Our Apun Unit Study Experience

 

This wall of snow is in Kotzebue, Alaska, a town situated above the Arctic Circle.

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia — you know, that place that gets ridiculed when the occasional ice and/or snowstorm rolls through the southeast and completely paralyzes life there for several days, and where the grocery stores are sold out of bread and milk at the hint of a snowflake or freezing rain. So, snow has always been rather special; it was a much-celebrated event when it did arrive. But, I didn’t know the first thing about the science behind snow or the ecosystems where snow is frequent. My knowledge of the Arctic was vague and composed of cultural stereotypes.

In 2011 our family had the opportunity to visit Alaska for several weeks. At the time, my kids were still quite young: ages nine, four, and 16 months. My husband was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital there, which left me — a southerner with three brief years of snow experience in upstate New York — to navigate the town’s icy streets. It turned out to be one of the most fun, challenging, and meaningful experiences of my life.

The average high temperature in April is 21 degrees Fahrenheit in Kotzebue, and the average low is five degrees. It was a perfect opportunity to do a weather unit study with my third-grader, so we put up a chart on the apartment wall and tracked the temperature, precipitation, wind direction and speed, barometric pressure, and cloud formations. I had taken along a few lightweight resources, including the charts and crayons, a small poster, a rain/precipitation gauge, and the things we’d need to build a barometer and wind sock. (After our trip we compared the results with our Arizona desert environment.)

I wanted to visit the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, but it was a little over a mile from our apartment building, and we had no transportation. Cars are used in winter in Kotzebue, but snowmobiles are more useful as they can go over the frozen ice. Some cars and all boats are half-buried in deep snow drifts until late spring/summer. (Gas is very expensive. Kotzebue is supplied by barge before the bay ices over; supplies can only come in by air until the big thaw.) I turned to our apartment neighbor for traveling advice since the wind chill was -27 degrees Fahrenheit. She willingly told me where to buy a plastic sled, then showed me how to set up a box in the back for the bundled baby.

A half-buried boat appears to be cutting through waves of snow.

We proceeded to the Heritage Center at a snail’s pace on the frozen roads, me pulling the sled with the two younger kids on it and my oldest walking behind to retrieve accidentally dropped gloves and mittens from the sled riders. We arrived some 45 minutes later, with frozen tears on the 16-month-old’s face, just as the center closed for lunch. Ack! Thankfully we were re-routed toward the bay, half a mile away, where there were two restaurants to chose from. My kids were able to try a couple of local dishes and unthaw before trekking back to the museum, which proved to be a fantastic learning experience! I even found several great resources for a snow/arctic unit study in their bookstore.

This is the start of the Kobuk 440 dog sled race, a qualifier for the famed Iditarod.

The Kobuk 440, a qualifying dog sled race for the famed Iditarod Race, started and ended in Kotzebue during our time there. My seven-year-old even met John Baker, the Iditarod champion of 2010, who lives in Kotzebue. (The following year we tracked the Iditarod online, choosing a musher and team to follow for the long race of endurance.) We were also able to attend several cultural events that included native Inupiaq dances, handicrafts, clothes, and food. The Inupiaq people were warm and friendly; I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them.

A native Inupiaq demonstrates a dance about hunting walruses.

Though there is so much I could relate about our trip to the Arctic Circle, my point was merely to pique your interest in this subject as a potential unit study, or at least a special project for homeschooling. With the resources I gathered on the trip to Kotzebue, plus a few more I ordered online, we later delved deeper into this topic. The kids love snow anyway! (Apun — in the title of this post — is the Inupiaq word for the Arctic’s snow cover, just in case you were wondering!)

This is the view from our apartment window in Kotzebue at midnight (in April). The days were about 16 hours long at that point. People were out and about until about 2 am. The grocery store is on the right, where all the cars are parked. A carton of ice cream cost $10.

 

Here are some ideas for unit study projects (resource info below):

Handwriting & vocabulary (and art!) from Draw-Write-Now Book Four: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic OR create assignments and pull vocabulary from books on the subject.

YouTube has some great documentaries and “how-to” videos. During your next big snow, you could try building your own igloo! (My neighbors did that one year, and it was great!) Nanook of the North is an older documentary my kids found interesting.

Iditarod Dog Sled Race: You can track the musher teams online and document their times each day during the race, and there are many, many resources for teachers on the official Iditarod website. We made a dog sled out of popsicles (google instructions), followed the Iditarod, learned about the working sled dogs, and read several books on the subject.

