Outdoor Hour Challenge #12 Focus on Garden Flowers

Many of you have expressed the desire to have a group focus for the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I hesitated at first because among the participants there are such a variety of habitats involved in the Outdoor Hour Challenges. We have those participants that live in the rainy Northwest, some live in the hot Southwest, many live in urban areas, and then there are families that are just getting their feet wet with nature study all around the world.

garden bounty 10 12 09

After much thought and consideration, I managed to convince myself that we could all share in a focus area to some extent and if you choose not to participate in the group focus, you are certainly welcome to pick your own focus area and share with everyone week by week as well. I want the Outdoor Hour Challenges to be positive and encouraging and I will strive to maintain that goal.

seeds in yogurt cups
If you are new to gardening and need some tips, I will give you some easy instructions. Growing plants from seeds is easy. We use yogurt cups filled with a little potting soil to start our seeds. Follow the directions on the seed packet for seed planting depth, watering, and transplanting. Good first choices are sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, and petunias. In general you can grow just about anything in a little cup or pot as long as it gets some sun and a little water each day. If it is still cold at night where you live, you may want to sprout your seeds indoors. Our weather has warmed up so we are growing ours on our back deck. As an experiment you could keep some cups outdoors and some indoors just to see the difference in their growth. (That’s extra credit.)

Outdoor Hour Challenge #12
Start Your Engines…I Mean Seeds

1. Begin an eight week focus on garden flowers. Follow along with us as we adventure into the garden, whether it is your own flower pot with seeds in it, a square foot garden, a park with some flowers to observe, or anything in between. Read pages 453-456 in the Handbook of Nature Study-How to Begin The Study of Plants and Their Flowers.

“The only right way to begin plant study with young children is through awakening their interest in and love for flowers.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 453

This would be a great week to take a field trip to a garden nursery to observe the variety of colors and textures in garden flowers that are available in your local area. While you are there, let your child pick out a flower to add to your home garden. You can pick out seeds to grow, a plant already growing in a pot, or both. If you haven’t started a garden yet, pick a flower that you can grow in a container either on your back porch or in a window. (Please note that in week 16 we will all be starting sunflowers and you may wish to pick those seeds up while you are at the nursery.) If you are starting some garden flowers from seed, make sure to water them according to the directions on the package. In general you will want to keep them moist during the germination period (until you see the plant popping out of the ground).

2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to look for some garden flowers in your own area. If you already have some of your own garden flowers blooming, pick one to identify and see if it is listed in the Handbook of Nature Study.

3. Start a new list in your nature journal of garden flowers that you have planted or that you have seen while on your field trip or during your outdoor time. Make sure as you start this study of garden flowers that you turn to the Handbook of Nature Study’s table of contents to the “Garden Flowers” section and mark or highlight those garden flowers listed that you think you will encounter during your nature study time. Each week pick one flower to read about before you have your OHC time and this will help you have some interesting information to share with your children. If you found a new flower during your nature time, be sure to follow up with a reading in the Handbook of Nature Study if it is listed in the book.

4. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Drawing flowers is a very enjoyable experience for most children.

5. If you are going to make field guide cards for your garden flowers, start those this week. Try to make one card per week and at the end of this focus period you will have eight cards completed. 


This challenge is part of my Garden Flowers ebook. This ebook has ten garden related challenges that will walk you through a study of garden flowers using the Handbook of Nature Study. In addition to the challenges already written, there will be more photos, nature journal examples, book lists, and totally new notebook pages designed to go with each of the Garden Flower Challenges.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

Spider and a Ladybug: Tangled Webs

My son’s keen eyes spotted this drama happening right on our back deck. The spider was spinning this ladybug up as we watched. The spider is gorgeous.

“Perhaps no structure made by a creature lower than man is so exquisitely perfect as the orb web of the spider…..There should be an orb web where the pupils can observe it, preferably with the spider in attendance.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 44

Nature Study and Toddlers

I recently helped a friend with some advice on how to have nature study with your school-age children with your sweet toddler tagging along. I thought you all might like to hear what I shared with her.

Here’s what I related to her about my experience with nature journals:
Nature study is not so much about the journals, it’s about the experience of being out-of-doors. It’s great when it culminates in a nature journal entry but if it doesn’t….no big deal. You said you wanted to instill a love for nature and you could quite possibly be already doing that just by focusing a bit of time outside. Let your kids direct you when you have the time to wander the yard or the neighborhood. Don’t expect anything and don’t try to force it.

Here’s what we would do when the boys were younger:
I would send the boys outside and let them play. I find that if they get that initial burst of energy out they are ready to get down and focus on something.I would go with them and just wander the yard. I might find something of interest and call them over. “Hey guys look at this!”

It worked sometimes…..or they would do the same to me. “Look at that spider on the slide mom, do you know what it is?”

This was usually followed but utter horror by me because I am not a “bug person”. I would usually go over and look at it and then I would point something out like how many legs it had or what color it was. Later when we were finished playing, we would go inside and I would pull out the journals. They could draw whatever they wanted as long as they narrated back to me what it was. I would write the labels or as they got older, they would write the labels. If we felt like it, we would look up in a field guide whatever it was we had drawn. I have a lot of the Audubon field guides so we could usually find something in there. I found the internet to be a great help.

Let your younger one do things like leaf rubbings or texture drawings for his very own nature journal. Send him on a scavenger hunt while you work with your daughter. “Go get me a leaf.” “Find a rock.” “Can you find a bug in the grass?” “Find me something brown.” Just something to get him involved.

We handle nature journals a little differently now that they are older but you get the idea. Take a walk or just go to the park, there will always be something to draw their attention to. They have to learn to notice things and then it is easier.

Also remember you have *years* to work on your nature journal. My daughter that is 21 years old still works in her nature journal. It is sort of a “life project”.

Enjoy God’s creation!