Outdoor Hour Challenge: The Habit of Gathering Things for Your Nature Table

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 14 – November 26, 2021

The Habit of Gathering Things for Your Nature Table

In My Experience

During our family nature walks, my boys would gather things to bring home for our nature collection. They were always asking me to carry things for them and soon my pockets would be stuffed with rocks, acorns, and other interesting natural items. If they had too many items, I would make them choose a few favorites. Often, we would draw the items once we were home but many times these treasures went straight to our nature table. This habit of gathering items while outside together was one that connected our time in nature with our indoor life and learning.

Inevitably, the table would be covered with lots of things, and I decided we needed a system of displaying the items. I gathered a few baskets and plates and boxes for holding the bits they brought home from our outdoor excursions. (See the post linked below on how this worked with our rock collection.)

winter nature table example 1

The habit of collecting nature items for a nature table helps us transition from season to season. At the start of each season, we would evaluate which things on the table we would keep and which things could be taken back outside. Leaves get crunchy and flowers wilt over time, so they were easy to recycle. The other items like rocks and shells can live on the nature table or be stored in a box for future observations or display. I’m sure you’ll come up with a system of rotating items for your family that makes sense to you.

If you’re unsure what a nature table is exactly, I’ve included a definition below with some ideas and tips for you to consider. I hope this post will help you begin the habit of gathering items during your Outdoor Hour.

A Nature Table Is…

1. A table, shelf, box, or tray where teachers and families can gather and collect natural items for exploration and discovery.

2. A collection of natural objects gathered by the teacher or student for closer observation.

3. A place for the child to touch and interact with the natural items.

4. A place that changes with the seasons and interests of the student.

5. A collection of inanimate, living, and once living objects.

6. A place to encourage the outdoors to come indoors.

7. An aid to looking more closely at nature from your own backyard.

8. A part of a nature center, hopefully near a window for firsthand observation of things in your own yard or neighborhood.

9. A place to gather tools and ideas for further investigation.

Why Have a Nature Table @handbookofnaturestudy

  • Please use common sense when adding things to the nature table. Please be cautioned about potentially hazardous items like glass jars, sharp objects, and/or possibly poisonous items like berries, mushrooms, and leaves.
  • The nature table can be a part of a larger nature observation center in your classroom or home. Positioning the table near a window for outdoor observation is a great way to use the nature table as a place to gather nature study tools like magnifying glasses, binoculars, a nature journal, and field guides.
  • Consider changing items from year to year to freshen up your seasonal nature table.
  • Do not look at the items collected as something to necessarily save from one year to the next.
  • Allow a place for new objects and for areas of interest.
  • Let your children gather and collect items for the table if possible.


Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Here are some ideas from the past to inspire you. Make sure to see the printable ideas I shared below!

Newsletters :

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.

If you’re 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: Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 12 – November 19, 2021

Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

Over the years, our family has built a nature themed library of our favorite and most useful resources. There are picture books featuring the natural world, fiction with a nature theme, and non-fiction reference and activity filled books. Even now with my children all grown and on their own, I use this nature library for my own benefit and enjoyment.

This entry is not intended to be an exhaustive list of nature books you could have in your home. Rather, it’s filled with possible selections and ideas you can adapt to your own personal tastes and habitat.

nature books library literature

Start Collecting Books ASAP

“Nature themed literature is a wonderful way to generate an interest in the natural world. These books can also be used to enhance an area of study by sharing information along with illustrations in a simple and non-threatening way. Children can usually sit still for a few minutes while you share a picture book and many times, they will later pick up the book again all on their own and really study it.”

This is a quote from a newsletter article I wrote and then shared on the blog. You can read the entire article here: Using the Public Library to Enhance Your Nature Study.  

The link above also includes a free printable Nature Book Report notebook page for you to use with your family.


Young Children – Create a Book Basket

Gathering seasonal or themed nature study books into a basket takes a few minutes of preparation but it can provide hours of enjoyment for your family.

