Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 One Small Square

“Children should be encouraged to quietly and patiently watch the bee, spider, ant, caterpillar or other wildlife that crosses their path. If this seems dull to them, they just need to watch more closely, because their alert eyes can catch the smallest ways of insects in ways that grown-ups can’t without magnifiers.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, Outdoor Life, page 57

one small square
Outdoor Hour Challenge #9
One Small Square

1. Let’s give ourselves a challenge.
Gather yarn, scissors, ruler, and four rocks. (optional: small garden trowel and magnifying lens)

Measure off one square somewhere out in your yard or near-by park. (I prefer to do this somewhere I can dig up a few inches of soil and not get into trouble.) Use your ruler to place rocks in a one foot square plot. Use the yarn to mark off the edges of your square. If you are completing this challenge with younger children, you might consider making a two foot square plot to investigate to make it easier. Each child could have their own square if you wish.

Now the challenge comes in. See how many different things you can find in your square. If there are leaves, lift them up and see what is underneath. If there are rocks or gravel, scrape them aside and see what is underneath. If there is grass or weeds and you have permission, use your trowel to dig up a few inches under the grass, moving it carefully to the side to replace when you are done observing. Use your hand lens if you have one along with you on your challenge.

2. Add any new items to your focus list
that you are keeping in your nature journal. Add any items to your collection that you found during this week’s challenge time. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you used your hand lens during this week’s challenge, encourage your child to draw something they saw that you would not normally see like a small insect, worm, or seed.

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

Reptiles for Nature Study: Mustering Up My Enthusiasm

Sometimes I feel very inadequate to teach about something my boys are interested in studying. Reptiles are one subject that I would put in that category. I have a huge aversion to the sight of reptiles, but on closer acquaintance I am not so put off and can see the beauty in their creation and how they fit into the web of life.

The process of going from feeling totally disgusted by these sorts of creatures to admiration is by getting to know them better. Here is what the Handbook of Nature Study says about reptiles and nature study.

“But she(the teacher) was equal to the occasion, and surprised them by declaring that there were many interesting things to be studied about snakes, and forthwith sent to the library for books which discussed these reptiles; and this was the beginning of a nature study club of rare efficiency and enterprise.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 193

What better way to follow your child’s interest than to learn right alongside them? I can’t always start off as excited about things as my children are but I can muster up enthusiasm at learning about it as part of God’s creation. Each animal and plant has a place in the intertwined web of life we have all around us. Snakes, lizards, spiders, rodents, and everything else each are dependent on each other and in the long run so are we. Each creature has a job to do and when I think about that in relation to snakes and reptiles, it encourages me to dig a little deeper with my children.

I know my boys always learn more if they are interested in a topic so we are off to the library and internet to study reptiles.


Outdoor Hour Challenge #8 Up Close and Personal

I was reading the “How to Use This Book” section of the Handbook of Nature Study again this week and I found something that is worth repeating at this point in our challenges.

“Make the lesson an investigation and make the pupils feel that they are investigators…….The ‘leading thought’ embodies some of the points which should be in the teacher’s mind while giving the lesson; it should not be read or declared to the pupils……..The outlines for observations herein given by no means cover all of the observations possible; they are meant to suggest to the teacher observations of her own, rather than to be followed slavishly….If the questions do not inspire the child to investigate, they are useless.” page 23

As the guide in our child’s nature study we need to remember to use the lesson and observation sections of the book as a guide to make nature study flow gently and naturally, not as a lecture with questions at the end.

Magnifier Tripod
Loupe 8x
Stand magnifier
stand lens
Plastic bug magnifier
Outdoor Hour Challenge #8

Up Close and Personal

“….but in nature-study, the observation of form is for the purpose of better understanding life.” page 8.

1. Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages 7-8, “Nature-Study and Object Lessons“. Also read “The Lens, Microscope, and Field Glass as Helps in Nature Study” on pg 9-10.

“In elementary grades, nature study deals with objects which the children can see with the naked eye. However, a lens is a help in almost all of this work because it is such a joy to the child to gaze at the wonders it reveals.”

If you do not have a simple magnifying lens as part of your science equipment, this might be a good time to invest in one you can easily carry in your pocket or backpack. We rarely take our magnifying lens with us on hikes but we do use it to look at things we find and bring home. We also find it is essential for a study of insects.

Make sure to pick another subject in your focus area to share with your children. Read the observation suggestions for that subject before you have your outdoor time so you can have them in mind as you do your observations this week.

“ Adults should realize that the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit. All people are supposed to be observers of nature and there’s no excuse for living in a world so full of amazing plants and animals and not be interested in them.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1 page 61

2. Spend your 10 to 15 minutes of outdoor time this week looking closely at objects in your own yard. Encourage your child to find an interesting object to investigate. If you can find something that relates to your focus area, your child will gain a totally new perspective of study. For example if your focus area is trees, find a leaf or bud or a piece of bark to look at with the hand lens. Without a lens you can still examine an object closely if you take a few minutes to slow down and focus on just one small part of it.

3. After your outdoor time, take a few minutes to informally talk about your experiences. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done for things your child is interested in.

4. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Have you started your own nature journal yet?
Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area that you are keeping in your nature journal.

5. Add any items to your collection that you discovered during your nature time. If you need more information on making a collection, see Challenge #6. If you are making a personalized field guide with your children, gather the materials and make your next card, see Challenge #7.

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy