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Outdoor Hour Challenge- Building the Nature Walk Habit

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 6 – October 8, 2021

Building the Nature Walk Habit

The idea of taking a nature walk is nothing new. The need for nature walks has never been more evident in our increasingly indoor, sedentary lives. Childhood used to be times of exploring outdoors for hours at a time, but in today’s world few children have the circumstances or incentive to get outside on their own. This is where involved parents can be of such value.

Taking a nature walk can bring refreshment to your whole family. Maybe you are having a tough day and the children are a little restless or perhaps the weather is just too nice to stay inside all day…these are perfect opportunities to drop everything else and take a walk in your own neighborhood or a park close by.

I’ve observed that families that take nature walks on a consistent basis, as part of their weekly routine, benefit greatly from the efforts they spend in making them happen. They feel more relaxed in nature, they see their children get excited about things they discover, and they feel a closer bond as a family because of shared nature experiences.

“Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Whether you use the Outdoor Hour Challenges as part of your studies or not, the fundamental idea of taking a short walk outside with your child is the basis of building a happier childhood.

“Nature is often overlooked as a healing balm for the emotional hardships in a child’s life.”

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Taking Nature Walks – Getting the Habit Started

Talking nature walks can be as simple as putting on your shoes and jacket and heading out the door, letting nature inspire what you do and what you study. Or, you can have a few ideas in mind before you head out the door.

Sometimes it’s nice to head out the door and see what comes your way, no assignments. Start with nothing more than pointing out the beauty in the flowers, trees, animals, and birds that you encounter during your everyday life. Speak to the heart at first by just enjoying the amazing living things in front of you and then eventually you will be able to focus on naming your subjects and knowing a few facts.

Parents do not need to be worried that they don’t know everything about their nature study subjects.  You can become learners right alongside your children. Remember that there are many things about nature that nobody knows the answers to so when our children ask us questions that are deep and thought-provoking, acknowledge the question and look for the answer together. We are all students of the universe, and we will never know everything there is to know.

Consider nature study an adventure, a lifelong achievement. Keep your eyes wide open for opportunities to discover new things that come into your everyday life.

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair or take very much time for you to see a difference in your attitude and that of your children.

“It is a mistake to think that a half day is necessary for a field lesson (nature walk), since a very efficient field trip may be made during the ten or fifteen minutes at recess, if it is well planned.” Handbook of Nature Study

Try Picking a Focus

Pick a theme for your walk such as insects, birds, trees, flowers, etc. Then have everyone make observations within that theme.

In my experience, having a focus during a walk makes it much more enjoyable for everyone. Each person can use their eyes and senses to look for items within the theme and then share them with the group. One person can be the designated photographer and take photos of things of interest. Or take along your nature journal and make a record of your sightings as you go along.

If you have older children, this is where you could use the Outdoor Hour Challenge and the Handbook of Nature Study to pick a focus for your walk. Pick a topic for the many challenges available and be on the lookout for the subject of interest.

How Long and How Frequently?

Short regular walks are much better than the occasional walk. The trick is to find a balance that works in your family. When my boys were homeschooling, we aimed for a once a week walk or hike with a little follow up once we got home. In high school, our walks became less frequent, but we aimed to take a “nature day” once a month where we would take the time to get outside together and explore as part of our more formal nature study program.

Help Getting Started with the Nature Walk Habit

Below you will find links and resources for Ultimate Naturalist Library members to use as part of your nature walk time and usually a follow up idea for your nature journal. Please pick those ideas that get you excited to give regular nature walks a place in your family’s weekly routines.

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

  • Read “The Field Excursion” on page 14 of the Handbook of Nature Study.
  • Getting Started Ebook – Outdoor Hour Challenge #1
  • More Nature Study – Autumn ebook – Fall Color Walk Challenge
  • More Nature Study – Spring ebook – Spring Splendor Walk
  • October 2013 Newsletter – Nature Walks with four different nature walk ideas
  • December 2016 Newsletter – Nature Walks

 

Printables:

  • My Nature Walk – Senses Notebook Page
  • Silent Autumn Nature Walk
  • Spring Nature Hunt
  • Spring Walk
  • 1st Day of Winter Nature Walk printable
  • 3 Questions Hike
  • My Summer Nature Hike
  • 5 Senses Walk at Sunset Notebook Page
  • Walk in the Forest Notebook Page

Nature study using the Outdoor Hour Challenge aims to introduce you to your own backyard and neighborhood, seeking out the things that interest your children. I invite you to get to know your child’s special area of interest and to build from there a foundation of knowledge and experience outdoors. Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges, my own family has been enriched with a love of nature, a bond with each other, and lots of wonderful memories of seasons past.

 Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

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.

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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.

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Slowly Build the Nature Study Habit

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 5 – October 1, 2021

Take it One Thing at a Time – Slowly Build the Nature Study Habit

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.”

Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1, page 61

Are you struggling with where to start with nature study? Have you wanted to ease into a study of nature that is meaningful, but you get overwhelmed with all the programs and methods?

Here is a simple suggestion that has worked for many families over the years.

Study one tree, one bird, and one flower per school year. Slowly, gradually, gently….it works. This way of structuring a bare bones nature study keeps the pressure off families just starting out with a pursuit of regular nature study. Working through the study of one subject at a time will help build your confidence and knowledge in a way that is not overwhelming.

It is sustainable over the years. In my family, I have seen the study of nature that is closest at hand build a love of things that seem common but on closer inspection, they are rather remarkable. Dandelions and oak trees spring to mind as examples of studies we did and gained a new appreciation for their design and beauty.

You can apply this idea to any areas of nature study that you wish. You could add an insect or a mammal each year. Or you can try a reptile or a fungus or a constellation. The beauty of this method of easing into nature study with your children is that you can follow their interests.

As a way of introduction to this method, I will share some ideas for a tree, a bird, and a wildflower.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Tree Nature Study Index @handbookofnaturestudyYour Tree Project

Take it slowly.

Find one tree in your yard that you can study for a whole term. If you observe and identify one tree per year, over the course of your child’s education, you will have learned about 12 different trees…I don’t know about you but I have a hard time just listing 12 trees by name so if your child becomes acquainted with 12 trees, they are far better off than many of us.

If you have built the habit of getting outside with your children, you’ve no doubt encountered a tree of interest. Start there! No matter the time of year, you will have plenty to observe. See this entry for more information: 4 Seasons Tree Study. You may also be interested in this project with a free printable: 4 Seasons Tree Photo Project.

 

Outdoor Hour Challenge Bird Nature Study Index of Challenges @handbookofnaturestudy

Learning About Birds

Now try the same thing with birds.

“If we are teaching the science of ornithology (study of birds), we take first the [robin], then the swimming and scratching birds, and finally reach the songbirds, studying each as a part of the whole. Nature study begins with the robin because the child sees it and is interested in it, and notes the things about the habits and appearance of the robin that may be perceived by intimate observation……the next bird studied may be the turkey in the barnyard, or the duck on the pond, or the screech owl in the spruces, if any of these happen to impinge upon his notice and interest.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 5.

The particular bird that you start with in your nature study should be the one that you have noticed and is common in your neighborhood or yard. Anna Botsford Comstock was a promoter of the idea that children should be able to directly observe their nature study subjects. So, for your family, start with the most common bird you see. Look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study, look for the Outdoor Hour Challenge that corresponds with that bird, or simply use your field guide.

You can move on to the next bird when you are satisfied with your study.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Garden Wildflower and Weeds Index @handbookofnaturestudy

Picking a Wildflower

“They should be able to describe the shape, size and placements of their leaves and whether the flowers have a single blossom or a head of them. When they know the flower so well that they could recognize it anywhere, they should take a look at the area it grew in so they’ll know what kind of terrain to look for it again in the future…If any mother lacks a knowledge of plants, a good field guide will be indispensable, especially if she can find one that includes little facts and fun things about the plants.”

Charlotte Mason in Plain English, Volume 1, page 52

Learning the names of wildflowers is a lifelong activity that brings such joy. Children love learning the common names of flowers and I found that once my kids knew a name of a flower, they respected it more for its special uses for all living creatures. You can keep it very simple or you can use the suggestions below to go a little deeper with each wildflower you observe.

