, clouds, leaf patterns, insects. The possibilities are endless in this big beautiful world God has created. Field guides are great to have on hand because you can investigate exactly what kind of bird it is or how the leaf patterns differ from tree to tree.
Don’t forget your local library. Most will let you check our field guides or encyclopedias. And of course, there’s the web, but it isn’t as fun (nor as easy) to flip through the pages on a scavenger hunt for the bug with 6 legs, a spiky head, and yellow spots!
Our family has been doing a Nature Study with 2 other families. We meet once a week for 6 weeks and discuss various things in nature. We gather at our house for about an hour and a half. Within that time, we take walks, have a lesson in doors if its raining or absolutely frigid, let the kids play a bit, then end with a light snack-often it’s Oreos… (This time of gathering has been such a blessing in so many ways.) In the Fall, we studied 6 different trees; Winter was a study on cattle and making maple syrup; this Spring we are doing nature walks where the kids can explore the farm and investigate the woods. The only rules are: they have to find at least one thing to draw (and actually do it), stick with a buddy, and always be listening for the Moma’s! It’s been so great seeing what each child chooses to put in their notebook. From cattle bones to simple twigs. 🙂 Summer will be great for checking out the creek for swimming creatures and cool rocks.
*For younger children, after they draw, have them dictate one sentence to you that they like about their picture.
*Take a small dry erase board (from the Dollar Tree) in your bag and have kids copy words from the board.
*Have little ones simply trace your written word with their colored pencil.
The “cousins” (aka, my husband’s sister and family) lived at the beach for a few months and did several nature studies on sea shells. You could easily add moon phases, tides, and various sand critters to this.We have also participated in Nature Note-booking in a classroom setting at our homeschooling co-op. We studied various weather patterns and storms, along with clouds, the parts of a flower, and different parts of a bird’s wing.
If you’re homeschooling and farming, this works great! When you need to band the bull calves, take the kids, along with their notebooks, and there’s your lesson. When you’re gardening and you run across a strange insect, put it in a jar and let the kids draw it. (Then let it out if you want to or start a bug collection…)
For the older kids, let them research different ways to stop the worms or insects from eating your broccoli leaves!
As you get the hang of this, you might want to add a line of poetry or quote from a favorite book to your page. This isn’t required, but a creative option.
Other ideas for a 6 week study:
*cattle (discuss anatomy, calf care, uses, etc….)
*weather (clouds, air pressure, various storms, etc…) read our post on 5+ Weather Sessions!
*pond or creek life (salamander eggs, fish varieties, other creepy crawly things…)
*chickens (parts of a feather, habits, various kinds, etc…)
Lastly, erase the lie that you keeps going through your head, “But I can’t draw!”
Neither could I when we first started, but as I did this with my kids, I got better. Don’t forget, the point is not to win a prize for the best drawing, but to pay attention to the beauty all around you and cultivate a love for learning within your kids, and yourself!