It feels like winter just started, but I’m already looking forward to spring. We have a few months until warm weather arrives in our area, but I can’t wait to get outside and observe more when the birds start chirping again. These items are things that we have at home, or that I have used for nature study with students. I think they’ll be good contributions to your nature lessons and observations!
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Tools for Studying Birds
Squirrel-Be-Gone Wild Bird FeederWe have some ferocious squirrels living in our backyard. The antagonistic little guys sit on our fence, wag their tails, and taunt our 100-pound dog in any way that they can. I thought a bird feeder would be unrealistic for us because I knew the sneaky little things would get into it. This one is perfect though, because the squirrels literally cannot get the bird seed from it. Their weight pulls the springs down, and closes off access to the food. We have this bird feeder in front of our kitchen window, and I love watching the birds have a little snack while I’m washing the dishes. It’s a great way to attract birds so we can observe them!
The Backyard Birdsong Guide Eastern and Central North America: A Guide to Listening I used these books as a teacher, and they were my absolute favorite! Learning the songs of birds makes identifying them so much easier! There are two versions of this book: one for the eastern and central regions of the US, and one for the western and central regions. My area, the Rocky Mountains, we covered in each book since we don’t really fit anywhere!
Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars We don’t have these binoculars (full disclosure!) but I’ve had my eye on them for awhile. (See what I did there?) We have their microscope, and even though some people might think brightly colored plastic “tools” are dumbing things down for children, I am not about to invest in expensive binoculars at this point in time. The chances of them being dropped or scratched is very high. We’re working on the habit of taking care of our possessions!
Tools For Studying Insects
A jar like this is a must for a squeamish mama! I love that we can put a bug in there (or, Miss H can, while I pretend to act nonchalant) and then we can really observe it without the risk of a bug doing something crazy, like crawling my way. Make sure to get a jar that has a magnifying lid, because it’s so much cooler observing a bug that’s magnified!
The Usborne Big Book of Big Bugs: And a Few Little Ones Too… We don’t have this Usborne book, but we have several in this series. I love how they have great information, but they’re still very appropriate for young children.
Tools for Studying Plants
I had a flower press similar to this when I was a child. Last summer, we just used a book to press flowers, but it was a little tricky to get the flowers positioned just right. You can see pictures of our pressed flowers here.
I had been planning on building a terrarium for a long time, but the whole thought intimidated me. In my last classroom, I had a pretty one that another teacher had made. It was a great way to bring nature indoors. This terrarium kit is on my Amazon wishlist. It couldn’t get any easier than this!
We bought this for H’s birthday last year, and sometimes she gets it out of the drawer on her own and gets to work observing things. The magnification isn’t very strong, but it’s enough to let young children see items closer up.
Nature Reference Books
I love books that are appropriate for all ages. This book is beautiful, but toddlers and grownups alike can appreciate it. We also have two others in this series, Food Anatomy and Farm Anatomy.
Many Charlotte Mason curricula use this book for nature study. The descriptions are thorough and beautiful, and it includes so many different things that you could observe outside. It even includes ice, which is a great thing to study in the winter. One downside: the pictures are very grainy, because they’re very old!
Tools for Studying Direction
Charlotte Mason said that children should learn their cardinal directions and how to read a compass in the elementary years. We haven’t started working on this yet, but it’s probably something I should brush up on before trying to teach it! There’s also an iPhone Compass app, but I think it takes away some of the skill required for compass=reading.
Tools for Nature Journaling
There are so many fancy nature journals out there, but a simple sketch pad will do! We have this one that we use for H to draw pictures of things she sees in nature. Eventually, I might search for a version that has a plain cover made of a sturdier material, but for now, this one works well for us.
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Tell me about your favorite nature study resources!