Elements of a Grand Nature Study of Wildflowers

Your child should be able to:

  1. Describe the shape, size, and placement of the leaves.
  2. Note whether there is a single blossom or a head of flowers.
  3. Observe the flower and its habitat so well that it can be recognized in any location in the future.
  4. Use a field guide to learn about the wildflower (with help from a parent if needed).
  5. Collect, press, and make a record of the flower’s habitat and location.
  6. Optional: Make a watercolor of the flower or the whole plant.

I would love for you to click over and read one of my favorite wildflower entries as a way to inspire you: For the Love of Wildflowers. If you want to do an in depth study of your wildflower, use the Handbook of Nature Study, the Outdoor Hour Challenge, and a field guide to create a lasting memory of each wildflower you study.

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Look in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of your printables library for the following printables.

  • Outdoor Hour Challenge Planning Pages: Use the term planning page to pencil out your topics for the year.
  • 6 Trees Project notebook page printable: In this simple ongoing project, your child should observe and photograph six different trees and use the notebook pages as a follow up with facts and photos. Remember you can do one tree a year until you complete the Six Trees Project. Follow the link for a complete explanation.
  • Deciduous Trees in My Yard and Evergreen Trees in My Yard notebook pages
  • February 2017 Newsletter – Trees and Bark (Article to read: Do You Know 6 Trees?)
  • There are ebooks in the Ultimate Naturalist Library for wildflowers and birds.

 Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

 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.

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Outdoor Mom: September 2021

Outdoor Mom

September 2021

Changing Landscapes

I think I’ve mentioned before how much I struggle with change. I decided that’s why I don’t really enjoy the transition from summer to autumn.  I see the change in the light, the change in foliage, the change in blooms, the change in birds and other wildlife. Here where I live in Central Oregon, these changes come rapidly.

Sept 2021 squirrel frog finch journal (4)

  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting…

We had a couple nights of freezing temperatures and overnight we lost a large number of plants to frost. Some of the plants have bounced back but I had to prune out quite a few of my more delicate flowers.

Sept 2021 squirrel frog finch journal (4)

With the decrease in bird activity, the squirrels have made a return to the feeders. In fact, the squirrels are pulling down the sunflowers and eating the seeds. Or, in the case of the golden mantle ground squirrel, they are climbing the stems and sitting on the flower heads to have a meal!

Sept 2021 squirrel frog finch journal (4)

 

Sept 2021 squirrel frog finch journal (6)

  • I added nature journal pages about…

I’ve been working on a late summer wildflower project. We don’t have many so it’s been a challenge to find flowers to include in my nature journal. Last week we took advantage of a very warm afternoon to take a long walk in Sunriver to look for flowers there. We found quite a bit of rabbitbrush and sulfur flower blooming in the dry landscape.

Sept 2021 squirrel frog finch journal (4)

  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…

The bird of the month is the American goldfinch. They are abundant both at the feeders and in the flowers of the garden as they eat seeds and leaves. They are often at the water bowls and the birdbath. I love how happy they make me!

Sept 2021 squirrel frog finch journal (4)

  • One last image…

Holy smoke! We saw the biggest bullfrog ever in our lawn last week. My husband was mowing the lawn and spotted him before he ran him over. We carried him safely off to another part of the yard. Afterwards, I was looking up bullfrogs in Oregon and realized that they are an invasive species that we are supposed to “harvest” to reduce their numbers. I could have never done anything to harm this magnificent creature.

Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge small

You can follow me on Instagram to see more of our outdoor life here in gorgeous Central Oregon.

Want to join in the Outdoor Mom post?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time, this month we went…
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) …
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting…
  • I added nature journal pages about…
  • One last image…

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Autumn Ebook Promotion – Perfect Season in Nature

Autumn Nature Study

Autumn Ebooks!

It won’t be long until it will be time for some awesome autumn nature study! Members here on the Handbook of Nature Study can look in their Member’s Library for the five autumn themed ebooks available for downloading.

 

Autumn Nature Study Ebooks graphic

I’ll list the autumn themed ebooks below and if you want to click over to see the specific topics covered, you can easily do that by clicking the book title.

Autumn Nature Study Ebooks Available

1)      Autumn 2009  – Download the free notebook pages to go along with the autumn nature study ideas.

