How To Study Nature With Children Of All Ages

E & butterfly

I am running a short series on getting started with nature study, here on the blog. We have already covered the first two topics:

Supplies For Nature Study

How To Set Up Your Nature Journal

Today I shall be sharing ideas on getting out of doors with all ages.

My aim in writing Exploring Nature With Children is to get families out of doors, enjoying nature study together. Children (and grown-ups!) of all ages benefit from being outdoors Here are some ideas that you may find useful:

• Go on nature walks together

Adapt the location and length of walk to suit your children’s ages. Half an hour to walk and talk about what you see in your own garden will benefit your family more than a day in the woods with a tiny tot, and mum having to carry along lots of nappies, changes of clothes, etc. There is no need to devote a whole day to nature study (unless of course, you want to!)

An easy solution for mothers of little ones, is to spread out a picnic blanket on the garden lawn, and sit there whilst the children have fun in the garden, seeing what nature treasures they can find. This makes life much easier in the sense that none of the usual baby paraphernalia needs to be carried around on a woodland walk; snacks, nappies, (diapers) changes of clothing, plus nature guides and journals can be kept right there on the blanket. Tired babies and children can nap when needed, and nature study time can be as short or long as desired.

• With younger children, you can keep the discussion light and away from too many scientific facts. Ask them a question to give them something to ponder and to think about.

• With older children, engage them in discussion about the main focus of that week’s nature study. Charlotte Mason saw ideas as food for the mind.Keep your eyes open to spot the focus of your study throughout the week, but allow your child the space to make their own connections.

baby R & E

•Bigger kids can help littler kids :)

•If your child asks a question you cannot answer, do not be afraid to say ‘I don’t know – let’s find out together.’

•Give them books to read for further study on the topic.

I hope this post gives you some ideas! I shall be hosting a weekly ‘Explore-along’ on my Facebook page, to share our nature studies from Exploring Nature With Children. Each week I shall post what we got up to for that week’s lesson and I invite you to share your own family’s studies.

We shall begin on Monday 7th of September with the first week’s activity from Exploring Nature With Children: Seeds

Today is the last day to use the 30% discount code for Exploring Nature With Children, so please enter Earlybird15 to take full advantage.

Happy exploring!

Picture haigh 007

One Of The Secrets Of The Educator…

hold-hands

Please feel free to come on over to the Exploring Nature With Children FaceBook group. We shall be having an ‘Explore-along’ beginning on 7th September. I look forward to seeing you there!

How To Set Up Your Nature Journal

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“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.”

Charlotte Mason

Since releasing my new book Exploring Nature With Children: A complete, year-long curriculum, I have had lots of lots of feed back from parents who say they finally have a resource that will help them to actually get outdoors and do nature study with their children, instead of just reading about nature study. This is music to my ears!

I shall be hosting a weekly ‘Explore-along’ on my Facebook page, to share our nature studies from Exploring Nature With Children. Each week I shall post what we got up to for that week’s lesson and I invite you to share your own family’s studies.

We shall begin on Monday 7th of September with the first week’s activity from Exploring Nature With Children: Seeds

Please visit me at my Facebook page, to get ready for our first week!

Before then, I am running a short series on getting started with nature study, here on the blog:

Supplies For Nature Study

How To Set Up Your Nature Journal ~ You are here

Studying Nature With All Ages

So without further ado, here is Setting Up Your Nature Journal:

An important part of nature study is to keep a nature journal – a record of what you observe on your nature walks. It is just as important for the parent to have a nature journal as it is for the child. Be an example; show an interest in the natural world and your child will follow. Do not worry about your sketching ability; the point of a nature journal is to record scientific data, so accuracy is much more important than creating pretty pictures. Drawing skills can be learned along the way. It will also be encouraging for your child to see you learning something new.

Once you have chosen your nature journal (see Supplies For Nature Journaling) You will want to make sure that you include your name and perhaps a contact number on the first page, should your journal ever be lost.

Here are some details that are helpful to include in your journal:

Basic entries:

• The location

• Date

• Time of day (or night!)

• A brief note on the weather. I usually draw a small rectangle next to the above details and make a quick sketch to represent the weather, rather than writing about it.

Once you have sketched your subject, label it, though this may need to wait until you have looked up your subject in your field guide.

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More advanced ideas:

• Latin names of subjects

• Diagrams

• Notes on sketches – you may want to include further details, such as notes on textures,

or position etc.

• Measurements

• Pressed flowers or leaves

• Photographs

• Quotes

• Passages of scripture

• Poetry – use the weekly poems as a starting point.

• Photographs

• Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to the journal keeper.

Another authentic journaling activity would be a ‘calendar of firsts’.

