The longer I use nature study as the means of teaching my kids science, the more I love it.
It lays such a great foundation for them for further study of the many different branches of science.
“Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun — the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?” (Charlotte Mason Vol. 1, p. 61).
When we first began home schooling,we did nature study on our own.
We’d collect nature finds out on our weekly hikes, come home research them, and then the kids would draw and paint them in their nature notebooks.
It was good, but after a time, I was wanting to do more.
So several years ago our home school group decided to engage in a more focused method of nature study together.
We’d chose a topic for each term, let our kids to study this topic together, add specific focus to some of our weekly field trips, and then have the kids share presentations with one another at the end of each term.
The focus of our group is for fellowship with one another each week, spending time in and studying nature together, to adventure and learn together.
We weren’t wanting to change into a science co-op.
We just wanted to add a more focused nature/science study to what we were already doing.
With a little planning and thought, our vision became a reality.
It has been a fantastic way for our kids to study science together!
Here is how our group does it:
Every term we pick a new science topic to study.
To find those topics, we follow the nature study schedule from Ambleside Online.
You can find the nature study schedule here.
There are 3 topics of study per year, one for fall, winter and spring.
Each family approaches the study in their own way.
We do share resources and ideas, books, websites, and lessons that are working for us.
And when we plan our schedule of field trips, we all try to keep in mind any hikes, classes, or trips that fit into our topic of study and then add those to our schedule.
Its been a great way to add some more focus to our nature study together.
For example, when we studied weather, we visited the campus of UCLA and attended a class taught by the head of the meteorology department.
We also visited a historic lighthouse.
When we studied stars and sky, we visited the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium in Los Angeles.
And we went to a rocket launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base!
For reptiles, we visited a reptile zoo, and for brooks, rivers, and oceans, we visited tidal flats, some creeks, and tide pools.
For cultivated crops, we visited an olive packing house.
And even on field trips that aren’t specifically focused on our nature study, we can’t help finding ourselves thinking about the topic and seeing it everywhere we go.
Its really fun!
At the end of the term, the kids all do presentations related to the topic of study.
Again, its up to each family how they want to choose the topic.
It seems like most of us just let the kids lead the way picking something that really interests them and is somehow related to our topic.
And they have a great time doing their presentations.
As they have presented on bugs, birds, trees and outer space, they have made dioramas, sculptures, home made food, smoothies, games, and lots of presentation boards.
Of course, standing up in front of a group and presenting also gives our kids those all important socialization skills.
After a lifetime of being asked about socialization, I just can’t resist a little teasing when the topic comes up.
I assure you, presenting to a group of moms, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and an array other, multi-aged elementary students, is a real boost to those social skills.
In fact, our biggest problem is that our kids are all so social, its hard to get them to stop presenting or asking questions after each presentation.
They’ve got this socialization thing in the bag.
Doing nature study this way has been a really great for my kids.
They love learning like this with their friends.
Its given them more focus when we are out together each week.
And more excitement as they discover things together.
For us moms, it hasn’t added any extra work.
In fact, I have found its really given me more direction and excitement to study nature and science this way.
Its become one of my absolute favorite subjects to teach to my kids.
Because basically I am learning alongside them.
I never loved science as a kid, but I sure do now!
“If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection and the chore defeats the joy. It’s a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it’s even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it’s a lot more fun.” Richard Louve
For more of my thoughts on nature study, and nature notebooks, you can read my post about it here. And for more on starting your own Nature Group, read my post here.
Cheers to learning through nature!