Science:

  • The sky is the limit! And the sky is so amazing in the Arctic! We weren’t able to see any northern lights during our visit to Alaska, but we read some books (see below for reference) and watched some videos of the intriguing lights.
  • The Arctic tundra ecosystem — and permafrost. (Permafrost even affects how and where buildings can be constructed in the Arctic, but you can learn about its characteristics and the animals living within it, too.) A weather unit is a great learning opportunity.
  • Whales and their migrations: Whaling is a bad word in our modern vocabulary, but for the Inuit peoples, whales provided absolutely necessary food. (And, nothing goes to waste; they have a use for every part of an animal when it is killed.) In this culture, the breaking up of the sea ice and the return of the whales, along with whale hunting, was very important. These days, there is usually one ceremonial whale hunted, and the community comes together to celebrate as it did in the old days, especially up near Barrow, Alaska. So, studying whales can be a science or a cultural learning project.
  • Other Arctic animals: lemmings, Arctic fox, polar bear, walrus, narwhal, ptarmigan, caribou, beluga and humpback whales, peregrine falcon, seals, musk-ox, wolves, snowy owls, orcas, Arctic hare… Study how they keep warm in winter, their hunting habits or camouflage, diet, hibernation habits, etc. The story of caribou in Alaska involves a bit of Scandinavian history. Tracking in the snow might be a great option if you live up north.
  • Snow: The book, Apun, the Arctic Snow, is a fantastic resource for understanding and teaching about the science of snow. Written by an expert on snow, it is scientifically sound and has an adorable line drawing of a lemming (yes, you’ll want one) and snow crystals, diagrams, and easy-to-understand text. The author weaves in Inuit terms for snow, too. Did you know there are 35 types/categories of snowflake crystals?

    A display at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska shows what a cross-section of permafrost is made of.

Geography: Identify countries within the Arctic Circle, prominent bodies of water, mountain ranges and peaks, an Alaskan map (larger cities and towns), rivers. You may want to include Antarctica. It’s also an interesting project to learn about the “North Pole” and its various locations.

Literature: I’ve included a few picture books below that our family loved, but your local library probably has some books you can add to this list. Books for older children/high schoolers might include stories of the voyages to the Arctic and Antarctica, books on Inuit culture and life, the story of how caribou/reindeer were herded in Alaska, stories of early travelers and missionaries to the area. There is an interesting story of Maniilaq, who was given visions that some claim meet the Biblical tests for a prophet. He lived and prophesied before Europeans entered Alaska, and he gave a message of one day in seven (the seventh day) being holy to God. There are a couple of books at amazon.com on his life.

Cooking: We picked up a kids’ cookbook in Alaska, but be aware that recipes tend to contain meat. For vegetarians, you might try searching the internet for recipes from Arctic areas, perhaps trying a recipe from a different country weekly. Another option is to make snowball cookies (aka Mexican wedding cookies/Russian tea cookies) and snow cream (1 gallon of snow, 2 cups milk or substitute, 1 cup sugar, 1 T vanilla extract — stir until creamy).

Physical Activity: Try a new sport! Snow skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, dog mushing…

These are just a few ideas to get started on your snowy journey… Have a great time making tracks! (And, feel free to leave your ideas, resources and/or experiences in the comments below, especially those of you from northern climates!) See below for a few specific resource ideas.

Rabbit tracks can be seen in several inches of snow on our front lawn.

A few of my favorite resources:

Nanook of the North (documentary film, > 1 hour in length, available on YouTube)

How to Build an Igloo (available on YouTube)

Draw-Write-Now: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic (barkercreek.com, early elementary/kindergarten handwriting and drawing book)

iditarod.com (official website for the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, held in Alaska yearly; many resources for teachers under “education” and online games and information for kids under “students”)

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (www.walkeryoungreaders.com)

Dashing Through the Snow: The Story of the Jr. Iditarod by Sherry Shahan (The Millbrook Press, Brookfield, Connecticut)

Apun: The Arctic Snow (a book for children; teacher’s guide is available with more detailed scientific information, but does not have activity guides or a teaching plan; truly a resource or a great text for seventh-grade through high school)

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (www.walkeryoungreaders.com)

TOGO by Robert J. Blake (illustrated children’s book about one canine hero of the Great Serum Run of 1925, the event commemorated each year with the Iditarod Race in Alaska)

Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Selsam, illustrated by Marlene Hill Donnelly (a “Let’s Read” book, science stage 1)

Survival at 40 Below by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyke (beautifully illustrated and a great science resource for elementary)

Polar Bear, Arctic Hare: Poems of the Frozen North by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

One Small Square: Arctic Tundra by Donald M. Silver, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (book about the tundra ecosystem written just for children)

My kids were attempting long-jumping beside rabbit tracks. The rabbit won.

