Fun With Nature Notebooks

By Charmaine Wistad

Would you like to include a little bit of fun “school” during the summer months? Summer is the perfect time to start your children (and yourself!) on a nature notebook.  In the summer, your family will probably  spend a good amount of time outdoors – so why not take advantage of it and use the time to observe and draw nature.

Drawing notebooks can be readily found at just about any discount or variety store (including many large grocery stores). They come in various sizes, but I found that a 6” X 9” spiral bound sketch diary works best.

Start your nature notebook project by taking a little time to decorate the cover. Cut a piece of white paper the size of the cover. Have the kids cut out pictures from magazines of their favorite animals, plants, flowers, tress etc. and glue them on to the paper. Leave room at the top to label the book with permanent marker or a computer print out i.e. “Anne’s Nature Notebook”. Once the paper is decorated to the child’s liking, glue it to the book cover then cover both front and back with clear contact paper.  This will help keep the book in better condition when you get it outdoors and into some “natural” situations.

What to put in the nature notebook? Start by taking a little walk around the yard. Ask the child to simply look for something they find unusual or interesting. Then, date the first page and ask them to draw it in their notebook. You can use carbon pencils, colored pencils or both.  Later, as everyone becomes more comfortable with the notebooks, you can look up the item in a field guide and perhaps label the parts or write a little bit about it.

Be sure to take your nature notebooks with you when you:

  • Go to the Zoo
  • Visit a city or county park
  • Go hiking
  • On vacation

Visit Home-School.com for more ideas on nature notebooks.

Nature notebooks are a fun and easy way to encourage close observation of  the beauty that surrounds us everyday.  As your children add to their notebooks over the years, they will be creating a keepsake of not only what they’ve observed but of many good times together as a family.


Charmaine Wistad has successfully homeschooled her own two children from pre-school through high school.  Now she is turning her attention toward helping other homeschool moms. Through personal coaching, Charmaine helps homeschooling moms thrive… not just survive! Visit her website to try a complimentary no-obligation telephone coaching session.

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Seedtime and Harvest

zucchini

Ready to take a quick spin around our garden?  I’ve posted about building the garden and planting it and the challenges associated with growing ANYTHING along Colorado’s Front Range.  This month I’m posting about our harvest!

Our garden is completely walled for wind and rabbits.  Unfortunately the birds are left as the sole garden predators, and they are decimating our strawberries.  The good news is, the strawberries are growing like crazy.  The bad news is, all the ripening ones have bites out of them.  My chicken wire cover does have some gaps and as I get some time I will get the gaps closed off.  I’m amazed at the tenacity of the birds, low-crawling under the low hanging chicken wire.  Strawberries are a BIG hit with them. 

The persistence of the birds with the strawberries makes me wonder how our raspberries will fare when they eventually start to produce.  I haven’t even looked it up to see if these healthy bushes will produce this year or next, but when they do, we will have to cover them.

The tomato plants went from hanging in there to growing like mad.  I have not measured them as I intended to do as a science project with the kids, but next year, we will definitely be measuring and charting the growth.

Most of the tomato plants are now bearing, and they’re all still green.  Again, I have no idea when these guys will turn ripe, so every day is a surprise to go see what is happening in the garden.  Are they red yet?  no?  maybe tomorrow..

Bell peppers are doing great, little tiny fruit is showing on the plants.

Tomatillo peppers, likewise.

Zucchini squash are growing huge, which I am very interested in.  My favorite vegetable is going to be in abundance very soon!

Look at these little guys in there!

Little jalapeno plants planted at the end of May have started slow after some initial cold weather, but they appear to be doing great now.  I actually have two tiny seedlings that survived the post-Mothers’ Day cold rain deluge.  They are clinging to life and may not bear at all through frost, tough to say.  I’m not betting on it.

And my cilantro bed.  Lovely to look at.  The birds like it too, since I have been planting more seeds every four weeks since the beginning of May.  Hopefully they’ll miss some of the seeds so I can have a continuous supply of cilantro all summer.

 

Here is our first harvest.  Fresh cilantro for tacos.  Yum!

My kids have been learning along with me out in the garden.  They know that plants need sun, water, room to grow, protection from pests and the elements, and good soil.  They know which of our garden is fruit and which is vegetable.  They know the parts of the plants.  They know that birds like to eat seeds and berries.  Lots of good science to learn out in the garden!

For more great garden photos and stories, check out the rest of the Homeschool Village Garden Challenge linkup below!

HSV

And if you have any bird deterrence hints, please leave a comment and share them with me!

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Resources for Studying Trees

Identification Guides:

North American Wildlife This book includes color pictures of all the common trees, shrubs, and animals of North America.  Concise information about habitats, eating habits, and growth are included.

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees Western Region by Elbert Little.  (and you can also get the Eastern Region, as applicable)  Full colored pictures of the bark and the leaves of the trees of North America.

Peterson First Guide To Trees. Field guide for the beginning naturalist, with full color illustrations!

Plant Families-  How to Know Them. H. E. Jaques compiled this taxonomy key.  This pictured-key has almost all known members of the plant kingdom.

Trees:

Trees for American Gardens:  The Definitive Guide to Identification & Cultivation by Donald Wyman.  This is a tree book for the gardener who wants to know about the trees he has and about new trees he can get.  Many details about native trees as well as those cultivated, but not occurring in natural settings.

4-H Forestry Project: Forests of Fun. According to their website, “Forests of Fun provides a wealth of information and serves as the 4-H Forestry connection to the larger forestry community. You can find advanced activities, career information and an introduction to forestry organizations nationwide.”

Habitat Studies:

The Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats of the Eastern United States. Janine Benyus wrote this book and the companion book: The Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats of the Western United States. The line drawings within the books are great and there are lots of facts about the habitats we live in, including the trees.  She includes information on the habitats in all four seasons.

Plants in General:

Experimenting with Plants. Joel Beller wrote this wonderful book on plants with lots of hands on activities for the inquistitve experimenter.

Specific Information about your area:  Can get posters, lists and pictures of native living species, and publications.

  • Nature Centers
  • Museums
  • Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • Parks; City, State, National, and World Parks

Have any other great resources you’d like to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

 

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