Outdoor Hour Challenge: Winter Series #8 One Small Square-Winter Study



Outdoor Hour Challenge
Winter Series #8

One Small Square-Winter
(See also Outdoor Hour Challenge #9)

one small square
Outdoor Hour Time:
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.

Now the challenge comes in. See how many different things you can find in your square. Now that it is winter, you may need to dig a little snow up to see if there is anything hidden in the snow or under the snow. 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 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. If you would like more information on square foot nature study, you can click over to my Squidoo Lens: Square Foot Nature Study.

Follow-Up Activity:
After your outdoor time, take a few minutes to discuss what you found in your small square. Make note of any items you want to research further.

“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.”
Handbook of Nature Study

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. Your child could also make a list of things that were found in the small square in addition to the drawing. You can use the provided notebook page in the Winter Series ebook, a blank notebook page from the sidebar of my blog, or your nature journal for your observations.

square study woods 6
One time we did a really big square in the woods and we kept the yarn up for a complete year. We would go back and make observations in each season. I would highly recommend this activity if you have a place you can mark for a whole year.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy


  1. Is there a good way to do this when your entire yard is covered in a few feet of snow?

  2. Wait for a better time? Just kidding.

    I know when we have snow we shovel a path from the door to the street. Perhaps extend that path a little out into an area where there is dirt underneath. I also would try to get to an area that is under a tree since up next to the tree there is usually a little space between the snow and the tree trunk.

    Perhaps today is not the day to do this challenge. Pick one of the other challenges from the winter series. Filter snow, melt snow, look for animal tracks, watch the birds, study the tree silhouettes.

    There are plenty of challenges that you could try or do again this week if you can’t do the small square.

  3. Again, we enjoyed the challenge. We are having a great time! Thanks!!! http://annashouseofdreams-destiny.blogspot.com/2010/02/one-small-square-winter-ground-study.html

  4. This is a great idea. Amie (4) will love it, to have that well-delineated observation patch! As soon as the mud stiffens we’ll select a spot!

  5. We finally had a bit of sun to sit in while waiting to see what would crawl around. :) Now the identification of all of these new creatures is next. The boys drew a few of the items, and we talked about the three layers, Top, Roots, Packed Dirt. They agreed that the most life was found in the root structure layer. :) Great Challenge!

  6. We had a nice, sunny afternoon earlier in the week. All had a great time with this challenge!

  7. We had an hour that we needed to be out of the house, and this seemed like an easy way to dive back into outdoor hour challenges after hibernating most of the winter. Thanks for changing my attitude (once again) about getting outside. This is do-able!

  8. Merely desired to mention I’m delighted that i stumbled upon your web site!.

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