Monday, March 24, 2008

Nature Study Tips

"We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things. "
~Charlotte Mason in Home Education

Heart of Harmony blog has a great post with links to nature coloring books or line drawings to help with illustrating your nature journals.

This morning I have read about two thirds of Kamana's The Young Naturalist and it looks like a great place to start with younger kids. Kamana sells it for under $26.00 here. So far there is only one episode of the characters sending "our thoughts out to the forest" in order to call out a character who will come and teach them some things. I will say again that I think it's easy enough to edit out these kinds of things if they are offensive to you and still get a lot of use out of the materials.

Here's a list of tips inspired by our work in the Kamana program:

1. Get to know one place, even if it's only your yard or even just a tree in your yard. Pick a place that is convenient so you will visit it often, preferably daily. Practice using your senses to learn about what is around you.

2. Take it slowly and get to know one thing at a time, one plant, one bird, tree, mammal, etc. from your area. Use the range maps in the field guides to find local species. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all there is out there. If you just take a baby step at a time, you will be amazed at how much you will learn over the years.

3. Use your journal to record what you've learned or even questions you have. Don't stress about the artwork but instead focus on recording details that will help you remember and be able to identify the object in the future. Don't even spend a lot of time on your journal entries. Kamana suggests aiming for 20-30 minutes each. You are not aiming for a beautiful work of art.
4. Use field guides to sketch from. Practice the Charlotte Mason method of picture study with the pictures of the object you are journaling about. Simply look at the picture until you can see it in your minds eye, then close the book and sketch it quickly in your journal. If you need to, repeat the process until you feel you have included the major components of the illustration.

5. Also use the field guides to gather information. Again, use the Charlotte Mason method of narration. Read the information and then write from memory. Repeat as often as you need to until all important elements are included such as field marks, habitat, habits, etc. Kamana Two suggests taking notes in this manner on a scrap piece of paper and then writing your journal entry from your scrap paper.

6. Read inspirational nature literature - fiction and non-fiction. We are currently reading Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter.

7. For you homeschoolers, take a day a week to focus on nature study. It covers science, art, writing and reading. Even if that is all you did that day, it would be a day well spent. Start when your kids are young. They will be much better prepared for high school biology when they have a first-hand knowledge of many of the flora and fauna that they will study later, not to mention that learning to care about the earth will help them become better stewards of it.

As I have said before, I have been amazed at how well the Kamana program melds with the philosophy laid down in Charlotte Mason's writings. And here's another quote to prove it:

"In Science, or rather, nature study, we attach great importance to recognition, believing that the power to recognize and name a plant or stone or constellations involves classification and includes a good deal of knowledge. To know a plant by its gesture and habitat, its time and its way of flowering and fruiting; a bird by its flight and song and its times of coming and going; to know when, year after year, you many come upon the restart and the pied fly-catcher, means a good deal of interested observations, ad of, at any rate, the material for science."
~from School Education

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