Are you dreaming of wholesome, educational and enjoyable nature study activities with your children?
Nature Study truly is a wonderful activity for children of all ages.
It is a great way to get your children outdoors and to increase their skills of observation. Nature study makes science interesting, especially for young scientists, it is most often an adventure where children can get their hands dirty and will increase their capacity to understand the world around them.
However, is the thought of packing all of your children up, preparing snacks, getting nature journal materials organised, finding a great walk and then driving to where ever you are headed overwhelming?
Studying nature with your children doesn’t need to be stressful or difficult and whilst travelling to areas that allow you to explore can result in a great experience, you can, just as easily study nature in your own backyard!
Backyard nature study can actually be a lot of fun and not to mention nature study in the backyard is easy!
Recently we did just that. We gathered with a couple of other families to study and journal nature finds right in my friend’s backyard.
Each child had their own spiral bound sketch book in either A4 or A5. A lead pencil, eraser, coloured pencils and sometimes we added in water colours, just to mix up the experience a little.
Our junior nature explorers spent one hour per week, over a series of weeks, with my friend choosing the topics of focus. Being a semi rural property, her backyard was an absolute treasure to explore. It offered an abundance of opportunities, although not every week was spent directly exploring nature in the backyard. At times items were brought in for the children to study.
Bringing in items from outside of the immediate backyard is a great way to include more nature study at home. When you can’t get out into nature, why not bring the nature to you.
Week one had us inspecting a magnificent old Eucalyptus
tree. A Scribbly Gum, named because of a little moth that crawls under the
bark, eating as he goes and leaving scribbles all over the tree. ⠀
This majestic old guy is showing serious signs of ageing, after an arborist inspection he is estimated to be approximately 350 – 400 years old. These trees are so prevalent here where we live that we barely even notice them. It was interesting and well worth spending our time learning more about this tree. ⠀
After inspecting the tree and making many observations we made our journal entries. When questions arose we referred to local field guides and google searches to help us out with the answers.
The following week the focus was on the extra large pond (dam) they have in their back yard. How lucky are they to have such a treasure there. This particular week the children were given complete freedom to explore the pond and to choose what they included in their journals.
They spent the bulk of their time with buckets, spoons and small nets, pond dipping and discovering the vast array of creatures that call the pond home.
The following week my friend chose a ‘your choice’ week. Here the children were left to explore the entire back yard to see what they could find and what items they wanted to learn more about. My son, with a little guidance, chose a termite mound to take a closer look at, he found this so interesting and spent time during the week completing his entry and reading more about termites.
Next up was shell week, being a semi rural property there were no shells in this natural environment, however between us all we had quite a collection, along with that, some books and you tube clips, everyone drew and learned a great deal more about shells and the creatures that live in them.
This week, especially, is a great example of how nature study truly can be done anywhere, even if you lived in an apartment. Don’t think that to study nature you always need to be getting out into the bush.
Chickens were always going to be an obvious choice during this block of nature study lessons as my friend has a great coop in her backyard. What better way to learn about an animal than by holding them and seeing with your very own eyes exactly what you are learning about.
The final session that I am sharing with you, was on fungi. Everyone had hoped that there would be a little sprouting of wild fungi during this nature block but alas that wasn’t to be, apart from one giant shroom that was across the way. However we are so blessed to live in a time that most items are readily available to us. My friend simply purchased mushrooms from the store to explore. They talked about the spores and attempted spore prints, read from books and watched clips on you tube before making their journal entries.
And that wrapped up our easy backyard nature study sessions!
As you can see there really wasn’t a huge amount of structure or prep work that was needed. Of course each week the topic had to be brainstormed and my friend needed to ensure that she had all the supplies on hand.
A short time was spent providing information to the children about the topic, which was researched during the week, but even then, that is not a necessary part of nature study. You could all just as easily research the information together, searching for and finding out those little snippets of wonderful information as you go along. Some would even argue that that would be the best way to study nature, as opposed to simply telling the children what they are going to explore.
There truly are no rules, no right or wrong way to do this. Simply give it a go, trying different ways of approaching the nature journal and exploring your backyard (or even a park if you have one in walking distance) see what your children love best about their very own back yard.
Granted, we were very blessed with a fabulous back yard to explore, but I encourage you to think outside of the box when it comes to your own backyard. What plants do you have, what stones or logs could you overturn to find interesting creatures living under? What bushes or shrubs are growing in your yard that may house tiny creatures?
What about all the different leaf styles you have right there at your fingertips? How many varieties do you even have? Do birds fly in and lose feathers on the ground, are ants making little mounds in your grass outside?
If need be, why not head to the florist for a bunch of flowers, the green grocer for some different and interesting finds and don’t forget to pool resources with friends. I am sure you would be pleasantly surprised with what you could all come up with together.
Following the seasons is particularly great for the backyard. How do the trees and plants change with the seasons? Do the creatures that live there come and go? Are there more or less birds that visit during the different seasons?
When you start looking at ways you can undertake easy backyard nature studies I am certain that you will be pleasantly surprised in what you find.
Do you already study nature in your backyard? Let us know what sorts of treasures you have found if you do?
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