Create Your Own Unit Studies for Preschoolers

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Today I want to share with you how I create unit studies for our preschoolers. A unit study is way of teaching your children on a topic they like, covering multiple subjects. On the sdahomeschools.com website are several blogs you can read about unit studies. For example, this one and this one.

In our home we’re using the unit study approach for our preschoolers (four and two years old). Since the children are very young, there is no need to buy a curriculum. I am trying to find out what works for us on our new homeschooling journey. At the same time, we cover the basics and learn a lot, and we are having fun. I create my own unit studies, because there is hardly anything in our own language. I do translate things, but that doesn’t work all the time. Also, by planning everything myself I can adapt it to our wishes and the interests, and the needs of my four-year-old preschooler. My two-year-old tags along for part of the lessons, mostly the hands-on activities like games and songs.

Since we began earlier this year I’ve made about 10 unit studies, learning how to create them as I’m going. I change it a little every time — sometimes because of the topic we choose, sometimes because my daughter now knows her ABC’s and wants something new or doesn’t like a certain part of our lesson. I’ve now developed a strategy to get to lessons I like at the moment. This is how I do it.

Step 1: Choose a topic, based on the interest of the child. As the mother, I help pick the topic. I try to spread the topics so we cover a wide variety of subjects. To give you an idea: Our last topic was “trip around the world” (geography). Currently we’re learning about fire fighters (social studies), and our next theme is elephants (nature).

Step 2: Collect ideas to fill the lessons. Pinterest is my favorite place to find games, crafts, worksheets, and so on.

We “do school” twice a week, and we stay on one topic for a month. So, I want to collect enough to cover eight lessons and one field trip. The lessons have the following subjects:

  • Bible / character building: prayer, memory verse, Bible story, and a song or hymn in Dutch or English
  • Language arts: vocabulary, read aloud, letter recognition, making words with our magnetic letters, pre-writing skills, and a song or poem
  • Math / S.T.E.M. activities: counting and understanding of numbers; measuring and geometry; sorting, classifying, and comparing; and an experiment
  • Home economics and personal care
  • Arts and crafts
  • Games (preferably outside)
  • Nature study

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I don’t do all the items of the language and math activities in one lesson, just one or two. Sometimes we do one activity that combines for example nature and math. On the other hand, I want enough options to choose from, so I usually have a few more activities planned than we actually do. We’re quite relaxed when it comes to homeschooling; it’s okay to let things happen or to skip an activity when it doesn’t work. This week one of our games was to transfer water from one bucket to another using a sponge. Playing with water is always fun. After a while the kids started “cleaning” the windows instead of doing the planned craft. And, with help of Mom, the windows ended up a lot cleaner!

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To give you an idea of what I plan for home economics and personal care: For our “trip around the world” theme, we did a lot of cooking and trying recipes from different countries. Now we are remembering our address and phone number, we talk about fire and personal safety, and our daughter learns the final touches of getting dressed all by herself.

For the Bible lesson I just started using Kids of Integrity, choosing a character trait matching the theme. Each lesson we do a prayer, a Bible story, a memory verse, and a song. We learn at least two songs a month, one in Dutch and one in English.

Step 3: Divide the collected ideas. Plan your lessons and field trip. Print the printables and make notes for other preparation. Go to the library to get a stack of books according to the topic.

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Step 4: Have a lot of fun with the lessons!

This way of teaching has been a blessing for us so far. I hope you give unit studies a try too!

 

 

The Project Approach in Early Childhood Education

I have always been very interested in different ways to educate children. In fact this is one of the reasons I began homeschooling in the first place. I feel that learning should be multifaceted. Children learn in so many different ways, and being able to provide opportunities that connect with all of their learning styles and multiple intelligences, plus being focused on what they are interested in, is the best form of education. One of my children I found to be a very hands-on learner. They really seemed to flourish if they had the ability to touch, taste, smell, and do. In my early childhood education courses, we learned about The Project Approach method to learning. I found that by applying this approach, my child became excited about learning.

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The major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life. In real life, we don’t spend several hours at a time listening to authorities who know more than we do and who tell us exactly what to do and how to do it. We need to be able to ask questions of a person we’re learning from. We need to be able to link what the person is telling us with what we already know. And, we need to be able to bring what we already know and experiences we’ve had that are relevant to the topic to the front of our minds and say something about them.

