Outdoor Hour Challenge: Nature Study with Teens – Adapting to Different Needs

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 4 – September 24, 2021

Nature Study with Teens – Adapting to Different Needs

“Nature Study – It is the intellectual, physical, and moral development by and through purposeful action and reaction upon environment, guided so far as needed by the teacher.” John Dearness, 1905

“Some children are born naturalists, but even those who aren’t were born with natural curiosity about the world and should be encouraged to observe nature.”
Charlotte Mason, vol 2 page 58

The Challenge of Teens and Nature Study

Once my children were teens, our nature study sort of stalled out. I made the mistake of presenting our outdoor studies in the same way that I had always done with them in the past. I would pick a topic, share some information from the lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study, and then we would be out on the search for the subject. It was a habit but not really the habit I had set out to create. Where was the enthusiasm I had seen when they were younger? Why did we end of feeling like it was an item to check off our to-do list? I knew we could do better.

These questions led me back to the internet to research more closely how nature study develops into upper level science.

“The Field Lesson. When planning a field lesson, three points should be kept in mind:
First. The aim, to bring the children into sympathy or in touch with nature, through the study of that part of nature in which they have been interested.
Second. The conditions out of doors, where the children are at home, where they must have greater freedom than in the schoolroom, and where it is more difficult to keep them at definite work, and to hold their attention.
Third. The necessity of giving each child something definite to find out for himself, and of interest to the children so that each will try to find out the most and have the greatest number of discoveries to tell.”

Nature Study and The Child, Charles B. Scott, 1900.

I found with my teenagers that there needed to be a different sort of follow-up to our nature observations…more than just a nature journal. They needed to be more connected to their nature study by finding patterns and relationships between past experiences and new ones.

“But true science work does not stop with mere seeing, hearing, or feeling; it not only furnishes a mental picture as a basis for reasoning, but it includes an interpretation of what has been received through the senses.”

Nature Study for the Common Schools, Wilbur Samuel Jackman, 1891

This is the part of nature study I found the most meaningful to my children. To take what they already knew and to build on it with new observations, developing a real interest in knowing more. I could no longer just relate facts, no matter how interesting the facts were.

Here is the key: Teens need to find the answers to their own questions and then express those answers in a way that makes sense to them.

3 steps to a better nature journal experience

My research found that this pattern – observation, reasoning, expression – is nothing new or unique to nature study. This pattern is the process that all science is built upon. I have created a printable that explains this process and you can download and read it here:

Three Steps to a Better Nature Study Experience

What Can Parents Do?

It would be ideal if all nature study could be spontaneous but that hardly seems practical in a busy homeschooling week. For ease of scheduling, there must be some provision for getting outside each week (or in a perfect world it would be every day).

Aim for three things in your nature study: to really see what you are looking at with direct and accurate observation, understand why the thing is so and what it means, and then to pique an interest in knowing more about the object.

What if my teen is still not interested in nature study?

Sometimes, despite all my efforts, my teens’ interest wasn’t equal to my interest in nature study.  I could take them to the most fascinating places to explore and they would just want to sit and talk or take a walk by themselves. The setting was perfect and the subjects abounded, but they are more interested in throwing rocks or digging a hole.

I knew the value of getting teens to get outside and see the wonderful things that existed right there under their noses. I knew I could not force them to do nature study but giving up was not an option. The answer is patience. The best way to handle this issue was to allow them the space and time to experience nature on their own terms.

In My Experience:

Here is a real-life example My two boys and I regularly made visits to my dad’s pond together.  When younger, they would go right to the business of scooping up water and critters and talking in excited voices about what they were finding. But once they reached the teen years, I noticed a different atmosphere, an attitude of “we’ve been here and done that”. I tried to remind myself that this was their normal teenage reaction to just about everything. They rarely appeared to be too excited on the outside. More often than not, they would later on relate the whole experience in a more favorable light to their dad or one of their siblings. Apparently, the outside of a teenager doesn’t accurately reflect the inside at all times.

