Handbook of Nature Study: Subjects Not Specifically Covered

It is my wish to guide you in using the Handbook of Nature Study. This entry will be about how to use this book with objects that you find in your local area that are not specifically listed in the index. I think this is such an important skill to develop.

How about we use some specific examples?

Sebastian over at Percival Blakeney Academy found some plumeria blossoms on her nature walk with her children. She didn’t find the plumeria listed in the HNS‘s index. How can we use the book to learn more about this flower?
1. Turn to the table of contents and scan down until you get to “Plants”. Turn to the introductory pages starting on page 453.
2. Read to yourself the introduction on how to begin the study of plants and their flowers.
3. Turn to the section on “How to Teach the Names of the Parts of a Flower and of the Plant” on page 456. This will give you some specific names for parts of any flower and they could be applied to the plumeria bloom.
If you want to get some further ideas for studying the plumeria blossom, you could ask yourself what plant or tree you think the plumeria resembles and I thought of the dogwood tree since they are both blooming trees.
1. Turn to the section on the dogwood on page 680.
2. Read through the section and see if there are any tidbits you can apply to your study of the plumeria. Make sure to get to the observations section and use the suggestions that would apply to the plumeria. (Can you see how many petals the flower has? How many stamens has it? Can you see the pistil? Find one of the flower-heads not yet opened and watch it open and develop. Sketch the bracts from below.)

It is not a perfect study of the plumeria but it will give you ways to observe the flower. The Handbook of Nature Study is meant to help you learn to observe and investigate rather than as a source of information. (see page 24)

Want another example?
Jessica at Trivium Academy shared about finding a tree stump and how she talked about the tree’s rings and how it grows. What if you weren’t sure what the rings meant and were not sure how to explain how a tree grows to your child? Here’s how I would go about using the Handbook of Nature Study to help find the answers.
1.Turn to the table of contents and scan down in the plants section until you get to trees. Read the list of subtopics for trees and find any that sound like they might help in your investigation.
2. Turn to page 618 and read the introduction to yourself. On page 620 there is a photo of a cross-section of a tree trunk and this section might be helpful to read. There is a heading on page 620 relating the way a tree grows. Read that and highlight any parts you want to eventually share with your children later in the week.

It took me a long time to figure out how to use the book without being frustrated. The Handbook of Nature Study is a wonderful tool in training parents how to teach their children to investigate nature. We just need to be more familiar with the ways to use it in our homeschooling.

“The author feels apologetic that the book is so large. However, it does not contain more than any intelligent country child of twelve should know of his environment; things that he should know naturally and without effort, although it might take him half his life-time to learn so much if he should not begin before the age of twenty.” Handbook of Nature Study, page xiii

Let’s not waste any time getting started.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Counting Birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count




We have been counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count. It started on Friday and will continue through today. We have had all the usual customers at the feeders and a few surprises too!

The white-crowned sparrow usually feeds in our front yard in the forsythia bush which has a blackberry vine tangled in it with some of last summers berries all dried up and ready for eating.

The dark-eyed juncos are a frequent visitor to our feeders and they enjoy both the platform feeder and eating from the ground beneath it.

The hanging feeders were filled with sparrows, finches, and the occasional nuthatch.

Here is our official bird count for Friday:

  • 5 Western scrub jays
  • 2 titmouses
  • 1 red-breasted nuthatch
  • 1 spotted towhee
  • 2 California towhees
  • 6 white-crowned sparrows
  • 12 dark-eyed juncos
  • 1 house finch….probably more we just didn’t catch them when we were counting
  • 7 house sparrows

Those were in the feeders but we also saw in our yard:
1 American crow
2 American robins

In our travels yesterday, we saw:
3 turkey vultures
40+ Canadian geese
6 wild turkeys

This is a great family project that we have participated in for the past three years. If you miss it this year, mark your calendars for next February so you won’t forget!

Outdoor Hour Challenge #1: Nature Walk Notes

Outdoor Hour Challenge 1

We successfully completed Outdoor Hour Challenge #1 yesterday. We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a nature hike. I had seen a sign a couple miles from our house that looked like it was the beginning of a trailhead. How could I have never put the effort into stopping and finding out before? It seems strange that such a gorgeous trail could be that close to my house and we had never walked it before. The Green Hour Challenge put it into my head to go ahead and give it a try. Here are a few photos of things we saw.

lavender flower
Delicate lavender flowers among miner’s lettuce.
Fern 1
Ferns lined the trail on the way down the canyon.

unusual bloom 1
I have no idea what this bloom is but it was so unusual that I decided to try to identify it when we got home. Did you see the insect on it?
After we hiked this trail a bit we made our way back to the car and went down to the river to explore.

rocks 2
So here are some rocks along the river’s edge. We decided that this week we are going to try to identify the pink and the green rocks in this photo. I have an idea of what they are but we are going to do some research and find out for sure.

green rock 1
Here is another shot of the green rock.

American River 1
Here is a photo of the American River where we spent some time on our Green Hour Challenge. Can you believe this river flows about 4 miles away from our front door?

throwing rocks
Who can go to the river without throwing a few rocks in?

river 2
It was getting late but we were enjoying ourselves so much that we lost track of time. The dog in this photo just appeared at the river’s edge and convinced the boys to throw some sticks into the water so he could jump in and fetch them. My boys loved this added feature of our nature walk. :)

So that ends our first Outdoor Hour Challenge. I got my reading done (I’ve read it before but I took the time to reread it.) We spent our time walking outdoors together. We found two things to investigate further. We had a wonderful time.