Nature Study this Week: Field Guide: Outdoor Hour Challenge #7

Now to Outdoor Hour Challenge #7.
What did our family do for nature study this week? Remember that my boys are 12 and 14 years old so they do most of the follow up activities on their own. I remind them to make a journal entry or to complete a new field guide card but for the most part….they have taken on responsibility for their own nature study. If your children are younger or less experienced with nature study, they are going to need more help and probably only one follow up activity.

Our focus is garden flowers and my son found a flower to press for his nature journal. You may be interested in reading this entry: How To Make A Flower Press.

Annual Honesty: Lunaria annua-we call it money plant

We are busy trying to remember the official names of each part of a flower. We are going to draw and label a diagram each day this week so it will be set into our memory. (page 456 in the Handbook of Nature Study)

We saw a turkey vulture in our backyard yesterday so we really need to add a card to our bird field guide. If you have never seen a turkey vulture close up, you have no idea how BIG they are. The bird we saw yesterday swooped down through our backyard and we had a great view from our window.

The boys also spent quite a bit of time observing our cat hunting a mouse. They came in and told me all about it with great stories of how the cat would “play” with the mouse. The mouse ended up getting away….horrors. It made a great nature journal drawing though. :)

Here is a copy of the blank information form we use.

PDF of bird field guide blank
house mouse journal

As you can see, we are not very structured in our nature study. I love the way it folds into our everyday life. Once a month we take our nature day and really focus on some aspect of study but mostly it is bit by bit, everyday awareness.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 Your Own Field Guide

Field Guide-Cards on a Ring


“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he or she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

One nature activity that our family has worked on together is to start and maintain a personalized field guide to birds that frequent our birdfeeder and backyard. We started a few years ago and have added each new kind of bird as we come across it. The instructions are for bird cards but you could easily adapt the idea for trees, wildflowers, insects, flowerless plants, or garden flowers.

How to Make Field Guide Cards


5 x 8 index card

Bird photograph

glue stick

Optional: Blank bird information form,lamination, binder ring

supplies for card

1. We take a photo of the bird we want to add to our field guide or if we can’t take a decent photo, we find one on the internet and print it out on our color printer.

front card

2. Glue the photo on one side of the 5 x 8 card.

back card

3. We fill in the blank bird information form with information from our field guide.

4. Glue the information onto the back of the card.

cards ready to cut

5. Optional: Laminate the card.

finished cards on ring

6. Optional: We hole punch the corner of each card and attach it to a binder ring.

Here is a copy of the blank information form we use.

PDF of bird field guide blank

Please note:
I want to clarify the idea of picking a focus area. The focus area is a topic in the Handbook of Nature Study that your family is choosing to learn about in more depth. Challenge #5 suggested making a list of things you found within your focus area that you might come into contact with in your local area. I suggested that you work in a specific focus area for six to eight weeks so you could really get to know a certain aspect of nature. Each week I am suggesting that you read about one item from your list in the Handbook of Nature Study. This gives you some ideas for observations when you go outside with your children. If on your nature walk you find something else to be interested in, please feel free to go with that interest. I am not trying to limit you but to have some sort of way to direct your nature study. In my experience, as I change our family’s focus, we are hyper-sensitive to finding things in that focus area to learn about because we are more aware. It narrows down our vision a little so we can really get to know our own backyards. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7
Your Own Field Guide

1. In your focus area, turn to the table of contents and pick a new subject in your section to read about before your nature walk. Make sure to read the observation suggestions to have them in mind before your time outdoors. Take your 10-15 minute walk, looking for things to add to your list of focus area items in your nature journal. Spend some of your time quietly observing and try to encourage your child to look closely at something they have seen before to recognize any changes or new aspects of the item. For example, if you are focusing on flowerless plants, see if you can find some differences between flowerless plants and garden plants. [lack of leaves, petals, or roots]


“Children should know the correct name for parts of things, such as petals, sepals, etc, to help them describe what they see. They should be encouraged to group things together by leaf shape, or leaf vein pattern, or number of flower petals, or whether they keep their leaves all year, or animals that have a backbone, or animals that eat grass or eat meat, etc. Collecting and sorting plant specimens is fun and good practice.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 63

2. After your outdoor time, take time to discuss the outing with your child, helping them to find words to describe their experience. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done for things your child is interested in.


“The ability to group things together by type and find differences is one of the higher orders of intellect, and every opportunity to use it first-hand should be encouraged.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 64

3. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Remember this can be a simple drawing, a label, and a date. Challenges 2 and 3 have ideas for alternatives to drawing in the nature journal.

4. Add any items to your collection that you discovered during your nature time. If you need more information on making a collection, see Challenge #6. Or if you are choosing to start making a field guide with your children, gather the materials and make your first card.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

You can see and download a sample challenge and notebook pages: OHC Getting Started Ebook Sample.

Please note that this ebook is included in every level of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study.



Collections: Pressing Flowers: Outdoor Hour Challenge #6

We have had a busy week and although we have been outside everyday, we haven’t really cracked the Handbook of Nature Study at all. Some weeks our nature study is like that but then we will make up for it other weeks.

The boys have been busy weeding the garden and my youngest even planted a few spinach seedlings hoping that they will make it through until the weather really warms up.

We have been busy birdwatching because our feeders are still full of birds. I think some of the birds are nesting and we will be putting out some things for them to nest with.

Our focus area is garden flowers so we took a trip to the Home Depot to see what we could add to the garden. Guess what they picked? Marigolds. Lots of marigolds.
We also picked up a few packets of seeds: Sunflower (Mammoth), Peas, and Green Beans (Kentucky Wonders). We are going to wait a bit before we put the seeds into the garden because we are still having a little frost each morning.
seed packets
My son decided that for his collection he would like to press garden flowers.
pressing flowers 1
We started with pansies and violets.
pressed flowers 1
They are now slipped into a sheet protector and they will go into his binder. We are still working on a way of adhering them to the paper without damaging them. I will keep you posted. (in a future challenge we will be learning how to press flowers)

So that was our week, not as exciting as some but still VERY enjoyable.