This is the perfect time of the year to be outdoors and to do some Christmas and winter nature studies. No matter the weather, take some time to enjoy the rain puddles, the snow flurries, the misty mountains, the night skies, and the glistening sunshine. Doing a few nature studies is a great way to sneak in some “school” while taking a much-needed break during the month of December. There is nothing like fresh air and God’s creation to help us slow down and re-center our focus this holiday season.
At this time of the year and during the winter season, there are so many things to observe that you normally don’t get to see at other times of the year.
Play “I Spy a Poinsettia.” When on a walk, try to spot poinsettia plants growing in the wild. You will probably see tons in pots on porches but if you live in CA, TX, LA, FL, HI, and other areas of the southern states, there is a very good chance you can spot one growing in the wild or in someone’s yard. Get up close and notice the pattern of the leaves. Draw it. Did you know the flowers of a poinsettia are actually not what we love to look at during Christmas time. The red “flowers” are actually the leaves of the plant and the flowers are the cute little yellow blossoms in the center. For added fun, read the Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola.
Observe and learn about evergreen trees as you go Christmas tree hunting. If you use an artificial tree, no worries. Go to a local tree lot or Christmas tree farm. I am almost positive no matter where you live, you can find a variety of fir, spruce, and pine trees in your area. When you find one, create a bark rubbing of the tree trunk. Every species of evergreens have a unique bark pattern and texture. Observe a cluster of pine needles or evergreen branches. Bring a cluster home and place them in a plastic bottle filled with water. It will enhance and magnify the needles. Draw them. Did you know evergreen trees have needles for leaves to conserve water. Deciduous trees have broader leaves to collect sunlight for photosynthesis but water also evaporates from the large surface area of the leaves. Evergreen leaves are needles to conserve water. For fun, read The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown.
Go on a pinecone hunt. Try to collect as many different shapes and sizes as you can. Are the pinecones closed or open? Get up close and notice the pattern in the pinecone. Draw it. Research why some cones are closed and what makes them open up. Did you know pinecones are nature’s way of preserving the seeds of future conifers? Pinecones only open when the temperature is just right for seed-planting. If the air is too cold, the cone will stay closed to make sure it doesn’t drop its seeds onto frozen or frosty soil. However if the weather is warmer, the cone will open and drop its seeds for spring planting. While forest fires are dangerous, the heat from the devasting fires will open dormant pinecones thus creating future saplings to take the place of trees that were destroyed in the fire. For fun, read The Pinecone Walk by Barbara Springfield.
Do a little bird watching. Sit in your backyard or go to a local park. Observe the different birds that visit the trees and shrubs. Take a picture of them so you can draw them when you get home. Are the feathered friends native to the area or are they probably visitors migrating during the winter? Depending on where you live, winter is the perfect time to learn about birds. Check out North American Birds Unit Study by Rebecca Spooner @ #homeschoolon. It is a perfect Charlotte Mason inspired unit to use in January when you are trying to get back into the swing of school. For fun, read the heartwarming story The Christmas Bird by Elizabeth Howell.
Next time you are under a sprig of mistletoe, take it down and observe it. Draw its leaves (and white berries if they are still attached). Research the tradition of mistletoe and the fact that Mistletoe is actually a parasite. Oddly, one of the main reasons mistletoe is so prominent during the Christmas season is because it feeds on deciduous trees. When these trees shed their leaves in the fall, the mistletoe snuggled in between the branches become visible. For fun, read the cute little story The Legend of Mistletoe and the Christmas Kittens by Joe Troiano.
If you live near snow, make sure you go on a nature walk during or after a snowfall. Bring a magnifying glass and a pair of binoculars. After you create a few snow angels and build a snowman, check out the snow up close. Notice the little crystals. Pick something covered in snow to draw. The area may seem empty but it isn’t. Sit quietly and use your binoculars to spot animals in the tree, birds in the air, and critters poking up out of the snow. It is also fun to look for tracks in the snow. You will be amazed at the different prints you can find. Check out Our Journey Westward.com for some great nature study units. The Nature Explorers: Snow and Ice and No Sweat Nature Study: Math in Nature are perfect for this time of the year. For fun, read the classic picture book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
Don’t forget to go outside at night and check out that night sky. During the winter, you can spot constellations you don’t normally see. Draw the night sky and the moon. Learn about the different constellations and the uniqueness of the Star of Bethlehem. For fun, read Herald: The Story of the Christmas Star by Kathy Born.
Finally, collect items along the way: acorns, leaves, pinecones, winter fruits and berries, branches, etc. Use them to make beautiful centerpieces around the house and to make unique Christmas gifts for family and friends. It is a great way to bring God’s beautiful creation indoors so even on cold, rainy days, your children have something beautiful to observe and draw.
Check out our post on IG @coffeewithcarrieconsultant , “Decorating Your Outside Trees for Christmas” . It is full of great ideas on how to invite neighborhood critters and animals to your backyard by decorating your backyard trees with cranberry trim, birdseed ornaments, and organic treats.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hunting,
We hope you can join us for our 3rd Annual Special Weekend for Homeschooling Moms March 27th and 28th, 2020. In our Friday session, How to Homeschool High School, several of our panel participants will share how they used nature studies as a way to meet their science high school requirements. At our last session, The Ten Essentials of Homeschooling, Carrie will share how to use God’s creation as one of your ten essentials. CLICK HERE for info on the event.
CLICK HERE to register.