Joys of Nature Study In Your Own Backyard
With the whole world locking down because of the Coronavirus, it’s time for some creative nature study right in your own backyard!
Here are some great ways to explore and enjoy nature that are simple, easy, and fun!
Birds are so beautiful. There are so many species to enjoy in any given location. Grab a bird guide and discover who lives in your backyard.
Some birds have beautiful songs. Early in the morning is a great time to hear birds sing!
We have a hawk that lives high up in our oak tree. We didn’t even know he was there until the female was injured. He sat next to her in our yard guarding her. We called animal services who immediately came and took Mrs. Hawk away. Within a few days, she was back healthy and happy.
A pair of binoculars isn’t too expensive and adds excitement to bird watching. You can spot the bird through the binoculars and look him up in the field guide to see what kind he is.
If you want to get more bird action in your backyard, make a bird feeder. Just search on Pinterest for ideas to make a simple bird feeder to hang in your backyard.
Butterflies are so beautiful. I love the wide variety of colors and markings on the butterflies near us. My next-door neighbor planted a butterfly garden that attracts several different species, and we love to quietly watch them flit and fly.
If you are very still, you might be able to observe a butterfly suck up sweet nectar from a flower.
Binoculars are great for butterfly watching because these tiny animals are so easily startled away.
Specific butterflies and their caterpillars are found in certain places. You can learn all about their habitats and more in a butterfly field guide. The caterpillars feed on specific plants. Maybe you will be blessed enough to see a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis (butterfly pupa). That makes a great teachable moment to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.
Children love learning about the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths. It is also a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus and how His grace changes us.
Bugs & Animals
My backyard is full of bugs and lizards. You can watch ants building their ever-present mounds that we work tirelessly to destroy but are fascinating for children. Spiders spin beautiful webs that can be captured forever with a camera lens. Ladybugs are my favorite—they are so pretty.
My children have all had their seasons of chasing and catching lizards that are everywhere in Central Florida. Of course, snakes and frogs are fun to catch, too, as long as they are not poisonous.
You will definitely want a magnifying glass to look at bugs and dirt. With a magnifying glass, you can look closely at a spider’s legs or watch ants devour a cracker.
Use your magnifying glass to explore dirt! Yes, dirt is very interesting up close.
Soil differs from place to place. However, almost all soil is composed of varying degrees of sand, silt, clay, decaying plants, and microscopic organisms like dirt. Our soil is so sandy that I get excited to see a worm or two when I’m digging in the dirt.
If you have a microscope, it can be fascinating to look at a bit of dirt. There is so much tiny life living in the soil!
One thing that’s really fun is to plant a garden together. One of my fondest memories is planting a flower garden with Daddy. We planted seeds from the hardware store, and I was delighted to see them sprout and turn into healthy plants.
You can plant flower or vegetable seeds or buy small plants from the garden department of your local department store.
Here are easy steps to planting a garden:
- Using a spade, clear the area of rocks and toys. Loosen and turn the soil over.
- Make sure you plant your garden in a place where the plants get the right amount of sunlight each day.
- Make sure to choose seeds or plants that grow well in your climate.
- Add additional soil to make it richer. We buy topsoil at Lowe’s.
- Plant the seeds or tiny plants in the soil.
- Water the plants according to the amount of water they need. Not too much, not too little.
- Add mulch to help the soil retain moisture and keep it healthy.
- Enjoy eating food or enjoy flowers fresh from the garden.
You might be lucky enough to have rocks in your garden. Kids love collecting rocks.
Years ago, I would notice my purse was getting heavier and heavier to the point I would have to sit down and clean it out. Lo and behold, it would be filled with all kinds of rocks. My daughter Julianna was an avid rock collector, and my purse was her collection site. I suggest a shoebox to contain rock collections.
You can use rock and mineral field guides to identify your rocks.
Nature study in the backyard is fun and educational. Don’t forget to take the next step to preserve what you learn in a Nature Study Journal.
Record & Remember Your Nature Discoveries:
- Observe nature
- Identify what you are observing (tree, leaf, bug, butterfly, bird)
- Draw or photograph it
- Name it (Monarch butterfly, robin, birch tree)
- Learn more in a book or online
- Record what you learn in your Nature Notebook
- Add your photos and drawings to your Nature Notebook
- Share what you learn with your family and friends
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling,
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of 12 Birds of North America Notebooking Pages, Travel God’s World Geography, Travel God’s World Cookbook, My Creation Week Lapbook, and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Free Reading Lists for all ages are available at JSHomeschooling.com. Read her blogs at and PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Radio.