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The Project Approach should provide developmentally appropriate curriculum that will improve the child’s understanding of the world around them. It should have a balance of activities, involve field work, work time and implementation. Children should have time to review and recall what has happened during a project to see if there are any unanswered questions left. The final piece of The Project Approach should be an opportunity to display and share what has happened during the project.

So what is The Project Approach and how is it implemented. Below I have included my presentation on the historical background and the individual phases of this method of teaching. I have also included a completed lesson plan about bees as an example of how to plan using The Project Approach.

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The Project Approach PowerPoint Presentation

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Learning About Bees Using The Project Approach

Exploring Methods for the Early Learner | Unit Studies

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Do you and your kids like hands-on projects? Do you like to lose yourself in your studies, immersing yourself and discovering the many facets of a topic? Do you like to weave together math, science, history, language arts, and more? Do you have two or more kids whom you would love to learn as much together as possible? If you answered yes to any of these questions, unit studies might be a great approach for your homeschool.

A Little Bit About Unit Studies

Unit studies are a bit different than the other methods of homeschooling I will be talking about, as they are compatible with most homeschooling theories or methods. Unit studies can be used as part of the Charlotte Mason Method, unschooling, the Moore Formula, and more. They can also be combined as a stand-alone homeschooling strategy.

Unit studies may be small, lasting only a week or two, or large, lasting for a whole quarter or even a semester. By taking a theme, let’s say the “Human Body,” and stretching it across subject areas, you have the opportunity to dive deep and create a unit of study. You may read about the human body in a book, play games about the human body, build models of the body, read books about famous doctors or people who made great discoveries in health. You may work on exercise and healthy meals, do human body science experiments, or write a fictional story about how the immune system works. You can explore vocabulary, and even use math by measuring the length your small intestine would be if you stretched it out and more.

One of the best things about unit studies is that you can include the whole family in much of the activities, slightly tweaking assignments for varying ages. It cuts back on planning and requires less time than covering different topics as separate subjects for each child.

Why Unit Studies

Young children are masters of unit studies. Have you ever watched a preschooler or early elementary child get hung up on something like firefighters? For a time, they are obsessed. They want to dress like firefighters, play with fire trucks, and be a firefighter when they grow up. Any hose-like object becomes a firehose, and no danger is too big to escape their heroism. They want to read about them, watch them, and more. This continues until they are ready to move on to the next new thing to explore — maybe horses.

By surrounding a child with opportunities to learn about something in different ways, often their curiosity is naturally piqued, and they grasp hold of the topic or theme being presented. Children love making connections.

A Day in the Life of a Unit Study Family

As with unschooling, it’s difficult to say what a day in the life of a family following a unit study plan might look like. With this type of homeschooling, the amount of structure varies, and it can be easier to see an overview of a whole unit study, rather than a particular day. For purposes of discussion, I’m packing more in this example day than would actually be feasible. These activities might all be broken up over the course of a week, but I feel it can give you a better picture of what homeschooling might look like.

The family in this example is a family of three, a four-year-old boy (Trent), six year-old girl (Trudy), and seven-year-old boy (Trevor). They are studying about pioneers and the westward expansion.

7:00 a.m. – Everyone is up, working on their chores, and helping to get breakfast rolling.

8:00 – Family worship at the breakfast table, then everyone helps to clean up and get ready for the day.

9:00 – Everyone meets at the table to start the school day with calendar time, math, and any individual lessons. Handwriting might include copying sentences about pioneers. Trevor and Trudy review some vocabulary words from the story they are reading — things like bluffs, spade, foundation, and sprain. Trent joins in mostly for calendar time, but plays with his toys while his older siblings finish up.

9:30 – Everyone gathers around to read The Little House on the Prairie. Today they are reading about building the cabin. Trent plays with his cars while he listens, Judy colors, and Trevor just sits and listens.

10:00 – It’s time to do some brainstorming and planning. Trevor and Trudy are asked to use a mind map to brainstorm how they would build their own log cabin, what materials they would use, etc. Trevor writes a paragraph and illustrates it. Trudy writes a sentence and illustrates it. Trent talks about his cabin with his mom and draws a picture.

10:30 – They all go out and measure out the size of a typical cabin built by pioneers, and do some math from the reading. For example, if Pa built the cabin three logs high all the way around, how many logs did he use in all four sides?

