A huge part of our homeschool is nature study. It has become most of the science section for Cyan's school year. We work on our Ecojournals each week, which are like a journal for nothing but our observations in nature. Cyan has put pictures, dictated entries (while I write), we have mapped the yard, and have created some refuge for birds, bugs, and critters inside our yard. We have put our observations in a three ring notebook by season. Meaning that spring 2008 will go with spring 2007, and not just after Winter. They will continue to go in order according to season because I want to be able to see the entire picture of the seasonal changes. My oldest (Alex, 6th grade) has already started to notice a few differences in this year and last year that we hadn't observed before. This will be an interesting project to continue for years to come, whether I am homeschooling or not.
The Green Hour Challenge is an amazing idea. Harmony Art Mom has put together a challenge each week for children to get out side and observe nature. We have just started this project, and have really enjoyed looking at the others. We will be doing this each Wednesday with our Ecojournals. For the most part, it is very similar to what we are doing already, but it is fun to get different guidence every now and again.
Other resources on nature study:
Fun with Nature and More Fun with Nature put out by NortonPress Books is great for bringing along on nature walks. It has wonderful pictures and information on all sorts of things. These two volumes have been in my car off and on for the last 7 months. We bring them to the tide pools we travel to, even sometimes to the zoo. They cover everything from Shells, to Leaves and Seeds, to Feathers, to Scat (poo) and all with wonderful pictures and explinations.
Child's Play in Nature by Leslie Hamilton. This book has wonderful ideas for begining to get to know the world around you. Everything from Acorn people (using the acorn caps as hats, and acorns as heads) to flashlight walks in the dark, it has great step by step instructions for each craft or activity. It is a must for the youngest nature walkers.
The Little Hands Nature Book by Nancy Fusco Castaldo. Another one for the youngest nature explorers of us (ages 2 - 6). It has games listed for the little explorers to do, like find the bear in the woods (a stuffed bear, of course) and how to take care of a wolly bear caterpillar. Lots of fun.
Easy to Create Wildlife Habitats by Emily Stetson. This book expands on observation and help for backyard wildlife. It also has many ideas for things that older kids can do, like help yourself nesting supplies for birds, how to cast a deer footprint, and how to create a worm bin.
One Small Square series, by Donald M Silver is a wonderful way to get to know habitats that are not your own. They lay all of the peices of the habitat out in a form that is so easy to understand, that even complex ideas like arctic animals changing into their white coats for the winter is easy to grasp and fun to learn. I have learned a ton from this series. This is where most of our unit studies on animals start.