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Nature Study

curious little kid in warm coat holding stones in hand on shore

What is Nature Study? 

Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason emphasizes the value of nature study in home education, beginning with students in the early years. Nature study gives a strong foundation in science, feeds childhood wonder, and develops lifelong habits. Unhurried time outdoors is a gift for children. 

Nature study includes nature walks, keeping a nature journal, reading nature lore, and hands-on object lessons

Nature Walk

It is important to take nature walks in all seasons, creating an experienced of intentional observation. The focus of the walk is observing nature in an unhurried manner, including plants, animals, rocks, trees, bugs, weather patterns, etc. Charlotte Mason recommends that families take nature walks together one afternoon each week. Some suggestions to enhance a nature walk include: 

  1. Dissecting a flower or a seed pod.
  2. Studying insects (release them when finished).
  3. Observing patterns of ants or small insects in their natural habitat.
  4. Using binoculars to observe animals.
  5. Climbing a tree. 

Nature Journal 

Purchase a hardcover, watercolor notebook for nature journaling. The notebook needs to be durable since it will be used outdoors. A nature journal is a place to record observations from a nature walk or an object lesson.

Nature journal entries should include the date and location of the observation and a brush-drawing illustration of the observation. Older students should include noted characteristics and species identification. Adding embellishments such as poetry, quotes, and scripture make each journal unique.

Brush-drawing is a technique using a detailed paintbrush and watercolor paint. To brush-draw, dip the wet paintbrush into watercolor paint and then lightly tap the brush on a paper towel before painting on the journal. A travel watercolor set is ideal for nature journaling. To start a nature journal, your student will need a nature journal and a travel watercolor set.

Nature Lore

Nature lore is literature written by a naturalist designed to pique interest in the natural world. If you are able to include a physical object study that coordinates with the nature lore reading, it will enhance the lesson. Quality nature lore is often vintage and best read at a slow pace. Charlotte Mason recommends one 10 minute nature lore lesson per week, reading only 4-5 pages per lesson.  Some beloved classics include:  

Object Lesson

An object lesson is carefully observing, listening, touching and smelling an object from nature. Object lessons can include plants, insects, leaves, bird’s nests, etc.
 
The result of regular object lessons include heightened observation in personal nature study, training of the senses and an increased interest in nature journaling.
 
Consider raising monarch caterpillars in your home, caring for them and watching them grow. When the caterpillars transform into a beautiful chrysalis, with accents of gold, you wait in expectation for new life to emerge. Watching them emerge and take their first flight is a powerful teacher.  

A valuable resource to guide object lessons at home is The Handbook of Nature, by Anna Botsford Comstock. 

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