So if you have older children and they appear to not be interested at first, don’t give up. It may be that they just aren’t showing it outwardly but inside the experiences are deeply affecting them. Don’t give up on the habit of nature study with your teens.

Enhancing a Nature Walk with Teens

Digital Photography: A love of the natural world does not come automatically for all children and sometimes we need to find a way to hook them into getting outdoors. Most of our children have a lot of screen time each week. Rarely are they without a device that has a camera function. Take advantage of this tool in enhancing your time outdoors!

Although there are advantages to taking a walk “unplugged”, there are distinct benefits to allowing your teens to take photos as part of their nature study time.

  • It slows them down.
  • Helps them focus and really see an object.
  • Everyday things in their own backyard can now be captured and viewed.
  • They can see the beauty.
  • They make their own connections.
  • Perfect for our teens…they are comfortable with the technology and love to share with their friends.

For more thoughts on nature photography, see the June 2014 Newsletter in the Ultimate Naturalist Library.

Ultimate Naturalist Library Members:

  • Three Steps to a Better Nature Study Experience posted in the Getting Back to Basics- The Habit of Nature Study section of the Library.
  • December 2012 Newsletter Article – Is Nature Study Relevant to High School Science?
  • June 2014 Newsletter – Nature Photography
  • August 2015 Newsletter – several articles on building a nature library (especially helpful are suggestions for field guides for older students to use in their studies)
  • May 2017 Newsletter Article – Interest Driven Learning – Ocean Creatures

More Nature Study ebooks and Nature Study Continues ebooks

Please remember that many of the OHCs include an Advanced Study option and accompanying notebook pages. If you are a member, please look in your Member’s Library to see which ebooks contain those suggestions for older students as part of the nature study lesson. My children used those lessons when they were in high school as part of their biology courses.

You may be interested in this entry found on my blog: Nature Study as Part of a Biology Course

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Members can click here to log into your account to download any of the Member’s items listed above.

If you are not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

 

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If you are an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.

 

 

Outdoor Hour Challenge: Nature Study-Creating Habits Young

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 3 – September 17, 2021

Nature Study – Creating Habits Young

“As for the baby, when he is put down, he will kick and crawl and grab at the grass, loving every minute of his freedom as he takes in nature in his own way. He should be dressed in something comfortable that can handle a bit of dirt and play.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 45

Nature Study is a Family Activity

In our family, when the children were young, we would work and play in the yard together just about every day. The habit of getting outdoors for a few minutes together began even before we started any sort of formal nature study. Simply being outside as a family pulling weeds, cutting flowers to bring inside, sitting on the grass and watching the birds in the feeders, sweeping the walk, swinging on the rope swing, tidying the garden, playing with the dog, turning the compost, or watering the deck plants, brought us in touch with so many interesting things to observe and enjoy.

There were rocks to turn over and look at what was hiding underneath…..ants and spiders and crickets. There were plants to smell like roses, thyme, and lavender. There were trees to touch and leaves to gather.

The earlier you start building these habits in your family, the easier it will be to create children who are eager to be outside and engaged in nature study. Think of the earliest years outdoors with your children as the way to start a valuable habit. I have seen in my family that developing a love and curiosity about the natural world developed gradually over their childhood.

“..the mother must not miss this opportunity of being outdoors to train the children to have seeing eyes, hearing ears and seeds of truth deposited into their minds to grow and blossom on their own in the secret chambers of their imaginations.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 45

I believe in the younger grades that our responsibility as parents is to open the eyes of our children to the world around them, exposing them to real things and real places. I have long said here on this blog that it makes no sense to me to teach our children about the rainforest if they haven’t even learned about the trees and animals in their local habitat. The younger years are the time to get outside and take walks and look at real things up close and form memories and impressions. There is a time for books and textbooks (in limited amounts) but that can come later.