It is a capital plan for the children to keep a calendar–the first oak-leaf, the first tadpole, the first cowslip, the first catkin, the first ripe blackberries, where seen, and when. The next year they will know when and where to look out for their favourites, and will, every year, be in a condition to add new observations. Think of the zest and interest the object, which such a practice will give to daily walks and little excursions.

 Charlotte Mason

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Sunday Walk & Nature Journal Entry

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Our family afternoon walk, in our local woodland.

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Here is my nature journal entry that I completed upon my return home:

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Ink and water colour paint. I always add a little splatter ;)

The 30% discount code for Exploring Nature With Children is still available to redeem August 31st.

Study Nature

orangememe

I shall be hosting a weekly ‘Explore-along’ on my Facebook page, to share our nature studies from Exploring Nature With Children. Each week I shall post what we got up to for that week’s lesson and I invite you to share your own family’s studies.

We shall begin on Monday 7th of September with the first week’s activity from Exploring Nature With Children: Seeds

Please visit me at my Facebook page, to get ready for our first week!

Supplies For Nature Journaling

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This post is part of a series, on getting started with nature study:

Supplies For Nature Study

Setting Up Your Nature Journal

Studying Nature With All Ages

Since releasing my new book Exploring Nature With Children: A complete, year-long curriculum, I have had several questions about the best supplies to use. We have used different journals and art materials over the years, but here is what is working for us now.

Journals

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This is a very personal choice. You need to find a journal in a size you find comfortable, and you may also want to consider whether you wish to use a bound book, or a spiral bound book. Spiral bound books lie completely flat when opened and they cope better with items being glued into the books, such as feathers and photographs. You may find a bound book will struggle if you add in a lot of items that add to the thickness of the book.

The weight and texture of paper is important; choose paper that suits the media you use. Generally speaking, if you use a lot of coloured pencil, a smooth texture is best, whereas if you tend toward water colour, a ‘toothy’, rougher texture will cope better with all that lovely, juicy paint.

We are currently using the Leuchtturm 1917 sketchbooks in medium (A5). The paper is a decent weight, and very smooth, which is rather a contradiction as we tend to do a lot of our work in water colour. But I like the journals a lot, and we enjoy using them.

In the past we have used much cheaper journals with great success, so if possible, choose your journal in person; you will have the opportunity to touch the paper and feel the weight of the book in your hands.

I really recommend popping your nature journal in a strong ziplock bag. Accidents happen!

Water Colour Paints

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We tend to prefer watercolour in our journals. The girls use Winsor & Newton paints, I use a selection of Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith paints. Winsome & Newton offer a smashing little travel set.

Above, you can see my paint tin along with a little swatch card that I made to help me remember my colours, as they look so very different in the palette.

Brushes

When nature journaling, I really recommend water brushes. Such a clever invention, you simply unscrew the brush part, fill up the barrel with clean water, screw the brush back on nice and tightly, and you are all set! You squeeze the barrel lightly and this releases a little water into the bristles. No need to take jars of water out with you for nature study! When you wish to clean the brush, simply squeeze to release a little water, and wipe the bristles on a clean tissue. Genius!

Coloured Pencils

Stay away from hard, brittle pencils and choose ones with soft, creamy leads instead. This way you will get glorious colour and coverage. Experiment by layering your colours to get the rich hues that are found in nature.

I use Prismacolor pencils, they are beautiful, but, must be used with caution as they are so soft and creamy, they are extremely fragile. They are also very expensive. Mine were bought for me several years ago as a gift and they are still going stong. For my girls, I bought the Staedtler Ergosoft pencils. Still a lovely colour ‘pay-off’ but much stronger lead, and so much cheaper too.

A Mechanical Pencil

These can be picked up very cheaply; they negate the need for a pencil sharpener and usually have an eraser on the end too.

A Jeweller’s Loope

A smashing tool for nature study; small and light-weight, a loope will allow you get really close up to your specimen and to engage with it on a whole new level.

A Bug Box

We have used well-rinsed yoghurt pots in the past, but a special bug box with a magnifying glass in the lid is extra-special :)

Paper bags

For collecting other specimens, such as a feather, a fungus, or a few leaves.

A good, local field guide

I am in England, and I use this one a lot.

Handsanitiser

Sunscreen

A Penknife

Handy for cutting off small sample branches and such

A Torch

I know…sounds OTT? Let me tell you about the afternoon we went for a winter woodland walk, became completely absorbed, and suddenly realised it was dark! That torch was very useful!

A Water-bottle And Snacks

To keep up the energy of your wee naturalists!

A Mini First Aid-Kit

A few plasters, antiseptic spray, and something to treat bites and stings.

Something To Carry It All In

I carry my own stuff in a backpack. For the girls, I have found those insulated lunch bags really useful. Something like this.

These are the basic items we take out on most nature walks. Please share with me in the comments below what you consider to be your nature study essentials.