Monday, January 11, 2010

Nature Study for the Neophyte

Neophyte ... [nee-uh-fahyt]–noun 1. a beginner or novice: He's a neophyte at chess.

Yep, that's the right term for me and nature study ... I'm definitely a beginner, novice, schlep who doesn't know diddly about nature but is trying so hard.  Nature and science in general usually falls to my poor dh who has a PhD in biological sciences.  My degrees are more arts than science for the very good reason that what I was taught when I was younger was so boring, I don't remember any of it.  I am trying to avoid this with my own kiddoes.

So, back to the point of this post ... nature study and how it can be done by even this science-flunky: living books.  Yep, that's the way to START learning about nature.  At some point you actually have to go OUTSIDE and DO, but on a cold winter day, books really help.

Here are some of the best we've found:

These four books by Maryjo Koch are a treasure trove of nature study info ... from great sketches (the kind I'd love to draw in my own nature journal) to interesting facts, these books beautifully translate nature to the page.  HT: Mary M for recommending them a few years back ... we are using these all the time!

Thornton Burgess is a master story-teller for nature books!  His characters and descriptions are simple enough for the kindergartener but interesting enough to pique the older student's interst.  Today, we started reading The Burgess Flower Book to kick-off a study of plants and flowers ... did you know the first harbinger of spring in swampy areas is the Skunk Cabbage?  My kids do now!

We also love the Clara Dillingham Pierson "among the ..." books.  We spent the fall and winter reading about the meadow people, the forest people, the farmyard people and the night people.  Quite fun and interesting.  We kept a scrapbook of all the animals we discovered and interesting facts about them.

All three kids enjoyed the stories and have "favorites" now and argue about who has the better "people"!

Finally, one of our favorite resources for nature information is just about any book from the pen of Jim Arnosky (sometimes with the narrator-character of "Crinkleroot") ... these books are fun to read and the illustrations are easy to understand and copy into private nature journals.  He's got a whole slew of species-specific picture books (raccoons, wild ponies, etc) but we particularly like his more journal-like books.  Sadly, most of these are OOP, but you can find them at library booksales and used bookstores -- definitely worth the hunt! 
Some of our favorites include:

Well that should give you an idea of how this neophyte naturalist does things ... I'll post more as we head into spring, a great time to go DO after all our indoor studying.

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