2)      Autumn 2010

3)      Autumn Nature Study Continues

4)      More Nature Study – Autumn

5)      Autumn 2015

If you are new to the Outdoor Hour Challenge and would like to purchase a membership, you can click the graphic at the bottom of this post. Don’t miss the discount code!

Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Nature Study Ideas Index @handbookofnaturestudy

For a complete list of autumn season nature study topics, you can click the Autumn tab at the top of the website.

Use the discount code AUTUMNFUN2021 for $5 off your Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Code will expire on 9/17/2021.

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

If you’d like to have access to all of the autumn ebooks, you’ll find them all in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

 

Please note:

This is the last autumn season that the ebooks will be available here on the website. If you are a member, please download and save the ebooks for future use!

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Creating the Habit of Getting Outside

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 1 – September 3, 2021

Creating the Habit of Getting Outside

I’m challenging you to begin a new year of nature study with the intention of creating the habit of getting outside with our children every week. There is something exciting about starting a fresh school year with all the possibilities in front of us. I hope you take the opportunity to join us for what could be the start of a grand adventure.

How do you create the habit of getting outside with your children?

Baby steps. I’m here to help you with some methods that I’ve shared over the last decade, guiding hundreds of families to successfully navigate nature study close to home. When establishing a new habit, I’ve always found it helpful to start small and work on consistency.

How about a new way of thinking?

A new habit can be encouraged simply by seeing the benefits of an easy change. Think of your backyard and neighborhood as a nature study laboratory. Change your view of what is right outside your own door. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Starting with the things closest to home, you’ll soon see how the habit of getting outside each week comes more easily.

What is there to observe in our backyard “nature study laboratory”?

  • Trees: leaves, bark, twigs, roots, flowers, cones, needles, seeds, pods, nests, birds
  • Patch of weeds: leaves, roots, bugs, flowers
  • Dirt: worms, gravel, stones, seeds, mud, ants, mushrooms, moss
  • Sky: clouds, sun, moon, stars, birds
  • Air: temperature, wind, smells, breath on a cold morning
  • Birds: flying, pecking, eating, chirping, hopping, shapes and colors, beaks, wings, tails, feet
  • Sounds: wind, frogs, rain, leaves, crickets, bees, fly buzzing, mosquitoes
  • Weather: rain, clouds, temperature, snow, ice, dew, wind
  • Flowers (garden or in a pot): petals, pollen, roots, leaves, stem, fragrance, shapes, colors, seeds

How long does it take? Just 15 minutes!

Consistently taking fifteen minutes during your weekly schedule to get outside will be of great benefit in providing interesting things to observe. Even better, take that time when your child is distracted or listless during the school day and seize the opportunity to get outside with them for just a few minutes. Once you see the benefits of allowing this time outside to reset, you’ll begin to see nature study as a refreshing necessity rather than a task that needs to be checked off a list of things to do.

We don’t need to devote a lot of time to nature study during our weekly schedule. Keen observation is the key, not reading lessons, filling in notebooks, or keeping collections. Short walks outdoors along with our children as we encourage observation will do far greater good than any other form of lesson plan.

Can I just send my kids outside on their own?

Children need to grow the habit of looking at things carefully.  In nature study, we can encourage our children to look at things more closely, to really see what is there.  You need to go with your children outdoors at first, walking alongside them or being available nearby. This will alert you to subjects of their interest. Have them describe what they see and perhaps you can ask a few leading questions. Keep it friendly and light.

“The great danger that besets the teacher just beginning nature study is too much teaching, and too many subjects. In my own work I would rather a child spent one term finding out how one spider builds its orb web than that he should study a dozen different species of spiders. If the teacher at the end of the year has opened the child’s mind and heart in two or three directions nature-ward, she has done enough.”

Anna Botsford Comstock

In My Experience

The backyard can hold your attention for a long time if you are diligent about looking for a variety of things to observe. Most of us have plants, birds, trees, rocks, insects, invertebrates, and mammals that will visit us at least at certain times of the year. Challenge your family to pick something each week to learn more about. Nature study is a long-term project (or even a lifestyle) that everyone can find satisfaction in doing together as a family.

