Get Set for an Outdoor Hour Challenge with the Nature Study Handbooks (Review and Giveaway)

by Rashmie on February 17, 2012 · 52 comments

in Nature Learning

outdoor hour challenge nature study handbook giveaway

Nature has been at the core of the learning experiences I want Pari – and we all as a family – to enjoy. Be it by visiting parks and gardens here in Delhi, by going on leaf-collecting walks in the neighborhood or through travel outside our city.

Having said that, let me be honest – this city has extreme weather conditions – hot like a kiln in summers and bone-chilling cold in the winters. Being out and about has not been easy – however much we may like. What do you do when flaming hot wind blows in your face even at 7 in the evening all through April, May, June…sometimes until September? Sigh!

It was to find innovative ways for us to connect with nature that I went about looking for ideas on the internet. And, I came upon a resource – nearly 6-months back – that has been my go-to destination ever since.

Read on to know about the amazing Nature Study Handbooks that I’ve discovered and find out how you can win one of these. :)

nature study handbook review and giveawayThe Handbook of Nature Study blog and the e-books put together by Barb – Harmony Art Mom – are a gold mine for nature study enthusiasts – homeschoolers, after-schoolers, photographers, adventure seekers. Basically – for any nature lover or a city dweller who wants to seek solace from the humdrum by spending some joyful, quiet moments in nature.

And, can you fathom my joy and delight when the author – Barb, sent me the whole pack of her nature study handbooks and the ‘getting started’ guide’!  Over the last few days, as I’ve started exploring these books page by page, I’m realizing in my heart of hearts that these books are going to open up a whole new world of possibilities for us to observe, connect with and enjoy nature.

There’s a surprise giveaway for YOU to win, dear readers. Get the details at the end. :)

Why I’m in LOVE with the Nature Study Hand Books:

To begin with – I totally resonate with the intention and purpose on which these books are based. Barb – at the very outset, stresses the importance of using all our senses when in the midst of nature. She says, it helps us connect better and makes us better observers and learners.

connecting with nature for young children

She also says that connection with nature during each season helps create special seasonal memories. I so relate with this. Life, learning, moments and memories – when all these come together, learning becomes part of living and not isolated from it.

Finally, I absolutely love that these books emphasize the spirit of nature study and NOT just the science of it. Barb says:

It is not only the science of nature study that we are aiming for as we spend time outdoors exploring with our children. It is so much more than that. Slowing down to participate in nature study this spirit sinks down into our very hearts as we see the beauty of creation and the connections we have with creation  – all right outside our backdoor.

The Content:

What I liked best about these handbooks is – inspite of being so content-rich, these handbooks are least bit overwhelming for the child or the parent. Rather, they help you progress at your own pace and give you space and time to observe, reflect, record without hurry and without any urgency to grab all the information in one go.

quiet moments in nature

This is the perfect approach for us because I believe study of nature is not about rushing to know every tiny scientific bit or about covering a curriculum.

duck bathing in lake water India beauty nature

I want us to undertake nature study primarily to soak the beauty, feel a belongingness, nurture our love and curiosity for the magic of nature and by way of all this – feel inspired to record our observations and start nature journaling bit by bit.

Having said this, when we started nature journaling more than 6 months back, I used to be a tad unsettled by questions like -

  • Is there a right way to do it?
  • Should we make a journal entry when outside or when we come back in
  • Should we focus on a subject in nature or just go about in a random way
  • What do we study in the scorching North Indian summer when the landscape is all dry and brown…
  • What kind of journal pages should we use.
  • What kind of colouring/sketching material should we use when drawing or painting the leaves, insects, flowers, trees.
  • How much much is a good time to spend
  • And most importantly – how to make nature study a part of our homeschooling culture

ideas for nature journals with kids

Now, with Barb’s nature study handbooks, I have answers to all these questions and I can say that I feel a lot more confident and clear as to how to go about it with a 6-year old.

This does not mean we are going to use these as ‘guide books’. In fact, these handbooks are not written in the form of guidebooks. They are meant to inspire and help the parent participate and relish the curious moments in nature with the child.

So, what’s in the handbooks?

There’s a handbook for each season – Autumn, Summer, Spring, Winter – with dozens of nature challenges that families can do with young children – no matter where you live or what are your weather variables. There is enough room for you to adapt the challenges to your own local weather condition and accessibility to nature.

I like that most of the challenges are based on what you might find right in your neighbourhood rather than in a far-off wilderness. If you want to sped some time really away from your city, it’s definitely enjoyable, but that should not stop you from exploring nature where you live.

The structure of each book is clear and follows a pattern with emphasis on training your senses. Each book has dozens of challenges broken down into three parts - inside preparation work, Outdoor Time and follow-up activity

Each hand-book shows:

  1. How to go about observing and studying trees, leaves, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, weather, night sky
  2. How to train the senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste – as as to connect with nature in the most intimate way
  3. How to gain a deep understanding and learn by instinct by comparing and contrasting (for exp: compare a goose and a duck to observe what each eats, where do they look for food, compare their beaks, colour of their feather, eyes, feet, sound each makes)
  4. How to draw Venn Diagrams to record your observations

The surprise factor: Integrating Art and Music with Nature

I let out a ‘wow’ when I saw the part on art and music appreciation along with nature study! The author has included this so children will get to observe the kind of emotions each season evokes to a certain kind of music or art.

The Spring and Winter nature guides have artist and musician profiles of the likes of Berthe Moriset, Franz Schubert and more. These handbooks have paintings to print out and even beautiful coloring pages if the child is interested. Or else, each handbook has links to videos that show how to use pastels, water colour pencils to get the textures etc.

I must mention that the journal and note book page templates with each handbook are very useful. And, there are plenty of them!

Now, for the Giveaway that YOU can win! 

The Outdoor Hour Challenge – Getting Started Handbook:

This handbook will immediately put you in a confident and reassuring position to initiate nature study with your children. Again, like the seasonal handbooks, this book also aims to encourage investigation rather than to give information.

My key take-aways from this book are:

  • I LOVED the way this handbook integrates nature, inquiry, self-expression through words and eventually writing it down and drawing. What a beautiful way to make nature study an opportunity for well-rounded learning. Totally our kind of learning – integrated rather than isolated.
  • I admire that the author talks about the role of drawing in nature journal not as a form of art but as self-expression. She says that it does not matter whether the drawing/sketching is artful or not because the intention is to use drawing as a means of articulation
  • I marked these words – “Nature Journaling is a follow-up activity and not a replacement for your time spent outdoors
  • This book is rich in tips like – “follow your child’s lead; don’t rush them”
All these and the overall content of this ‘getting started guide’ will enrich yours’and your child’s learning journey and conenction with nature. It has -
  1. 10 challenges to pursue
  2. How to make nature journal entries
  3. What to include when journaling besides writing and drawing
  4. How to choose a focus area in nature and pursue it (with examples)
  5. How to make field guide cards
  6. How to store nature collection
  7. And dozens of links to:
    • Nature Scavenger Hunt Worksheets
    • Samples of Nature Journals

Read here to know further what this book entails.

How to enter the giveaway

To win share a comment below by Feb 25 sharing  –

How nature study will enrich your child’s learning?

  • For a second entry, ‘like’ the Outdoor Hour Challenge Page on Facebook (let me know you did). This will also help you stay connected with tons of nature study related ideas that Barb shares on this page
  • For another extra entry – ‘like’ Mommy Labs on Facebook and stay up-to-date with all the creative learning ideas I share here – from my blog as well as all my favourite blogs

Good luck :) I hope you like the book. I absolutely LOVE it!