A wonderful way for children to learn about the world and God’s creation is to spend large amounts of time outside, observing it. Nature study can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. In fact, all you need to get started is a blank notebook to turn into a nature journal by adding drawings, observations, or even poems. Add on a way to identify what you are looking at such as a field guide or nature app, and you’re set.
Nature study encompasses a wide variety of subjects: science, art, reading, writing, geography, history, and math. Although it may seem there is more to see and learn in the other three seasons, winter, too, offers exciting things to see. Here are four fun and easy nature study activities to add to your homeschool this winter.
1. Bird Watching
Set up a few bird feeders around your house in areas that you can easily see and wait for the birds to arrive. You can purchase bird feeders, build them out of recycled materials, or make homemade bird feeders using pine cones, peanut butter and seed. Keep a bird guide nearby so your children can identify the feathered friends that stop by. Listen for the different songs they sing. Make drawings of the different birds and add them to your nature journal. Keep a count of how many of each bird species stop by and add a chart to your journal.
2. Tree Observation
When the trees loose their leaves many things are visible up in the trees that you would not be able to see in the other seasons. Look for nests and beehives. Notice the shapes of the different branches and trees that might be growing into one another. Make rubbings of the bark.
You can choose a specific tree and sketch what it looks in the winter. If it is very cold outside, you may choose to photograph your tree and sketch it when you are back indoors. Then in each subsequent season, draw a new sketch and compare them. Make up a poem or a short story of your tree and add it to your journal.
3. Nature Walks
Layer on the hats and gloves and take that walk no matter the temperature. Look for signs of wildlife such as animal tracks, scat, rubbings, hair, feathers, or fur and observe any animals that you see. Search for plants and trees that still have leaves. Bring a camera along to photograph items of interest. When you return home, your child can add more sketches to the nature journal.
4. Weather Calendar
Observe winter weather patterns by drawing pictures or making notes of daily weather conditions. Write in the amount of precipitation and record the temperature. You can also make a chart showing when the sun rises and sets each day and draw the phases of the moon and where it appears in the sky.
Nature study is something the whole family can enjoy together, even in winter. You will get in some much needed exercise, fight depression, and spend quality family time together. So bundle up, head outdoors, and take in the beauty of God’s amazing creation.