One of the best ways to introduce science to your kids is doing nature studies. In fact, nature study was our entire science curriculum the first year we homeschooled.
We did a 7-week science study the summer before as a test to see if the boys could learn from me, treat me like a teacher, and do this homeschool thing right. Obviously, they passed.
Since we had done science already, nature study seemed like a good addition to our first year curriculum. Over the years, we’ve continued to incorporate it into our classes.
And yeah, we used literature to supplement. Because I’m the Lit Mama.
One of the funnest things about a literature concentration for us has been finding lit that goes along with these nature studies. We are fortunate to live in a world where finding such books isn’t too hard.
Maybe you’re looking for lit to add to your nature study program. I’ve got the goods. Or maybe you’ve never considered using it. Well, let me convince you.
Literature for nature study
Frog and Toad books are a great addition to an amphibian or pond study. This one is my favorite because you can also use it to study seasons. I’ve crushed on these two friends since I was a little slip of a thing, and my boys enjoyed them just as much as I do.
This beautiful book is one of my all-time favorites. Visually stunning and poetic, it tells the tale of the water cycle. It’s great for studying weather, rivers, ponds, lakes–all the water. I’ve read this one hundreds of times, my friends.
And I can’t let you down here, there is also a Water Dance Story Time. With a tutorial for making a cloud in a jar. I mean, I can’t even.
This is another visually beautiful book that tells about life on the swamp. If you’re studying swamps or marshlands, this book is the thing. Another one I’ve read over and over, there’s lots of information about swamps in it, but that doesn’t take away from the story.
And even though I’m really not trying to toot my own horn here, there is also a Spoonbill Swamp Story Time. With a free printable Learn About Roseate Spoonbills. I also have a a free Learn About Marsh Land printable in the archives that is super in-depth and fun.
Speaking of the marshes, Over in the Wetlands tells about animals in the Louisiana Bayou surviving a hurricane. So wetlands, weather, animals, even dragonflies… This one could be used in all kinds of studies. And it’s another gorgeous book.
No, there’s no Story Time. But there should be. I’m putting it on the list!
If you’re studying plant life, there’s no better book out there than this glorious tale of a little girl who is shipped to England to live with an uncle and discovers an entire world of her own behind a locked garden door. Flowers, trees, animals… This one provides oodles of fodder for nature study. Plus, how can you not love this story?
I don’t know who my favorite character is–Mary or Dickon. They both have so much to offer your littles in terms of education. Burnett was a genius at adding nature facts to a brilliant story.
Black Beauty is just about as perfect as you can get if you’re studying horses. Anna Sewell was a horse advocate before there were horse advocates. This tale, told from the point of view of the horse, is so full of information about the lovely animals, you almost don’t need anything else. And the story? Stellar.
Also, there’s an Activities for Learning post about Black Beauty that suggests about a billion activities to do with your littles to help them dig deeper into the book.
This book, y’all. I’ve loved this book forever. Amphibians, mammals, rivers, forests… You can use it for just about any nature study there is. But mostly you should just read it with your littles because it’s such a wonderful story. If you want the animals they’re learning about to feel like old friends, this is the stuff.
In my top 5 list of favorite books of all time, the boys and I read this together when they were quite young. It’s a rabbit tale (see what I did there?) about a group of young rabbits who break from their warren and set out to find a new home. When we see rabbits in the clover at night, we still say, “Look–silflay.” Every. Single. Time. And that deer-in-the-headlights look people get sometimes? We still call it ‘going tharn.’
But the important thing about this book is all it can teach your littles about rabbits. Adams must have spent hours and hours studying them to get it right. Okay, I’m lying. The important thing is the story.
I have lucked across some amazing old books at rummage sales that are great complements to our nature studies. One of them is Wild Goose, Brother Goose by Mel Ellis. The book was originally published in 1969, and my copy is a first edition. I found it amidst a stack of old books at a church rummage sale and picked it up because Canada geese are among my favorite birds. When we studied migration in school, we read this book aloud together. It is the wonderful story of a wild goose who mates with a clipped goose at a stocked pond in Wisconsin. Though told like a story, it is a mostly factual account written by a true naturalist. Every word is an homage to geese and the beautiful Wisconsin environment. A little research taught me that Mel Ellis is one of Wisconsin’s ‘most revered outdoor writers,’ that he wrote articles and books about nature and really tried–in a time before it was trendy–to make the world eco-conscious. A bit of a modern-day Thoreau. Though Ellis died in 1984, his work is still very relevant, especially if you’re interested in giving your littles a magical look into the world of nature.
This truly amazing book, published in 1991, follows a year of fresh-water turtle life in a swampy area of New England called The Digs. The author has filled the pages with his own drawings of turtles and animal and plant life, even of a map of The Digs so you can see the layout of the land. It is a journal of turtle life, starting in April when the turtles are starting to emerge from the mud of their hibernation and ending in October when they return to hibernate. The boys and I read each journal entry on the date in the book, so we were able to imagine exactly what the turtles in our own area were doing that day. It also helped us figure out where to look for them. The book covers emergence, courtship and mating, nesting, hatching, and hibernation. Everything you might want to learn about freshwater turtles and their environment is included in this wonderfully well-written and -illustrated book.
If, like me, you want to read Watership Down every year and are therefore a huge Richard Adams fan, look for Nature Through the Seasons. Adams published this gem in 1975, and it covers bird, insect, animal, and plant life in England by division of the seasons. Because England is on roughly the same latitude as part of the U.S. there are many similarities to be found. Because it’s in a different hemisphere, there are many differences to rejoice in as well. We break this book open often throughout the year. The illustrations are beautiful, and some are numbered diagram-form so that the reader can read a list of what they contain. There’s even a diagram of the different things that live in an oak tree during summer.
I mean, I could keep going. If you check out the big list of Story Times, you’ll find stuff for apples, sunflowers, lupines, trees, ducks, pumpkins, and more.
Obviously, I ain’t lyin’ when I say we use nature study every year.
But adding lit to the program… that’s the stuff, my friends. Yeah yeah.