Each family member can develop their special area of interest. My daughter and I love flowers and birds. My husband is a tree person. The boys enjoy insects, rocks, and mammals of all sorts. Look for your child’s interest and nurture it! I sometimes wouldn’t get involved at all when the kids were looking at something. Quietly observing their interaction with the natural world gave me insight into what we could learn about in the future.

Remember that nature study intensity can come in cycles. There are periods of time or seasons of the year when we devote much energy to getting outside and taking nature walks. The amount of time may fluctuate to fit our family’s circumstances. Although regular outdoor time reaps the most benefits, real life demands we make allowances for breaks and interruptions. But don’t let these breaks stumble you and get back into it as soon as possible, picking up where you left off.

What can parents do?

To be successful in creating a nature study habit, it’s helpful for parents to be enthusiastic and see for themselves the beauty in the natural world. Start with your passions and then build from there with what you discover about your child’s interests. For example, if your interest is in flowers, spend time in your garden together or visit a nearby garden with your family. Start off looking at flowers and see where that leads. An insect may visit your flowers, or a bird may land nearby. Try to allow for nature study to unfold before you.

They need you to regularly allow time to just be outside during all the seasons. We can all bear fifteen minutes a week of nature study outside under even the most uncomfortable circumstances. If you keep in mind that your nature study can be just outside your back door, you’ll be more apt to go out regularly.

Ultimate Naturalist Library Members:

  • Consider working through the first three Outdoor Hour Challenges in the Getting Started ebook. These three challenges can help build your nature study habit. I highly recommend following the suggestions for reading in the Handbook of Nature Study that go along with those challenges. The words expressed in those readings include timeless advice to parents about the value of regular nature study close to home. Make sure to have the printable nature journal pages bookmarked in case your child is ready to create a record of their Outdoor Hour Challenge.

#1 Let’s Get Started
#2 Using Your Words
#3 Now Is The Time To Draw

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

 

  • Look for the “Know Your Own Backyard” series of notebook pages posted in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of the Library. Download the file and start using these pages after your nature study.
  • Look for the Outdoor Hour Challenge Planning Pages printable in the printables library. Use these pages to make a rough plan for your nature study.

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.

Use the discount code GREATDAY to receive $10 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

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’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.

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Renee’s Garden Seeds: Summer 2021 Results

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Summer 2021 Results

Link to her website: Renee’s Garden Seeds

What a fantastic year for the garden! We have so many success stories to share and positive results as the season is in full swing. Renee’s Garden seeds were a huge part of the colorful and vibrant garden our family and friends have enjoyed as they visited this past month.

Read below for the specific seeds we planted and the results we achieved.

 Renee’s Garden Seeds List

Renees garden seeds 2021 (3)

4th of July Heirloom Cornflowers

Wow! These have really produced an abundance of flowers in the garden. I love the shades of blue and red and so do the bees!

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Lace Mantle Sweet Williams

I get more compliments about this particular flower in my garden than any other flower. Their striking colors are so pretty! I count these as a huge success.

Renees garden seeds 2021 (1)

Rainbow of California Poppies

We had more blooms last year but there are still quite a few of the rainbow-colored poppies for us to enjoy. For some reason, they are leaning and reaching outside the garden box. I really need to figure out what’s going on there.

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Lemon Queen Sunflowers

As always, we’ve had a bumper crop from the Lemon Queen Sunflowers. They’re not only a favorite of the bees, but they’re also a favorite of mine! The soft yellow is such a happy color.

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Classic Slenderette Bush Beans

We planted these beans in pots at the beginning of May. I started with 3 plants when we transplanted them but ended up with only one healthy plant that produces blossoms and beans. I must be honest. These were an experiment to see if they can grow in our climate. The success of this one plant made me realize that I can grow beans in my garden and I have a great plan to be sure to have more plants thrive next year. As of today, the plants are withering from a couple of nights where the temperatures dropped to near freezing. Not sure I can justify the effort to grow these in my Central Oregon garden with such a small window of productivity. I did look back in my records though and we harvested lots of this variety of green bean from our garden in California. So, the failure here is a matter of habitat and climate and not the seeds.

Renees garden seeds 2021 (7)

Astia Container Zucchini

We had plenty of success with these seeds sprouting and growing, putting on blossoms, but no fruit at all. I think it may have to do with the cooler nights we have which make it hard for these to thrive. I wouldn’t count this as a failure of the seeds, just our garden zone.

Renees garden seeds 2021 (6)

Cinnamon Sun Sunflowers

I love these sunflowers so much! They add such a deep burgundy pop to the otherwise very yellow sunflower bed. Another thing I love about them? They make awesome cut flowers. I’ve had a vase continually filled with their happy, vibrant flowers.

Renees garden seeds 2021 (9)

Scarlet Runner Beans

These were started in May in pots and transplanted to the garden in June. We eagerly watched as the plants grew up the twine, put on flowers, and then produced pods that you allow to dry on the vine.  Many mornings I look out the window and see the hummingbirds visiting the scarlet red blossoms.  What a perfect addition to my garden!

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Early Blooming Beekeeper’s Garden

This was a winner from last year’s garden. We added another packet of seeds to the box and once again they are a spectacular display of colors and shapes. I did make the mistake of allowing some volunteer sunflowers to grow in with the seeds. These have overshadowed the flower mix and I think perhaps the flowering of some of the varieties. Nonetheless, there have been plenty of bees and butterflies visiting the rainbow of flowers.

Renees garden seeds 2021 (4)

Knee High White Cosmos

These are some of my daughter’s favorite flowers in my garden. I love the vintage feel of this variety of cosmos.

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Valentine Lemon Sunflower

This is one of the sunflowers that I sprouted and gave to friends. We’ve all had success growing them in our gardens and their slightly smaller flower head and multiple heads on one stem make them a great cut flower.

Renees garden seeds 2021 (12)

Heirloom Pepperbox Poppies

This is a favorite from the last few years here in Central Oregon. I now can’t imagine a flower garden without these poppies! I saved seed from last year’s crop and scattered it early in the spring to see how many would grow. Well, I’m happy to report that I have quite a few of this variety of poppy in several areas of my yard. The bees can be found daily buzzing and sipping from the red blossoms. If you would like a showy display, give these seeds a try.

Renee’s Garden seeds are the foundation of our flower garden. I’ve already made a list of new things to add next year to promote a wider range of colors, shapes, and heights to my flower beds.

I highly recommend purchasing from Renee’s and seeing the gorgeous results for yourself. I do receive a small amount of seed from Renee’s Garden as a promotional gift. In addition to her gift, I purchase many of the seeds myself. I know they’re always of the highest quality.

I also recommend following her on Instagram to see all of the new products available as they are released. #reneesgardenseeds

Handbook of Nature Study Flowers chart with Outdoor Hour Challenges

Are you interested in using the Handbook of Nature Study for a study of garden flowers? I’ve compiled a list of the topics from the book and coordinated them with the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I hope this is helpful for your family!

Handbook of Nature Study Flowers chart with Outdoor Hour Challenges

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Brand New! Outdoor Hour Challenge: Mint Herb Nature Study

Brand New! Outdoor Hour Challenge

Mint Herb Nature Study

This week we’ll be studying mint as part of the herb nature study series. This plant is an easy plant to grow for beginners and younger students.

Here are a few observation ideas for you to get started:

  • Note the mint’s square stalk and the opposite pair of aromatic leaves. Feel the stem. Crush the leaves between your fingers for a more intense scent. Does it smell like toothpaste?
  • Note the color and height of the stem.
  • Look at the leaves and observe the shape and veins. What is the texture of the leaf?  Taste a few of the fresh leaves if possible.
  • Observe the flowers if they are present. What is their color and size? Do they have a fragrance? Did you see any insects on the plant or flowers? Bees, hover flies, and tachinid flies all are attracted to mint flowers.
  • Advanced Study:  Grow and then study two kinds of mint. This link has a list of a variety of mints you could choose from: Mint Plant Varieties.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Mint Nature Study

Remember that the rest of the challenge is available to Ultimate and Journey level members here on the Handbook of Nature Study.

You will need to sign into your Ultimate or Journey level membership to see the herb ebook download.

Herb Nature Study ebook cover graphic

Once you download your ebook, you’ll have complete access to the challenge. This includes additional links, resources, study ideas, and printables.

