In case you get overwhelmed thinking about nature study and making it more complicated in your head than it truly needs to be, or you are wondering how to do nature study, I’ve put together this list of 10 ways to study nature in 10 minutes to start you off. I’m hoping that burned-out nature study veterans and newbies seeking inspiration alike will find useful ideas here!
Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the myriad things you can do, but I chose these activities because you can just use these, and repeat as desired, without every experiencing the exact same things twice. Every one of them can be done quickly and with extremely minimal prep, if any. Happy nature studying!
1. Just stand still.
Head outside, anywhere you happen to be….this is a lot of fun when you try it in a bunch of places over time! Now, set a timer for 10 minutes, and keep a grip on any little ones who may wander. Sit or stand in place and just see what you can hear, smell, feel, and taste. When the timer goes, older family members can write down what they saw into their nature journals if they’re so inclined. With little ones, you could take turns saying what each person observed. You’ll be amazed at the number of details you hear, and also how peaceful you feel afterwards!
2. Get low.
Lie down, use a piece of string to define a small area, and set the timer. See how many things happen within that area in the ten minutes. It’s really incredible observing all the activity that happens on such a tiny level. (Am I the only one singing that song now?!)
3. Look right up close.
Use a magnifying glass – carefully, and not in direct sunlight unless you want to start a fire! – or a jeweler’s loupe and spend ten minutes looking really closely at the outdoor object of your choice. I know I have mentioned the book before, but we are huge fans of The Private Eye curriculum which is cross-curricular learning doing just this! Look down into a flower, or a fallen log, or even a crack in the pavement and you’ll find so many things to look at it will blow your mind.
4. Sculpt it, press it, model it.
Take along some air-dry clay, play dough, or beeswax modeling clay and get your hands dirty! Press things into your clay and see what it looks like in a different texture, try to reproduce it in modeling clay (shells are especially fun for this), make patterns with a few different things you’ve found. Have fun exploring, and save any favorites for your nature table.
5. Rub it.
Find leaves, bark, rocks and anything else that you can use a crayon and paper to take an impression of. The differences between different rocks and trees become abundantly clear when you see a rubbing you’ve made of each lined side by side. Don’t forget to make a quick note of what each one is, so you can glue it into your nature journal afterwards for future reference.
6. Hand over the camera.
I am always amazed by the things that children find to photograph when they’re given a way to take pics. Some of my favorite photos have come through the eyes of my kids, and it’s rarely what I thought I saw in the same space.
If letting a small one hold your expensive camera makes you nervous, I can highly recommend the V-Tech Kidizoom cameras…I bought one for D9 when he was 2 or 3 and it’s an indestructible digital camera for under $50. He has his own adult-level camera now too, courtesy of my parents, but the Kidizoom still comes out once in a while.
7. Write in your nature journal.
This really does only take about 10 minutes….it just seems like it should take longer! Encourage your entire family to make a few notes about the weather, what they’re seeing/hearing/smelling, where they are when they’re writing, and make add a quickie sketch or try to reproduce some of the colors they’re seeing outdoors that day. Sometimes we scribble a few lines of a poem inspired by a scenic view. It really is that simple, and when you do it often you see some great patterns in nature that you might have missed.
8. Break out a nature unit study guide and choose just one activity to try that day.
There’s no law that says you have to do multiple activities in a unit study, or even finish it all in a set period of time. Some of our favorite nature study units have come out multiple times for 10 minutes each time over the years, trying a different activity each time we break it out. The joy of nature study is doing it the way you want to!
9. Plant something.
Seriously. Think about all the things we observe as we plant something: the insects, the composition of the soil, the moisture level, the smells, the feel of the dirt under our feet or in our hands, the differences in size and shape of seeds, the root structure of a plant, and so much more. It’s a great experience every time.
10. Find some water.
There’s something soothing about water, whether it’s a puddle or a lake, or a creek rushing along as you climb the bank. Never leave a child unattended near water (you know this already, of course), but spend ten minutes listening, dipping hands and feet in, jumping around, or lying on a raft watching the world go by. How many frogs, minnows, turtles, otters, dragonflies and other gorgeous water creatures can you spot?
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This is part of an iHomeschool Network collaboration; click on the image below to see all the ideas for your home, life, and homeschool.