I shudder when I think about people being brave enough to sit out in the cold, snowy, windy weather with a bunch of cold, whiny children trying to accomplish their lofty goals of Nature Study year round. That is why it works better for my family to do the Nature Walks and take mental notes of what we saw – then come home and notebook it. Sometimes we do bring samples – leaves or nuts that have fallen, or something like that. More often we take a picture with the camera and then come home.
But there are those nasty winter days (or weeks) when it really is not practical to go out. I don’t want to lose out on Nature Study so here are some ideas that I have been using to help us get over the winter blahs of Nature Study.
1. During the summer collect things like rocks, feathers, empty nests, cicada skins, shells, bones, etc that you can put it a Nature Study box and draw and label them on cold nasty days when you don’t want to be outside. The key to this box is that it is up and only you are allowed to get it down. It will also have a time limit attached. That way the Box is always new and exciting.
2. Take digital pictures of insects, spiders, animals, birds, clouds, sunsets, fresh garden produce still “on the vine”, etc. and during the winter put it on the computer for nature study drawing. Sonya Shafer says this allows for greater detail in some things. Then look them up, label and add interesting details about it.
3. My kids love to take pictures of the animals at the zoo. Let them use those to draw, label, etc.
4. Contact your Conservation Dept. Our state conservation dept has created so much educational stuff about the states natural habitats, creatures, etc that they make available free to the homeschooling communities it is amazing. We are very blessed here – they have tub kits about different subjects, videos, books, posters, flashcards, etc. that are free to anyone. Something that I was totally impressed by was a K-2 science curriculum for homeschoolers that is basically a nature study through the seasons. It has suggested activities for art, math, et… very cool. See if you could do something different along those lines during the winter.
5. Last year we studied SCM Module 1 for history and geography. What if we watched a video of African habitats and allowed my kids to pick an animal to draw and write about what they learned of that animal? They chose their subjects within the video parameters. I could, in a fun way, reinforce my lessons in geography, zoology, etc.
6. Schedule visits to indoor nature places – Butterfly Houses, Conservatories, etc. Even a visit to the art museum could count – let the children see how often artists depict nature (weather, animals, etc) in their work. They could even draw their favorite in their nature journals.
7. Watch Nature dvds and enjoy the amazing animals and places that you will probably never go. 😉 Let each person choose one animal, bird, insect, creature, etc. to report (draw and notebook) about. I have done this with some of my nature videos and it is neat to see what they pick up. In order to keep attention focused, they had to have 1 fact for each “grade” they are in – so my 11 year old would have to remember 5 details of the animal she chose to focus on.
8. National Geographic Kids online has a fun link to learn about animals. My 4 and 5 year olds love to look at it: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/