I am raising my hand to admit my ignorance on what nature study could be. Because on the Ambleside Online forums, we’ve been reading through the Handbook of Nature Study (or free ebook) following AO’s nature study rotation.
We just wrapped up the section about the skies. Sadly, due to clouds, we didn’t get to observe as much as I wanted, although I do have some notes of things to do monthly and later in the spring/summer.
But I wanted to list some things that are in the section on the skies:
- Myth, old superstitions and history are sprinkled throughout.
- Why the stars [appear to] revolve around the polestar in 23 hours and 56 minutes, instead of 24 hours.
- How to trace from one star (or constellation) to another.
- Drawing the constellations and stars in the same way. (I’m unclear as to whether these were drawn once on a dedicated page or if they were sketched multiple times.)
- Topics for English lessons are spread throughout.
- Several constellations, including their mythical stories and brightest stars.
- Guided observations and year-long studies about the sun, moon and stars, plainly laid out. Some questions are basic (“At what hour do we get the most heat from the sun?”), others more advanced (“On what day of the year is the sun nearest a point directly over our heads at midday?”).
- Basic math such as ‘how much would X object weigh if it were on the sun?’.
- Poems and stories.
- A model to gain appreciation for the scale of our solar system and the distance to our nearest star.
- Meteors and comets.
- The gradual change in the sun’s position among the zodiac since ancient times (I should be a Leo, not a Virgo!).
- How to make a sky clock, with detailed discussion on standard time, solar time. (We plan to try this, but with cardboard.)
- Practical applications for longitude and latitude.
- How to make an equatorial star finder (we might try that this summer).
- How to make a sundial for your latitude.
- A model showing the phases of the moon.
- A detailed discussion about the lack of atmosphere on the moon, and the consequences.
So, it appears nature study is more than drawing pictures of flowers in a nature journal. I realize that the Handbook of Nature Study is an older resource, but it provides a good jumping off point. Plus, the lessons which are done with the children are mostly experiments (or models) and questions to help their observations and to follow those observations to a logical conclusion. Some books I am reading that tie into the skies are The Stargazing Year, which is broken up by month so I’ll be reading it very slowly this year, and Asimov On Astronomy. I just love Asimov, he makes things so simple.
Next we will be discussing amphibians, feel free to join the AO Forums and learn with us.