Nature Study for High School Students – Reflections

Boys Hiking Collage
Lots of Outdoor Time Even With Teens

Much has been written about Charlotte Mason’s vision of nature study…including volumes of my own writing on my Handbook of Nature Study blog. It is a topic near and dear to my heart, a life-long passion nurtured through reading Charlotte Mason’s words and trying to apply them to my own family. I’m not sure I would be the person I am today without the encouragement of Miss Mason and another kindred-spirit, Anna Botsford Comstock.

Anna Botsford Comstock wrote the Handbook of Nature Study in 1911. In the Preface to this book she wrote, “The author feels apologetic that the book is so large. However, it does not contain more than any intelligent country child of twelve should know of his environment; things that he should know naturally and without effort, although it might take him half his life-time to learn so much if he should not begin before the age of twenty.” HNS Preface xiii

This forty-nine year old woman is still learning from the lessons in the Handbook of Nature Study after many years of completing the suggested observations along with my children. I have one teenage son left homeschooling and we are still working through the pages of this timeless text.

“But, more than all, nature-study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out-of-doors and an abiding love of nature. Let this latter be the teacher’s criterion for judging his or her work. If nature-study as taught does not make the child love nature and the out-of-doors, then it should cease….However, if the love of nature is in the teacher’s heart, there is no danger; such a teacher no matter by what means takes the child gently by the hand and walks with him in paths that lead to the seeing and comprehending of what he may find beneath his feet or above his head.” HNS page 2

When we crossed the gap from elementary science to upper level science, I was grateful for our outdoor studies and the solid ground laid for high school biology…the study of life. All those years of personal face to face contact with nature, making observations and asking questions, has given us something to digest and to reason on as we work through the upper level sciences. Their interest was aroused. Now we can get on with the business of classifying life by making comparisons and investigating structures using more advanced tools like the microscope and field guides.

What we learned with pleasure we have not forgotten.

The Three Stages of Nature Study 
  • Observation – face to face through personal experiences 
  • Investigation – asking questions, comparing, relating, and classifying 
  • Expression – after personal observation and investigation there is plenty to narrate (oral or written) 

Nature in Your Notebook Link-Up
If you would like to learn more about these ideas, read my blog post on the Handbook of Nature Study blog on Monday, February 6, 2012. I will have a free downloadable printable explaining these steps along with tips and ideas for more advanced nature study. The printable is part of a link-up with five other bloggers who will also each be offering a free nature study related printable.

The Handbook of Nature Study and the Outdoor Hour Challenges are suggested resources for nature study on the Ambleside Online curriculum site. The new More Nature Study ebook series has Advanced Study Suggestions and custom notebook pages just for older or advanced students. I invite you to view the samples and give nature study a try this week.

Additional references of interest:
The Comstock Couple Established Cornell University Press
Nature Journals and Tips 
High School Biology – my tips

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