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Ideas for nature study references?


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Here are a few suggestions. A Handbook of Nature by Anna Comstock, Fun with Nature and More Fun with Nature by Laura Evert, Nature's Art Box by Laura Martin, Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert, Take a Tree Walk by Jane Kirkland, Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker and One Small Square (series) by Donald Silver. Here are a few websites as well. Nature Journals, Acorn Naturalist, Backyard Nature, Plant Identification Label and eNature. There are also several nature encyclopedias available.

We really enjoy nature studies here. I hope you can fine something that will be of help.

Have fun!


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The only thing I would add would be to join us in doing Barb's at Heart of Harmony Green Challenge every week. She breaks it (nature study) down into very reasonable "assignments" and then after posting them on our blog we link them to hers and then we see what others have done.


I was overwhelmed with the idea of where to start, but I knew this is what I wanted to do. Barb' green challenges was perfect timing for me and now you! We just started this week! My boys and I had a lot of fun on our walk. You can read about it on my blog if you click it in my siggy.


Hope this helps!

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I agree with GreenKitty. Those are the titles that come to mind as some of the "great" nature references. I also love love love the acorn naturalists website. FULL of FANTASTIC information and ideas!!




Here is another link to a site with a nice introduction to nature watching and nature journaling.




Nature is everywhere. Books and websites are a terrific resource, but all that's really necessary is an observant eye and a desire to take in all the beauty that surrounds us.

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Sorry, I duplicated the links already mentioned in GreenKitty's post :o. Well, I guess that just goes to show those are "favorite" websites :).


I'm a big fan of Jim Arnosky, a local author who has quite a collection of nature books (not as general as some nature/field guides, he tends to zero-in on a few specific ideas/activities/excursions):







I also wanted to add that if you're into thrifting (Salvation Army, yard sales, used book stores), I have accumulated quite a large collection of nature books and stories that way. They're not always in the best condition or of the best quality, but for 40 cents you can't go wrong!!


This is one of my treasures I discovered buried in a bin at our library for a mere 20 cents:



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The only thing I would add would be to join us in doing Barb's at Heart of Harmony Green Challenge every week. She breaks it (nature study) down into very reasonable "assignments" and then after posting them on our blog we link them to hers and then we see what others have done.


I was overwhelmed with the idea of where to start, but I knew this is what I wanted to do. Barb' green challenges was perfect timing for me and now you! We just started this week! My boys and I had a lot of fun on our walk. You can read about it on my blog if you click it in my siggy.


Hope this helps!


Barb just wrote about how to use the massive, The Handbook of Nature Study by Comstock. Here's the post at her nature blog: http://handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com/2008/02/handbook-of-nature-study-subjects-not.html


I've investigated field guides for us, dd7 and ds3 and which ones would be helpful but not overwhelming so we can identify what we see. We chose these:

Field Guides

  • Peterson First Guide to Shells of North America


  • Peterson First Guide to Insects


  • Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars


  • Birds of Georgia Field Guide by Stan Tekiela *of course just for us in Georgia


  • Peterson First Guide to Butterflies and Moths


  • Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America: Fourth Edition

    *this one is the full field guide b/c the First Guide is outdated, the full one has been updated and contains animal tracks identification as well as information about the mammals


  • Peterson First Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians


  • A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants: North America North of Mexico


  • Identifying Trees: An All-Season Guide To Eastern North America *this one is for our region, I liked the layout and information contained

I thought about getting the coloring books but decided we want to focus more on drawing them ourselves than coloring in a book. For younger children that cannot learn to draw yet, I would use coloring pages. I will print these out from online sources for my ds3 and as he grows.


For nature journaling/drawing and art, books we own:


• Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks

(Barb has made lessons with this to apply to a nature journal, here's lesson 1: http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/harmonyartmom/423062/)


• Claire Walker Leslie's books are very inspirational and provide excellent examples. She also has blogs and tutorials online. We have Keeping a Nature Journal by her.


• Books about naturalists and their journeys/journals:

- John Muir: My Life With Nature (Sharing Nature With Children Book) by John Muir *still on its way from Amazon...

- The Flower Hunter: William Bartram, America's First Naturalist by Deborah Kogan Ray


there are so many great books to use for this!


We are also checking out a lot of books from the library to check them out before deciding to purchase them, here's some titles that I have requested:


-Karen Andreola's pocketful of pinecones

-Enjoying nature with your family : look, learn, collect, conserve... by Chinery, Michael.

- Field Trips by Jim Aronsky



We also have Fun With Nature (Take-Along Guide) by Mel Boring and The Kids' Nature Book by Susan Milord as well as other titles we've collected without really putting an emphasis on nature studies, they were for when we studied life science in first grade but now I'm glad we have them.