Three Ways a Book Basket Facilitates Learning

(Read more in the January 2015 Newsletter found in the Archives)

¨ Introduces and allows familiarity to nature study topics: Make sure to read or page through any picture books in the basket at the beginning of the month. Demonstrate how to use field guides (or learn how to use them together with your children).

¨ Reference: If you choose books that fit into your monthly nature study themes, you can refer to the books in the basket as needed to support or go more in-depth as you work through your weekly topics.

¨ Allows for independent learning: Leaving the basket out at a level accessible to your children will allow them to study the books on their own during their free time.

Recommendations for Your Nature Library

The list below shares some of my favorite books from our family’s nature library. Please use this list as a starting point and then build upon it with books that capture the interest and locality of your family. Please see the August 2015 Newsletter found in the archives for more of my personal favorites, including field guides, children’s literature, reference books, and more.

Readers Digest North American Wildlife @handbookofnaturestudy

North American Wildlife: One of my all-time favorite books for nature study. This colorful edition will keep the interest of children of all ages.

Tracks, Scats, and Signs:  This is one of my favorite books for learning about signs of mammals. It is perfect for a winter mammal study! Look for printables available to Member’s in the Library.

Backyard Birds: This book is the basis for a whole series of bird nature study ideas. It’s a great beginner’s book on birds. Please note it is used extensively in my Learning About Birds ebook available to Members.

My Favorite Tree Nature Club Printables

My Favorite Tree: You will love having this book as part of your nature library. Learn more about so many interesting trees and use the resources in this entry to take your study deeper.

Birds, Nests, and Eggs: I am passionate about the study of birds and this reference is a great introduction to a bird study for children and families.

Discover Nature at Sundown book

Discover Nature at Sundown: This is one in a series of books that takes you into more advanced nature study around a specific theme. This book focuses on things you can study at sundown.

One Small Square: Seashore: Are you getting ready for a trip to the beach? This book will give you plenty of nature study observation ideas to try. I also highly recommend this whole series of One Small Square books for your nature library.

Pond Study Nature Club August 2018 @handbookofnaturestudy

Pond Life (Golden Series): We have used this book extensively in our own family’s pond studies. I hope you look for it at your library and enjoy its awesome illustrations and information. Members can download a pond habitat printable set from the Member’s Library.

America’s Prairies and Grasslands: This beautiful book is one in a series that I highly recommend.  Members can download a prairie habitat printable set from the Member’s Library.


Ultimate Naturalist Members:


  • Nature Book Report notebook page

Newsletters :

  • March 2012 – Children’s Nature Literature
  • November 2013 – Nature Literature
  • January 2015 – Book Basket
  • August 2015 – Nature Library – If you’re at all interested in building a nature library, this is the newsletter that has the most detailed ideas and resources for you to use.

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.

If you’re 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.

What’s In Your November World?

What’s In Your November World?

It’s easy to dismiss the November world as cold and dark, even barren. But I guarantee that if you take a short walk outside with your children, you’ll realize there are still plenty of things to capture your attention. deschutes river nov 2021 (2)

We took a hike this past weekend and it actually snowed on us during our adventure. Even then, we were able to hear a flock of grosbeaks up in the treetops, see colorful lichen on the trees, and some amazing mushrooms pushing their way up out of the ground.

deschutes river nov 2021 (1)

The deciduous trees here are fairly leafless already, but there was an abundance of leaves on the ground that we could stop and observe. I put a couple of leaves in my pocket so I could paint them in my nature journal once we arrived home.

I admit that it was cold, and the weather wasn’t the most inviting. We could have easily not taken our hike. Am I glad we made the effort? Yes!

Here’s my suggestion for you this month:

Push yourself to get outside and take note of your own November world. Even if you only get out for a few minutes, you’ll more than likely find something to note in your nature journal.

Please see the link below for a more detailed challenge for November. There’s even a printable notebook page for you to use with your family.


Outdoor Hour Challenge November World Observations

You can read the original Outdoor Hour Challenge here: November World.


Printable: November World – Know Your Own Backyard Notebook Page