10:45 – The children come inside and start to build log cabins out of Lincoln Logs.

11:15 – It’s time to make lunch together. The family has been cooking recipes out of the Little House on the Prairie cookbook a couple days a week for lunch. Today they read about staples from the country store, and are working together to make hasty pudding to go with the rest of their lunch. While they cook they talk about how it would have been different to cook on the frontier vs in modern kitchens.

12:00 p.m. – Lunch

12:30 – Everyone helps clean up.

1:00 – Quiet time. Everyone picks their own books to read. Mom reads to Trent. There is a basket of books about pioneers that the kids like to pick from to look at and read during this time.

2:00 – The afternoons change. Sometimes they do art, sometimes science experiments, sometimes field trips or music lessons, etc. Today they are going to start a new project. They are going to make plans for their own prairie garden just like Ma had. They will measure and plan, and if they get everything ready on time, they will get to go to the store before supper to pick out everything they need to start their garden.

This would end the “school” day and the day would continue as normal afterward.

Materials, Resources, and Curriculums for Unit Studies

Often people who do unit studies write their own. You can also find several free unit study ideas and curriculums by searching online, and there are several boxed curriculums and resources that make it easier. Please feel free to comment below to suggest other resources and ideas.

Amanda Bennett Unit Studies – Some pre-made unit studies of all different lengths: a great and inexpensive option to dive in with unit studies based on your state requirements, your child’s interests, or any timeline you may be following.

Konos – A full unit-study based curriculum that focuses on character traits.

The Weaver Curriculum – A unit-based curriculum from Alpha Omega publishing.

Five in a Row – A literature-based unit study approach that begins with Before Five in a Row for your two- to four-year-olds, and continues with Five in a Row for children up to age eight.

Are Unit Studies Right for Me?

Unit studies can work in a lot of different situations, but just like all schooling styles, the question is, is it a fit for you and your family?

  • If you like the idea of everyone in your family learning together, unit studies are a great way to span different ages.
  • If you enjoy diving deep into a topic and exploring things beyond a textbook, unit studies provide a great opportunity.
  • If you don’t mind taking the time to do in-depth projects and field trips, you might have just found your perfect match.

How About You?

Are you thinking about unit studies, but simply aren’t sure? What are your questions? Thoughts? Reservations? Excitements? Are there other homeschooling styles you are curious about for your preschool, kindergarten, or first- or second-grader? Let’s get the conversation started in the comments below!

Find Out More

  1. “What is a Unit Study?” By Amanda Bennett: http://unitstudy.com/blog/what-is-a-unit-study/
  2. One way to plan a unit study: http://unitstudy.com/blog/what-is-a-unit-study/
  3. Another way to plan a unit study: http://www.dummies.com/education/homeschooling/designing-homeschool-unit-studies/
  4. “The Ultimate List of Unit Study Resources”: http://www.sidetrackedsarah.com/2012/08/the-ultimate-list-of-unit-study-resources/
  5. Free online unit studies: http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/category/unit-study/
  6. More free unit studies: http://eclectic-homeschool.com/free-unit-studies/
  7. Astronaut unit study I put together: https://homeschoolingatjesusfeet.wordpress.com/category/unit-studies/astronauts/
  8. Excellent planning resources and examples from a unit study family: https://www.pepperandpine.com
  9. Unit study resources recommended by SDA Homeschool Families: http://www.sdahomeschools.org/unit-study/

10 Fall-Themed Nature Study Ideas

Taking a fall nature walk!

Taking a fall nature walk!

Nature study can be as simple as opening a window to hear bird songs, or as complicated as…well, as complicated as you want to make it! Those following Charlotte Mason’s philosophy might wish to do a short nature study weekly (in addition to frolicking outdoors daily), while others might enjoy folding the study of nature into a unit study approach. There is no right or wrong to nature study!

My 10-year-old son just popped in to ask for another plastic container to catch a stink bug. I replied that I think we’ve used them all (for insects!)…and…didn’t he already have a stink bug? “Yes! But this is a different kind!” he answered. Insects are on our agenda for this month, and acquiring the Insect Honor for Pathfinders is providing impetus for our growing bug collection. (I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to studying birds soon! And no, there will not be a collection, other than abandoned feathers!)

Hopefully our bug collection and outside moth-hatching projects will pan out, but there are many other opportunities for fall nature study. I thought I’d share a few things we’ve done in the past during this season, as kind of a starter list. If you try any of these, or if you have other great ideas to share, please feel free to leave a comment.