I will say that Fun with Nature is too simple for my dd7 now and it is very limited in the information it provides since it is very shallow in depth. Younger children will enjoy it more than a questioning 7 year old, imo.


The Burgess' books are fabulous! The Bird Book for Children (we've already read), The Animal Book for Children. Plus Robert McCloskey's books, Charlotte Zolotow- esp. The Seashore Book for younger children. We have so many living books that are just wonderful, I can't believe I allowed the perception that nature studies were too difficult and time-consuming to get in our way. :)


Hope this helps!

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A couple more ideas: Fabre's Book of Insects - this is an out of print book, but you can find it on amazon used and it is worth the price. It has beautiful, color illustration plates, as well as wonderful, living descriptions of insects. Truly a living book. Also, we leave our guides at home when we go on nature walks, hikes, etc., and I usually just take pocket guides called "Pocket Naturalist" from Waterford Press. They are handy, laminated fold-outs that provide basic pictures and names on different topics: trees, wildflowers, birds, rocks, etc. They are lighter to carry when walking, and we can look up what we find and get more detailed info when we get home.

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I cheat. You can read some of my blog entries to see how. I go to Netflix and I look at there instantly watch stuff. I found a subject on birds. I have been watching this series with my boys. It is sooo fascinating and very mesmerizing. Look at my blogsite at http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/testimony.'>http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/testimony.


You may have to go back a page. I also live near an Audobon Society. They have a huge nature center. I go on nature walks with a guide. You can see that on an old post on my blog too.


So, I am a cheater. I go to nature center and nature programs. Oh, my latest nature investigation is I am trying to find out what is a squirrel doing taking my leaves that I never raked, going up a tree and putting them there.


Blessings to you!





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These aren't reference books but fun nature books. Lindsay Barrett George has a series called Who's Been Here that looks at tracks and other clues to figure out what animals ahve "been there". There is Around the Pond, In the Woods, In the Snow, etc. For young children they are fun and could lead kids to look closer when outside.

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Don't be overwhelmed with the Green Hour Challenges. They are meant to be just 15-20 minutes long and you can participate as little or as much as you want to. I started the challenges to get some to see that nature study is reachable for most families and it is so beneficial.


Email me privately if you need any help at all to get started.


Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Green Hour Challenge-every Friday on Heart of Harmony

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I went to B&N last night to look up the suggestions that Barb provided on her Field guide list. Boy those are really nice. And it can be very overwhelming looking at field guides... There is so many to choose from.


Barb if you check back in, there is one I saw that I am really tempted to get and would like your opinion on. Or if anyone else has used this or seen this one I would LOVE your thoughts.


The Smithsonian Handbooks Birds of North America: Western Region a DK book. The thing I like about it is it has all the information about the bird on 1 page, along with the Family, species, etc. on top, shows it's flight patterns and more. I just don't know if it is a through book or not. And I like the other books they have.


Any opinions?

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Dear Tina,


I have to say that I have never seen this particular book in real life. I looked at the preview pages on Amazon.com and they look very thorough. Please know that everyone has different needs in field guides and just because I like the Audubon, you might find this one the best for your family. I just actually used my field guides to identify a new bird in my feeder so I can totally relate to trying to find a bird in a field guide since it is fresh in my mind.


Here are my thoughts:

1. When I am trying to identify a bird, I rely heavily on color. The bird we saw in our feeder was a bright yellow so that narrowed it down as far as identifying it. The book you linked to might be hard to flip through really fast to just get to yellow birds. The Audubon guide that I suggested for birds is organized by type of bird (clinging, perching, duck-like, etc) and then by predominant color. This makes it fast to skim through a lot of birds visually.

2. After I look at color and general type, I look at size. (sparrow-size, robin-sized, goose-size, etc) If your book organizes birds this way it would be really helpful. I couldn't tell from the preview. The Aububon guide does group from smallest to largest.

3. After color, type, and size, I look at beaks. This is really easy in the Aububon guide because on the photo pages there are three bird photos on a page so there are less pages to look through.

4. If I hit on the right bird by doing that method, I usually do a Google image search on the internet to confirm my findings. If I missed and didn't get the right bird but I am in the right ball park, I go to whatbird.com and do a search there.

5. The Smithsonian book looks good for gathering more information about the bird once you have identified it but it is hard to tell by just the little preview on Amazon.com whether the organization of the book will let you quickly find the bird without paging through a lot of unwanted pages.


That is exactly how I identified the bird today in our feeder. It was a very exciting bird and totally new to us. It ended up being an Evening grosbeak. Wahoo!

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