One of the options for the DO part of science is nature study. And the wonderful thing about nature study is that it partners well with living books!
In this episode, the empress of nature study, Cindy West, is coming on to share about this homeschooling game-changer.
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One of your options for the DO part of science, that first key of science, the hands-on part is nature study. Nature study is a wonderful way to learn about science in the context of the world around us. And the wonderful thing about nature study is that it partners really nicely with living books.
So we have this book that is drawing us in and teaching us about science, and then we go outside and we experience science. On today's episode, we're going to talk about that with Cindy West. Hi, I'm Paige Hudson, and you're listening to the Tips for Homeschool Science Show, where we're breaking down the lofty ideals of teaching science into building blocks you can use in your homeschool.
Cindy West is the Empress of Nature study. She's one of the bloggers who introduced me to the concept, and she still shares about nature study today. She's a homeschooling mom of three, a business owner, a farmer, and a state senator’s wife. Please help me welcome Ms. Cindy West to the tips for Homeschool Science Show.
Hey there, everybody.
Thanks for having me, Paige.
Of course, we're happy to have you here. So I wanted you to come on today to share a bit about one of my favorite things, nature study. Because nature study and living books, which is exactly what we're talking about in season ten, go hand in hand, they really go together well. So how would you define nature study?
Oh, that's a great question. I can give you a really short answer or we could talk for hours on the details of it, but when you think about a basic definition, it is science. First off let's, let's make sure that we understand that nature study is science. I like to call it experiential. Hands on. Almost as if it's a science lab for your kids. It can, and probably, should be as much as possible an outdoor venture.
So you can actually see things in nature but there is a lot of nature study you can do indoors too. So when we get down to the nitty gritty. We can say that it is studying things that occur in nature. So that's plant science, animal science, earth science, space science. And believe it or not, there is a lot of chemistry and physics that happens in those spaces as well.
For sure, definitely. Yet we struggle sometimes because we live in Florida with always being outside. So we do pull in some of those resources, like you said. But yes, as much as possible. We love to be outside for nature study. So how did you find out about nature study?
Oh, that's a good question. I've always loved being in nature. As I was first beginning to homeschool 20 plus years ago. Now I read a book called For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaefer McCauley, and it was really introduced to me just through.
The that book and some others that I read the idea that nature study could actually be part of a significant science program and that I didn't always have to teach things out of a science book. And yeah, there was really no turning back after that.
Yeah, it can be a lot more interesting than reading dry facts out of a textbook.
Yeah. So in your house, what does nature study look like or how has nature study looked like over the years?
Okay. Well, that's a great question. It's been ever-evolving. Some years it looked the same from year to year. Some are different based on circumstances.
For instance, right now I'm only home schooling one of those three kiddos because the other two have graduated and he is finishing up his sophomore year in high school so nature study doesn't look like it used to. We still very much go on nature walks, but it's not necessarily this year in particular part of our science plan. It has been in the high school years in the past.
But if we're just talking about how it is right now, the truth is they are more for pleasure right now than they are for prepared learning. When we were as a family, the most into it was when my kids were in elementary and middle school and that looked like, depending on the year, weekly sometimes. Sometimes it was every other week. Sometimes we would actually do nature, study science units where we were outdoors in nature multiple times a week, while also doing some things indoors, further research or some kind of experiment or nature journaling inside if it was too hot or too cold after our nature walk or something like that.
So it's just hard to define what it looked like and looks like because it is just ever-changing based on the needs. And maybe that's the most important thing to say is it can look like whatever you want it to look like in your home school.
Yeah. Which I think is amazing. And that's why in nature study such a great resource for us as home schoolers that we can introduce science in a way that best fits us in that moment and in that season. And we can change things around. And I love the fact that you shared how it works for you at different stages in your homeschooling journey.
I think that's really helpful. How do you feel nature study and living books kind of can partner together because we've been talking about living books in season ten, and I know you're big on living books. Yeah, from following your blog. So how do you feel we can kind of weave those two things together?
Oh, we can totally weave those two things together. So the cool thing about living books and nature study is that they are easily woven into almost any other subject at any time, which is why they fit so perfectly together. So we've used living books as they pertain to nature study to help us get excited about an idea.
So if we're getting ready to go specifically look at wildflowers, for instance, I might pull off a piece of fiction like Miss Rumphius or Miss Ladybird’s Wildflowers or something like that. As a let's just read this together and let's, let's just really get excited about flowers and now. Let's go out and look.
We might also read nonfiction before we head out so that we have an idea of something scientific where we're on the hunt for that day.
I've also used living books on Nature Walks a break to make that cozy connection. When we're out on the nature walk under a shade tree on a park bench, we might bring a picnic lunch and a blanket and just read a book together. It may or may not have anything to do with what we're particularly studying that day.