 

Nature Study with Very Young Children – Getting Outside Safely

Once you decide you want to venture out of your own yard, the stroller is a great way to get the little ones out but still let them be a part of your nature time. You can point things out to get them started, but soon they’ll be looking for clouds and birds on their own. Be flexible. I have one child that would rather push the stroller than sit and ride so I would tell him that he had to keep a hand on the stroller as we walked along at his pace. This kept him from running too far ahead and I could interact with him as interesting things caught our eye. This gave him a little sense of freedom, but I could be in close supervision.

From a very early age, we included the little ones along on our family hikes. The baby backpack was our best friend and the boys both loved riding along on dad’s back as we hiked. We trained them to ride in the backpack and then gradually shifted them to walking on their own.

Tips for Young Children

One of our favorite daily activities when the boys were very small was to let them use a small watering can to water our deck plants each morning. We would observe the flowers and play in the water a little, but they began to have an appreciation for growing things.

Also, the boys have always loved helping to fill the birdfeeders. This would get us outdoors and talking about the different visitors we had that ate the seeds. Scooping seed was a favorite toddler activity as well.

Collecting things to bring home and organize is also something very young children enjoy. I have one son that always had a pocket full of acorns every time he went outside. We collected them in a coffee can each day and he enjoyed spilling them out on the deck to count and sort through on his own.

Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge with Young Children

Let’s say that your family has preschool or young grammar age children. You have a suburban backyard. You have one afternoon a week that you can devote to nature study. You are new to nature study but you know your children have an interest in birds. How will you use the Outdoor Hour Challenges?

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudy

  • Pick your Outdoor Hour Challenge from the selection of birds available. You’ll need to read through the Challenge and then read the corresponding pages in the Handbook of Nature Study. Note a few points that you can weave into your outdoor time. Prepare the children as much as you can in a way that is appropriate for their ages. If the lesson for the week is to learn about bird’s beaks, you might mention a few facts about bird beaks before you head out the door.
  • I might start off our outdoor time with a walk around the yard to see if we find anything new or interesting. If a bird happens along at the feeder or nearby, stop and quietly observe the bird, making special note of the bird’s beak.
  • After the birds flies away, take a minute to ask if your child was able to observe anything about the bird’s beak. Was it long, short, pointed, round, black, yellow, bigger than the head, and how did the bird use the beak? In this way you start to create the habit of observing nature carefully together. Keep the “lesson” short.

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”

-Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

In My Experience

In the younger years, we should be more concerned with creating that direct contact with nature and not the memorizing of facts about things we haven’t encountered in real life. Nature study should include those objects most often seen and encountered during your outdoor time. The flowers, trees, birds, insects, and rocks that are found in your own yard or neighborhood are the perfect start to your nature study experiences. The best way to teach nature study is not by setting out a rigid course of study but to be aware of topics that are all around you and one by one to make observations and to learn as a family.

For instance, you could read about a monarch in a book, noting the illustrations and the scientific facts about this beautiful butterfly. This may soon be forgotten. But, if you are out in your garden or on a nature walk and come across a monarch butterfly that maybe has a tattered wing, your child might just want to know about where it came from and why it has a few ragged edges on its wings. They care about the real butterfly. Their personal experience with this insect will now give the reading about it in a book more meaning. This butterfly now has a story and your child might be more inclined to tell that story in their own words either orally or on paper. The correlation between what they saw in the garden and what they have learned about the monarch may even spur them to act in behalf of that monarch by planting a butterfly garden with milkweed or participate in a citizen science project where they tag monarchs.

Ultimate Naturalist Library Members:

  • Look for the Preschool Nature Study Plan posted in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of the Library. This download has a year’s worth of preschool nature study planned out for your family if you’re looking for a little structured activity.
  • Read the August 2014 Newsletter – Preschool Nature Study
  • Read the January 2015 Newsletter – Book Basket

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Members can click here to log into your account to download any of the items mentioned above.

Use the discount code AUTUMNFUN5 to receive $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Code expires tonight!

If you are not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

If you are an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.

 

 

Outdoor Hour Challenge: Nature Study Lab in Your Own Backyard

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 2 – September 10, 2021

Nature Study Lab in Your Own Backyard

The habit of nature study is best when you can regularly be outside with your children. For our family, this habit was built out in our backyard, mostly because it was convenient but also for the simple reason that I felt it was important for my children to learn about real things, plants, and animals they could observe up close.

A Little Inspiration

I once read an article written by a mom who had little by little converted her suburban backyard into a wild place for her children. She brought in some rocks for lizards and insects to take shelter in. She sourced a big log to give the kids the opportunity to experience the living creatures that lived in, under, and on the log, as well as observe the log’s decomposition. She made a sand pile for digging with pails and shovels. There were places to play in the hose and make mud. After reading of that experience, it occurred to me that with a little effort on her part, she had created a space for her children to experience nature even in a small backyard.

In My Experience

Our backyard seemed the best place to start! After all, it’s a short voyage from our home to this “nature study lab”.  Quickly I realized that we could enhance our experience by attracting wildlife into our space.  Starting small, we grew our habitat each year, adding more opportunities for exploring and observing wildlife without leaving home. Having nature out the back door helped create a habit of getting outside with my children.

What can you do to get started?

Assess Your Yard and Make a Plan

Make an assessment of what you already have available in your yard. You can use the printable linked below to get started. Ask your children to help you make an inventory of what may already be working for wildlife.

As you build your backyard habitat, you will have more opportunities to closely observe and enjoy birds, small mammals, reptiles, insects, and others who make a home or visit your little wildlife oasis.

This project can be as simple or complex as you make it. Perhaps just making one change at a time to see what works for your yard will be enough to bump up your wildlife visitors a notch.

Simple First Steps:

  • Add a water source in the form of a shallow basin or saucer.
  • Add a birdfeeder.
  • Add a shrub.
  • Add some rocks.
  • Add a potted plant with blooming flowers.

Keeping in mind that a wildlife habitat needs water, shelter, and food, build your backyard habitat even if you are on a limited budget. Let friends and family know about your nature study project and see if they have items they can share with you.

The nature study habit is easier when you have constant and endless access to your backyard habitat. No need to travel far! In studying nature close to home, our children will learn to observe, to write about their experiences, to draw their treasures, to be patient, to imagine, and to explore.

Anna Botsford Comstock in her book Handbook of Nature Study puts her thoughts this way, “Nature study is for the comprehension of the individual life of the bird, insect, or plant that is nearest at hand.”

In the book Last Child in the Woods, the author makes the point several times that today’s science textbooks and programs are missing the mark. Many, many young students know more about the tropical rainforests and volcanoes of the world than they know about their own backyards.

“Adults should realize 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.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 61

Miss Mason was really helping us to see how to make science meaningful for our children. No longer will science be abstract or have a political agenda. The simple habit of getting outside with our children is easy to reach; we are often the ones making it complicated.

 

Beyond the Simple First Steps:

The National Wildlife Federation website is a wealth of information on how to create your own habitat, step by step. Read this article about creating a wildlife habitat in your own yard. There is also a short video to watch: http://blog.nwf.org/2016/02/this-week-in-nwf-history-creating-wildlife-habitat-in-your-yard/

Ultimate Naturalist Library Members

  • Look for the Wildlife Habitat Plan printable posted in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of the Member’s Library. Download the file and have your children help you complete the assessment this week.
  • Look for the Know Your Own Backyard printable posted in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of the Member’s Library.
  • Outdoor+Hour+Challenge+9+Small+square+@handbookofnaturestudy.jpgOutdoor Hour Challenge #9 in the Getting Started ebook features the One Small Square activity. Complete this challenge in your own backyard to bring to light subjects you may be overlooking. This challenge will help you focus on a small area of any yard, anywhere. There is a coordinating activity found in this entry: 5 Ways to Use Your Magnifying Lens.  You can incorporate the two printables linked in this entry to your study of nature in your own backyard.
  • Read the April 2012 newsletter: Backyard Habitat

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Members can click here to log into your account to download any of the items mentioned above.

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

If you are an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.