As a Charlotte Mason educator, nature studies have been a big part of our homeschooling. When we transitioned from elementary years into middle school, I wanted to begin to gentle bridget the gap of nature and science with my children and what we did turned out to be a great success and as you will see, a wonderful keepsake for them.
How to Turn Nature Studies into Books
Pick an Animal of Interest
I always had my children select four animals that they wanted to learn about for the year. You can choose to do have your children choose one animal at a time, but my children have always been interested in certain ones, so it made it easy to get library books for them in advance if I knew what they were interested in learning about.
Choose the Size of a Blank Book
There are two choices of book sizes that we have found and for this project, I do prefer a smaller one for children who need more direction and lack creativity. However, if you have an independent learner who loves to be creative, try doing it with a bigger blank book.
I would highly recommend that you only have them use double sided tape to affix paper to the book. If you use glue, even a glue stick, it will cause the book to warp and after a time, the glue stops working. This is from my own experience. I would encourage your children that a little double sided tape goes a long way and to start with small pieces.
Give Assignments to Fill the Book
What I absolutely love about this project is that serves a way to evaluate what they are learning in their nature studies and provides for a keepsake for year end Show N' Tell or to show family members who may not be understanding in our homeschooling choices.
I have always used a ‘skeleton' assignment for these books, where I require the same basic information to go within the books and it is their job to find the meat and skin that goes into this project of study.
I'm giving you a free printable skeleton form that you can print out for each of the books your child does and let them go to learn all they can and fill int their book! Get your Nature Study Book Assignment printable.
Provide Learning Material
Require a Bibliography where the child will list all the resources that they used to find the information they added to the book. This would include books, online resources and any visual resources. This is good practice for higher education.
Give a Deadline to Complete
In our homeschool, I required one book to be completed per term, which meant one every seven to eight weeks. Always help them make a plan of how to accomplish that deadline goal and keep them accountable. Evaluate their books at the end of every week.
You would come to expect that as a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, nature studies are part of our routine. I love having free afternoon time for our children to explore and discover, but any time that nature finds it way into our home, I'm willing! I would love to share with you how to study turtles, so you can make your children as happy as my sons are in this photo of them getting up close and personal with a turtle from our property.
How to Study Turtles
Learn about Turtle Habitats
If you don't know where to look for turtles, you may not be rewarded with your exploring in looking for them. Once you learn where they like to live, it will be easier for you to identify where potential turtles are living and discover them on your nature walks or exploring in free afternoons. Learn to Identify the Different Kinds of Turtles
Most turtles are harmless and a great joy for children to pick up, study and observe. I have so many fond memories of my children finding turtles and building habitats in containers that I would allow them to use outside and take care of them for a few days before letting them go back into their natural habitat.
When my older children were younger and we lived in a different house, we were often visited by snapping turtles, one turtle to be aware of and learn to identify, because one wrong move with one of those and you can lose a finger. We have found large snapping turtles next to our front steps, stuck under my husband's motorcycle, gingerly walking through our back yard and sliding around in our back creek. Every spring, my children would gather several baby snapping turtles and would watch them for a few days and enjoy seeing them at such a cute stage.
Learn What They Eat
In order to care for a wild turtle for a few days, you will need to know what kinds of food they eat and be sure that you can provide for them. Some turtles like different things, so being able to identify them first is important and then gather the right nutrition for them is the next step. All wild creatures belong in the wild, so before your children start getting the idea of raising a new pet, be sure to set guidelines and limits to ‘observing' a turtle and hold them accountable to enforcing what was agreed upon.
Journal the Turtle
Once a turtle was found, even if they provide a homemade habitat to observe it, we would take a photo of it, so they could journal about it later and write the name of the kind of turtle in their journal to help them remember it. They would often times add their foods they ate and the habitat they found the turtle in while exploring.
How often does your family come across a nature find, on your nature walks? If you are like us, you find them all the time and your kids want to keep them, of course. This is why I came up with their own nature box to keep their finds in, and share with others.
If your family loves nature studies like we do, you probably discover all kinds of great nature finds. I was tired of finding great nature finds and not having a place to store them, so we made nature boxes!
We started with boxes that we had round the house and each of my younger boys decorated them for their own nature boxes and a special place to store their nature finds.
My 6th grader wanted to paint his boxes, with his favorite color of red.
After I covered a box with card stock, using double sided tape and colorful ribbon, my 3 year old was thrilled to add stickers to his box and spell out his name with foam stickers. He LOVES his nature box!
This is a swallow tail butterfly that my daughter found on one of our family's walks.
This is a nest that held sparrows in a bush in our front yard. We discovered this nest when I was enjoying a beautiful spring day on our porch and I observed a couple of sparrows flying in and out of the bush with worms. I knew right away they were feeding babies because the sweetest sounds were coming from the bush when one of the birds returned. Once they grew and flew away, my son added the nest to his nature box.
The boys have added several snake skins to their boxes, thanks to the snakes that call our property their home. Knowing that they eat mice and cooper heads, has made them welcomed guest and they often leave evidence around our bushes that they have been growing, while keeping mice out of our country home and cooper heads at bay.
As with nature journals, I keep the nature boxes for items that my boys find on their own and desire to keep. It has been such a sweet joy to watch my 3 year old run into the home with a colored leaf or feather to excitedly add to his own nature box.
We are filling ours up already, so I just purchased cardboard keepsake boxes to continue this new addition to our homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way.
As a firm believing creationist myself, I thought I would share with you some of my best suggestions for digging deeper into the evidence of a world-wide flood and decided I would create a gift guide for creationist for your convenience and enjoyment.
As a Charlotte Mason educator, nature studies is something that our whole family enjoys, which makes it very easy to introduce to preschoolers (or before) for us, but I'm aware that this isn't the case for many families. I would love to share with you tips that you can use to introduce your preschoolers, or older children (even yourself) to nature study.
Here is how we introduce nature studies to preschoolers in our home:
Go outside together often – This is something many families already do. However, when introducing nature study you will need to help draw the attention of your preschooler to the nature around him.
Get excited over the little things – When the preschooler is first learning the skill of nature study, they aren't really sure what to look for, but the love the idea of exploring and discovering. Take advantage of this developing skill and praise even the simplest thing that is pointed out.
Introduce the names of what is being discovered – If you already know the name of what is being discovered, be sure to use the real name of the item. Repeat it often during this nature study and through out the day. I will never forget when I was teaching my third child (now 10) about the wild flowers we were finding on our nature walk. One of them were ‘Forget Me Nots', which he repeated several times. Several hours later, I showed him one that we pick and asked him what it was, he quickly said, “Remember my name!” – Priceless, I know!
Dig deeper into what you have discovered – Sometimes, you will discover something that you either do not know or want to learn more about. This is the perfect opportunity to take a trip to the library and find great living books to aid you in digging deeper into the world around you.
After introducing nature study to your preschooler, you will want to allow them to begin to direct their own observation. I love to just sit and watch my children explore, discover and learn from the wonders of nature all around them. Nothing is more precious to me, as having my young children be able to see something in its natural habitat and be able to identify it quickly.