But reading nature stuff in nature is pretty cool. And there are many, many, many times we have gone out on nature walks and had questions, and so we will return home maybe that day, maybe later in the week. And will read living books, whether they are fiction or factual living books. And that will add to the depth of the learning. They connect so well. So you can think of basically any science topic that has to do with nature and you can find hundreds you can find thousands and thousands of books, but you can find hundreds and hundreds of living books that can really help promote the learning in those or through those. And then those books really help make connections for kiddos who don't necessarily love nature study. They can get kids excited about it. And then for those who don't really want to get outside nature, books make a great connection to indoor learning to where they understand some things about what the actual nature would be like as well.
Yeah, that's fantastic. It makes you want to pull off some living books and head outside of the tree. That that just sounds like a fantastic way to learn. And I think it's one of the beauties of homeschooling is that we have options like that. We can create such a different experience than we had in school or then, you know, it's offered in in the public school system or in any school system.
So tell us more about what you do, because there may be some people listening to the tips for homeschool science Show who aren't familiar with you and all the wonderful nature study resources you have.
Well, there are a lot of them. Yeah, so when I first started writing curriculum. I knew that there was not a lot out there and people were saying, I'd really like to go do nature walks, but I don't know what to do. And so I went big. And I wrote something called the Nature Explorers Series. And they are yeah that while they're there they've got 20 to 40 nature walks in them. They've got all these ideas for indoor learning. You could almost use them for those month-long studies that I was talking about and just really make a whole science unit out of them.
And then I heard from a lot of people who said, I just want to go on nature walks and that's a lot. And so I then created 100 plus creative nature walks, which is what I call grab and go, and then took one more step from that and created two volumes of there called 40 nature walks science labs on the go. And those are what I call printing go. So you've got one that gives you the hundred plus creative nature walks, gives you little blurbs that you just go through and you pick one that day. It tells you exactly what to do. It keeps it really creative and it tells the kiddos what to do in their nature journal also keeping that creative and then the printable ones are for people who say, I don't even want to think about that. Let's print off a page. Let me, Cindy, tell us what to do.
And then from there grew the No Sweat Nature Study stuff. And that has turned into a membership where I will actually come on to live classes or you can view them recorded. And I'll teach your kids nature study online. And so we spend about an hour, 45 minutes to an hour digging into a specific topic. I teach about that topic in some ways that even if a kiddo has learned about loss. For instance honeybees over and over and over again. I'm usually going to hit on something that is unique about that, and we're going to really focus in we're going to create a Nature Journal page together and if that's the only thing you do, you've got a great nature based science lesson. But my hope is that it also really inspires kids to go out into the real world and observe it and wonder about it and learn about it even more. So it's very versatile to yeah.
Like I said, we used your nature explorer stuff back when our kids were in elementary school. And, and I love the idea of having like a little snippet of something that you could use. We mainly do what I call impromptu nature studies, so we'll take a walk before we start school and just kind of focus our minds. We will, you know, move our bodies a little bit so we can focus more on the mental work.
And in order to do that, when we're outside wall. So, you know, hey, what's that bird that we hear? Do you know who that is? And that kind of stuff? Impromptu nature study, which it sounds like the 100 plus nature study ideas or things like that, that you could go out with purpose for sure.
And I just mentioned, really quickly, you brought, up a fantastic point. Nature study settles, his mind opens his mind up for the day. It's exercise. It's exercise, it's sunshine. It's getting oxygen to muscles. It's getting the wiggles out. There was some learning. I mean, who could ask for a better way to both learn something practical and get brains ready for the day or to take breaks through the day when kids are really needing some of that extra focus power.
For sure. Definitely. It really helps. So with all those resources, where can people find you online?
Our Journey Westward Dot com is the main website that I've had. Now we were just talking before we got on this I think I've had that for almost 17 years now. So you can find lots of free creative nature walk ideas there. That's also where my shop is housed, where you can find all of that curriculum, no sweat nature study is also housed there, but if you're really super interested in that, you could also type no sweat nature study dot com into your search engine and it would find that for you that way as well. I'm also on Instagram more than I am Facebook, but I'm on Instagram and Facebook and even Pinterest and YouTube as Our Journey Westward.
Great. Well, you guys really need to go check out what Cindy West has to share about nature study. I promise you, you will be encouraged and you will learn a lot about how wonderful this area of science are. This way to study science can be for homeschoolers. So thanks for coming on today and sharing with the Tips for Homeschool Science Show.
Thanks so much for having me. Let's do this again sometime.
Thanks for listening to Season 10 of the Tips for Homeschool Science Show, which is sponsored by her company, Elemental Science. At Elemental Science, we have several series of award-winning programs, including a series with living books to help you teach science. Sassafras Science Adventures will help you enjoy a journey as you learn about science. The newest installment of the Sassafras Science series is coming out in April of 2023.
This volume will be a journey through the periodic table. It's all about chemistry, which is my personal favorite subject. Head over to Elemental Science dot com. To learn more about the Sassafras Science Adventures and see how we can help you teach science.
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