One of the most enjoyable parts of our schooling is nature study. So often, our study is spur of the moment. A salamander is found, and questions are asked: what does it eat, where does it live, how does it breathe? A fungus is seen on a tree: is it edible? Why does the water get bubbly over the rapids in the river? These lessons very often take all day or week to process, and it becomes similar to our impromptu Pancakes and Symmetry study. I have printables that I created for Bella that include sketching the object or animal in question, writing a bit about it, and telling what she found most interesting. This, however, would never give us a broad enough science curriculum.
Ambleside Online has a schedule to work through nature study one topic at a time. This keeps our science study dependable and steady. Our nature study is kept even more scheduled because I am teaching small parts of it to the children in our church as part of the Wednesday night children’s program; this forces me to make detailed plans. I have just a few minutes to teach a small bit of our study on Wednesday evening, but I am an overachiever. I plan beyond what I could ever actually accomplish. I like having those options in place, as my children receive the rest of the lesson and activities at home.
My planning happens in stages. First, I do quick research on the topic by reading an encyclopedia, a book on the subject, or asking my husband. He’s an expert in everything, it seems. I then write a simple outline on the major points I want my children to learn. Third, I do some in-depth research on each point. Lastly, I gather fun experiments, coloring pages, crafts, recipes, or other activities to go with each lesson. Planning for it is fun; I use a lot of Pinterest in my plans! (Check out my Nature Study boards!)
A few of my outlines look like this:
After a full set of lesson plans are printed (including any coloring pages, craft/activity instructions, or snack recipes), I place them in a 3-ring binder. This is not all we do while we study! I pull out all books that relate to our topic. For example, our Reptile study books included “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?,” “Reptiles Do The Strangest Things,” and “Buying, Training, & Caring for Your Dinosaur.”
We do a lot of reading on the topic; it isn’t just about my lesson plans! I encourage questions; they let me know if our study is catching interest and they also lead to a deeper study. In all, this method gives us a well-rounded science curriculum.
How do you study science or nature?