Outdoor Hour Challenge-Herb Ebook: Download the cilantro sample here.

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Use the discount code GREATDAY to receive $10 off your Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Valid until  9/10/21.

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Outdoor Mom-August 2021 Prime Summertime Delights

Outdoor Mom

August 2021

Prime Summertime Delights

 

Please note you can purchase a membership right now for $35 using the code GREATDAY. Code expires on 9/10/2021.

Waking up to birdsong has become my favorite part of summer. It starts early! Mid-July it started around 4:30 AM and it has gradually become later and later, until those morning serenades have stopped. The departure of so many of the dawn singing birds has been replaced by a nip in the air and shorter days. How does that happen so fast?

tent summer 2021

You may wonder how I know that the birdsong starts so early. Well, we spent most summer nights sleeping in our backyard tent. The birds would be so loud that they would wake me up! I heard many a nighttime owl duet from the resident great horned owls. Then there were the frogs in the river meander behind our house that make a ruckus most nights. Finally, the last few weeks we’ve had the sound of yipping and howling coyotes. It’s hard to believe there’s so much going on outside, but it’s there if you happen to listen.

hairy woodpecker bird backyard july 2021 (3)Late Summer Changes

Most of the robins have flown on, the swallows are gone, the bluebirds are scarce, hardly a red-wing blackbird to be seen. The sounds now are of chickadees, finches, doves, and flickers. I’ve been reflecting on the coming and going of the birds as the seasons change. I looked back in my journal where I noted we saw our first robin and red-wing on March 1, 2021. I remember that day with great fondness, happy day indeed. The summer bird season went by entirely too fast.

summer coneflowers

As I write this entry, our garden is still in full bloom and I spend many days watering, weeding, and cutting flowers. I call it my garden therapy. I sometimes linger sitting on the garden bench just so I can watch the creatures who come to visit. There are hummingbirds in the flowers, bees buzzing around, and all kinds of birds who come to take a bath or drink from the bird baths. There are a few chipmunks who zip in and around the garden when they think no one is watching. If I’m lucky, there will be a butterfly, or a dragonfly come to check things out.

butterfly garden sign 2021

I make mental notes of what grew well in the garden and what I would like to do differently next year. I create new plans in my head for areas that need improvement and I also make a mental list of the things that failed.

Some days, our kids show up and entice us down to the river for a kayak. We drag the boats down to the riverbank and slip into the shallow water as we make our way downstream. The river is low this time of year and it’s not unusual to see a few fish or crawdads as we float over.

cow calf july 2021 (1)

The grasses are still quite green from the thunderstorms we’ve had this month. This means the cows and calves are still living out back where we enjoy their antics as they spend their long summer days grazing and sitting under our trees out back. They often are right along the river’s edge as we make our way down river. We noted a brand new calf with spindly legs and soft brown eyes, we named him Hot Cocoa.

family table 2021
Our new family table, built with my husband’s own hands. We have welcomed many family members to this table over the summer and we will continue the tradition next year.

Now I find myself trying to muster up enthusiasm for the autumn and all the changes that come with it. Most people welcome the autumn, but it makes me feel unsettled. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like change and the replacing of my warm, summer sunshine-filled days with the unpredictability that comes with autumn in Central Oregon. We could have a warm day, a cold day, a snow day, or all the above all in one day.

sunflowers 2021

The falling leaves and withering flowers make me sad. The putting away of the lawn furniture and the potted plants and taking down the flower baskets….so melancholy.

I have in the past found it helpful to make an Autumn Bucket List of things I look forward to doing to make the season a little more positive in my eyes. So, I will do that this year in anticipation of trying to put some joy in my autumn. Maybe that will take my mind off the winter season which is cold and long here in La Pine. I can always hope anyway.

sunflower garden 2021

This summer is drawing to a close and I have saved up some memories to pull out on long winter days. This mom is grateful to have had a garden to enjoy this year and a place to spend my days close to the plants and animals who share my space. I also appreciate the ability to share it all with you dear readers.

Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge small

You can follow me on Instagram to see more of our outdoor life here in gorgeous Central Oregon.

Want to join in the Outdoor Mom post?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time, this month we went…
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) …
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting…
  • I added nature journal pages about…
  • One last image…

 

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