  1. Begin a color wheel of seasons that will eventually (by the end of the year) document all four seasons with the predominant colors the children see outside. Credit for this idea goes to Clare Walker Leslie, whose book, The Nature Connection, has some great ideas!

    A color wheel of the seasons three-fourths completed.

    A color wheel of the seasons three-fourths completed.

  2. Go on a scavenger hunt. There are many scavenger hunt printables available online, or you can make your own. (Hint: If you make your own, you may want to pre-scout the area looking for unusual finds to include, such as special birds, trees, or animal tracks.)
  3. Participate in the National Bird Count or conduct a simple backyard bird count of your own. Watch for migrations of geese and other birds. In our area, there is a nature center which has a collection of stuffed birds, bird nests, and eggs, which makes a wonderful rainy day field trip. If you do find a feather or an eggshell, try looking at them under the microscope. I’ve purchased a CD of common bird songs for the kids to learn on our trips to and from music lessons, and am hoping that they will be able to recognize birds by sound soon.
  4. Prior to the big freeze, check out the insects in your own yard. If you have an aquarium or terrarium, praying mantises are around this time of year, and you might be able to find a female and watch her hundreds of praying mantis babies hatch out!
  5. This is a good time to search for pupae of moths and butterflies, too. By marking the spot and checking on it each day, you might just get lucky enough to see the adult emerge! There are wonderful online resources and books about butterfly migrations, and this can introduce a new geographical area to study, too. Follow the butterfly’s path from the ground, and learn about the bodies of water they fly over and the various countries/cities they pass through.
  6. A mid-day hike can refresh students’ minds during these cooler, but not yet cold, days. While you’re out note the fall leaves, and even nuts and seeds, on the trees. Collect a few leaf specimens and start on the Pathfinder Leaf/Tree Identification Honor! We love art projects around here, and painting fall leaves was a favorite when we were studying watercolor techniques.
  7. (Related to #6 . . .) We’ve been known to take drawing pencils and colored pencils along on our walks in a storage clipboard. This is great for documenting landscapes with fall color or drawing specimens you’d rather leave in the out-of-doors. Mushrooms, mosses, ferns, lichen, and tree fungi are wonderful items to capture at this time of year if you’re in the right climate! (Taking along watercolor pencils and then finishing the art project at home with a wet paintbrush is lots of fun, too!)

    Mushrooms: natural art pieces.

    Mushrooms: natural art pieces.

  8. A weather study is a fun project to begin in the fall. Search online for instructions for making your own weather-measuring instruments. If you’re traveling to another climate for the holidays, take along your weather kit for something to compare to home. We once compared weather in Kotzebue, Alaska — above the Arctic Circle — to weather in Arizona during the same time period. It was quite a study to compare such strikingly different biomes! Even a small contrast in weather and climate can elicit interesting results, though. Simply note which trees are out in full color, or which fruits and vegetables are ripening. (Samples are required, lol.)
  9. Fall can be a good time for planting trees, or starting a fall/winter garden. It’s also fun to initiate a seed collection, or plan for a spring garden, beginning with soil preparation and how to amend soil or plant fall cover crops.
  10. Fruit orchards and pumpkin patches naturally translate into wonderful field trips this time of year, and we like to follow up with pie-making and sauce-making, too!

A couple of final thoughts:

Local libraries usually showcase fall-themed books, and it’s nice to stock up for the occasional icky day. With the internet, it’s easy to take a book theme and explode it for indoor fun involving arts and crafts, science experiments, and even writing assignments. It’s a great unit study starter, or a fun “day off” from regular school work. The kids don’t even know they’re learning! LOL.

Check out the Adventurer awards and Pathfinder honors that correspond with this season. Here’s the link to the Pathfinder requirements: http://gcyouthministries.org/Ministries/Pathfinders/Honors/tabid/85/agentType/ViewType/HonorTypeID/5/Default.aspx. There are 95 honors under the Nature category! The Adventurer Awards search tool is here: http://gcyouthministries.org/Ministries/Adventurers/Awards/tabid/83/Default.aspx. (Search under “Nature” for the list of almost 30 awards available. If you are following the Adventurer grade-levels, you can search specifically for nature awards corresponding to your child’s grade, too.)

Happy Nature Studying!

My six-year old daughter took this picture with my camera. I love it! Photography can be used in lieu of drawing or collecting from nature.

My six-year old daughter took this picture with my camera. I love it! Photography can be used in lieu of drawing or collecting from nature.