Sometimes, when we’re out with our nature club, people stop us ask why we do nature study. Honestly, there are so many reasons that we don’t have time to spout them all off in passing. As fans of the Charlotte Mason educational approach, we love everything about nature study.
We love the questioning it ignites, we love the calming effect of being in the outdoors, and we especially love that spending time in nature helps our children to slow their minds and focus on small things.
Why isn’t Nature Study taught in schools?
Like many subjects that children can greatly benefit from, nature study isn’t a focus in most schools. Especially in public schools, there is such a great emphasis on state testing, that learning for the sake of learning falls to the wayside.
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Many other important subjects, such as art, music or trade skills are also put on the back burner so that teachers can prove that children are meeting state requirements.
We prefer to educate our children at home, so that they can delve more deeply into their own interests and will hopefully have a love of learning all their lives. As homeschoolers, our children have the unique opportunity to learn about natural sciences in a hands-on format.
What’s so great about studying nature?
Nature Study inspires wonder
Have you ever seen a child stop what they’re doing and stare in wide-eyed wonder at a fly caught in a spider’s web or an ant carrying a piece of food larger than itself?
Children that spend time in nature are more aware that there are millions of things going on in the natural world that many people never stop to appreciate. The more time they spend observing the habits of bugs and animals, the more they will realize that the world is all connected and that they are a part of it all.
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Nature Study calms children
Whatever your views on screen time for kids are, there’s no arguing with the fact that too much movie watch and game playing can be bad for us.
There are hundreds of studies out there that show that children lose the ability to focus and are less happy when they spend excessive time on screens. Not to mention that having a plethora of options has been shown to cause anxiety.
So is the answer to stop using technology? We don’t think so. That’s a little unrealistic in 2018, and, besides there are many positive benefits of screen time, as well.
Instead, we balance screen time with nature time. Spending time in nature is grounding. When our children are given the time to just stop and soak up the stillness of a quiet day in the forest without other distractions, we see the negative side effects of screen time slip away.
We like to think of it as a “reset”. They have fewer options and in today’s busy world this is very calming for them.
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Nature Study encourages investigation
Nature study makes kids natural explorers and investigators. When children spend time in nature, they are constantly asking questions.
What does this bug eat?
Why does the bird fly like that?
What lives in this pond?
Researching their answers is fun and interesting. When given free reign to explore, they will start to look for the answers to their questions by observing what’s happening in front of them. These are the same skills that are used in advanced scientific studies, making nature study an excellent foundation for other scientific subjects.
How to get started
There are plenty of options for getting started with nature study. You could spend a few minutes each day for a year observing a specific tree and all the changes it goes through. Or go on a walk and observe the different types of trees, plants, and seeds.
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Even picnicking at a local state park while you watch birds going about their daily activities is a great way to study nature.
You can take photos, sketch in a journal or draw a phenology wheel to record the things you see during your nature study. We took journaling a step further and created our Homeschool Nature Journals because we wanted nature study to be more independent for our older children.
They are chock full of information, activities and, of course, plenty of room for recording findings.
Nature study doesn’t have to be complicated. Spending time in your own garden or backyard, with no agenda other than having a look around is the perfect place to begin.