Nature study is the foundation of formal science, and it shouldn’t stop in the upper grades. To facilitate much learning in the areas of botany, biology and earth science during our nature time, while still providing a relaxed, child-led atmosphere, we should incorporate special studies to open our children’s eyes.
I encourage you to read my entire post entitled Natural History: Implementing Special Studies, which is on the Charlotte Mason Institute blog, but I thought having a short outline of the process might be worthwhile for you to refer back to while you are getting the hang of it.
How Does it Work?
- Pick two or three areas of focus each term.
- Pick things that are seasonally relevant.
- In almost every case, you should pick something that you can observe regularly.
- Despite varying ages, everyone can pursue the same special study.
- I’ve been working on a Natural History Rotation that I’m happy to share with you. I hope it will help you plan your year.
- Gather living books that will teach something about the special study topic and also inspire and guide observation.
- If your whole family will be studying the same topic, then gather books from various reading levels.
- Try to pull in a variety of book styles and lengths. (e.g. fiction, non-fiction, picture books.)
- Prepare yourself by reading the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock (HoNS).
- Teachers need to read the sections of the Handbook of Nature Study which tell about the special study topics chosen, in order to gain a bit of background knowledge.
- This is not for the student to read, or be read to, but rather just for teacher education.
- You cannot inspire your students if you do not at least appreciate the subject yourself.
- It’s ok if you learn along with them, but you should aspire to stay a little bit ahead of them.
- With the above done, you will not have to say hardly anything when you go outside for nature study.
- The kids’ interest will be piqued and their eyes will be opened.
- Instead of just seeing the “bling”, they will notice the secret treasures.
- They come to know what to watch for instead of simply reacting.
- Despite their new open eyes, you should still plan 2-6 object lessons each term.
- The living books you read are likely to inspire some object lessons naturally.
- Limit the amount of time spent on objects lessons to 5-15 minutes.
- Don’t lecture – we are not to be the “fountain-head of all knowledge”.
- Draw or otherwise record what is seen in a nature study notebook.
- Student should record observations in whatever way they are most inspired to do so.
- There should be no right or wrong way.