Some of my best memories as a child are times of being outside in nature to explore. I loved to study rocks, pick wildflowers, and chase butterflies.
I remember going on walks with my dad, who showed me interesting things. He taught me how to identify trees, showed me animal tracks in the dirt, and allowed me to help plant and harvest in his garden.
I believe that my early introduction to nature is why I grew to love it, and why I continue to love nature today.
I have seen my children begin to develop a love for nature as well. And I've got to tell you that it thrills my heart!
Here are 4 good reasons why taking time for nature study with young children is important:
1. Nature Study Teaches Attention To Detail.
Attention to detail is a skill that will serve anyone well for an entire lifetime.
There are so many details in nature. When efforts are made to make children aware of these small wonders all around them, it's amazing how many little things they will notice on their own!
On occasion I have pointed out small insects, little flowers, and beautiful colors to my children.
And now they are eager to show me the things they find!
2. Nature Study Encourages Exploration and Self-Directed Learning.
I don't think there is anything that stimulates more curiosity in children and a desire to research the way a new discovery in nature does.
When children see something interesting in nature, they naturally want to know more about it. So many good questions come from observing nature.
Children who have been exposed to nature study seem to be sort of different in that they notice “nature things” in the city when others are only seeing the city. They look for different flowers, birds, rocks, and bugs everywhere they go...
3. Nature Study is the Best Introduction to Science that a Child Can Have.
In one way or another, nature study involves most of the sciences.
Nature study introduces concepts in Biology, Entomology, Botany, Zoology, Geology, and Astronomy just to name a few.
Chances are that children who study nature will already have some understanding (and real life experience) regarding many topics they encounter in early science books.
And because of their early hands on experiences with these topics, the subject of science will be fascinating to them.
4. Nature Study Inspires Awe and Reverence of The Creator.
One way that God reveals Himself to us is in nature.
Psalm 19:1-3 says:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.”
And look at Job 12:7-9:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Who does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?”
Even Jesus used the wonders of nature to illustrate truths about the Kingdom of Heaven in His parables (Parable of the 4 Soils, Parable of the Growing Seed, and others.)
Nature is so full of God's wonder. I believe that God teaches us through nature and helps us to grow closer to Him by it.
I love the words about nature study recorded by Charlotte Mason, a well-known British educator of the late 1800s:
“From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‘Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty’ ”
So how do you "do" Nature Study?
The truth is, there is no single way to do nature study. Nature study can be what you want it to be.
The important thing is to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and then simply take notice of the world around you.
Point things out to your children.
Observe the birds. Look closely at flowers. Watch a busy insect. Look at the details of rocks.
And just be amazed by the world around you.
For information on a more formal approach to nature study, consider these sources: