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The next stop in Implementing a Nature Study is watching nature in your own backyard.
The great thing about watching nature in your own yard is you can manage it from the windows or from a porch. Of course you can also venture out into the wilds of the area right around your house, but you can still observe a lot from the comfort of your home or porch.
How do I do nature study in my backyard?
Keep a list of things you see when you look outside. Birds are very popular, but try to go beyond birds and watch all the animals. Look for reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and insects as well.
I sat out on my back porch one evening recently and here are the animals I was able to observe:
- fawn- bedded down near the fence around our garden
- yellow bellied sapsuckers- the fledglings are deafening for a month screaming for food non-stop as long as the sun is up.
- snake- we have many garter snakes that live in and around wood and rockpiles
- lightning bugs- light up the woods every night
- bat- I was grateful to see him enjoying the insects
Create habitat in your yard for species.
- bird feeder- feeding the birds year round means you get to see a variety in species
- butterfly garden
- vegetable garden
- flower garden
- bat boxes- at least 40 feet in the air and away from your house
Keep a journal of the plants growing in your yard- both wild and cultivated plants. Make drawings and observe plants through the year to see how they flower and seed. Enjoy the fruit of a growing season and use the produce in recipes with your kids. You can journal about your gardens and wildflowers with photos or drawings and watercolors.
Make a list of what you hear while you are still in your yard. What do you hear? Birds, toads, and insects are noisy in the summer. We love to listen to bird call CDs and insect noises on CD to identify sounds.
The sounds outdoors change with the seasons. Is there anything more promising of spring than the sound of spring peepers? Little frogs with a big sound which foreshadows the coming of warmer weather and longer days. Or can you hear the close of summer when you hear the crickets and other insects singing loudly into the day and night? Be sure to listen to the sounds of the night in addition to those of the day!
Go out at night to hear the sounds and observe nocturnal animals. Have you ever been on an owl prowl? If you can’t call an owl in, you can listen for one! There is something really special about being outside at night and listening to the night sounds. I love the summer noises and the quiet of a winter night when the snow is falling. Don’t miss the chance to gaze at the night sky and take in the constellations throughout the year.
Resources for enjoying nature in your backyard:
I would hate to leave you wondering what resources are available to help you enjoy your backyard nature!
One Small Square: Backyard - Great for discovering what lives in just a square foot of habitat. There exquisite illustrations and activities for families. It defines the various zones of a habitat from top to bottom as well- from under the ground to above the treetops no stone is left unturned.
Field Guides to Bird Songs- I love a good birding CD. You can listen in the car while you do errands and it’s great when kids hear a bird that they can identify. Birding by Ear is a great skill and it will help refine your kids’ knowledge of what’s around them.
iBird Pro- is an app for Android and Apple which is a full catalog of birds and their calls. You can visit ibird.com to read all about the app. I love that I have it with me all the time and I can hear the calls as I work with the kids to identify a bird. You just have to be careful you aren’t calling birds with your mobile device and distracting birds with your fake calls.
Watching your own backyard works whether you live in the country, the suburbs, or the city. What you find there may vary, but you will always find nature adapting to its surroundings. It’s perfect for kids (and moms) who are timid about adventuring out too far into the wilds of nature.
Be sure to step outside to hear the sounds as well as watching while sitting on the porch or in the yard.
You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns. – Henry David Thoreau
There’s more to come in the Implementing a Nature Study series. Please join me by subscribing so you won’t miss future posts. I have four more topics planned including incorporating nature study in your academics, providing resources for research, educating yourself so you can answer questions, and using stories to teach about nature and building enthusiasm for the experience.