Nature schooling may seem like an obscure concept to some, one that might be hard to implement into a routine. When it often seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, how can you find time to fit in a nature walk, let alone a nature study?!? I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be difficult, and you can make it happen. Nature studies are fun, rewarding and even relaxing. And as I mentioned in my last post, the value of nature schooling runs deep, incorporating a variety of subjects and fostering the mastery of lifelong skills like self-direction and problem-solving.
One of the first things we did when we got serious about nature schooling on a regular basis was to put together a small pack of supplies. While this pack isn’t a must when it comes to nature schooling, the supplies are very convenient to have. When we want to do a more formal lesson, say learning basic compass skills or birdwatching, we go to the pack. And the kids love to get into the supplies and just play and explore with them, which is fully encouraged. That being said, don’t buy anything too expensive as you may need to replace it if you let your kids enjoy it a lot :)
Binoculars prove to be the kids’ favorite time after time. They are probably the most challenging piece of equipment for them to use. But they don’t shy away from them.
Our first purchase was a field microscope. It is my favorite piece of equipment in our nature schooling arsenal. It is sturdy, has a built-in light, and is small enough to fit in our pack and take into the field; hence its name. Looking at bugs, leaves, even snowflakes up close is amazing. Plus it’s a great way to introduce the concept of using a microscope to your kids. A microscope that can fit in your pocket is not intimidating, and the controls are simple to maneuver even for small hands.
Binoculars prove to be the kids’ favorite time after time. They are probably the most challenging piece of equipment for them to use. But they don’t shy away from them. We have better luck with kid-sized binoculars that fit their little faces. We practiced looking at things in the house before we ever ventured outdoors. Even then, we tried focusing on stationary objects before searching for birds to identify as the birds are prone to fly away just as you spot them through the lenses.
Another supply we include in our pack is a tape measure, and we use flexible ones that can be wrapped around objects like tree trunks. Notebook and pencil are a must; one for each child if you can. Nature journaling wraps mindfulness, writing, and art into a beautiful little package. We also have some basic hand lenses and lighted magnifiers for taking a close-up look at everything. Finally, a compass rounds out our basic supply list. We bought a small hard-sided plastic container in which to place all the items before we put them in the pack. It helps protect them while the bag is haphazardly tossed to the ground when one of the kids spots a cool bird or bug to investigate.
For the pack itself, we didn’t spend a lot of money...I’m talking $5.00, from Target. It’s perfect for a nature walk, short hike or nature study. It’s easy to open and close, no snaps or zippers. It is lightweight and made of a durable nylon. It fits on everyone’s back, so we can take turns carrying it. Most importantly, as we are always playing in the mud and dirt, the pack is easily cleaned by throwing it in the washing machine. As an added bonus, its cute camping pattern makes me smile.
Getting started with nature schooling is simple. With just a few inexpensive and durable supplies, your nature schooling plan will begin to come together. The thing is, there’s really not one right way to do it. And the only wrong way is not to do it at all. So, what are you waiting for?
Next week...incorporating nature schooling into your homeschool.