Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Handbook of Nature Study

Today I'm listening to the sound of freezing rain hit my window near the computer. The windows have a coating that resembles the etching on shower doors. It's definitely a good day to be indoors, thinking ahead to spring and summer days to come. As gardeners often pore over seed catalogs plotting out their garden, I am apt to use my winter to pore over nature study curriculum, vowing to spend more time with my kids learning about nature up close and personal.

One of the best vintage resources about nature study is Anna Botsford Comstock's incredible work, Handbook of Nature Study. Comstock was a professor of Nature-Study at Cornell University, and published her nature handbook in 1911. Nearly a century later, her work is still being used by teachers and children today. The book is an unbelievable collection of 232 lessons divided into three main sections: Animals (birds, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects, and invertebrates), Plants (wild flowers, weeds, garden flowers, cultivated crop plants, trees and flowering plants) and finally, Earth and Sky (brook, rocks & minerals, soil, climate & weather, water forms, skies).

The book first introduces the instructor to the methods of teaching nature-study. As each lesson is introduced, Comstock offers background information for the teacher's benefit and then a lesson with a clear object, scientific information to share with the child and questions they can ask as they observe (when possible) the object of study. The lessons can be done in any order and arranged around the time of year best suited to find plants and animals in your area. With so many resources available online, teachers should be able to find supplemental material for nearly any lesson when a live example is not readily available.

Throughout the week of January 18th, Homeschool Freebie of the Day is offering this book as a free download in 6 parts. I love their version with it's vintage illustrations of animals mixed in among the text and photographs of the subject. If you happen to miss out there, you can google for other free online reprints. You can find several options here and either read it online or download a PDF or Kindle version. And if you like to have the book in your own hands and library, then you can buy it for an amazing price on Amazon (with free shipping). I spent a good bit more when I bought my copy. But at 900+ pages, you definitely get a lot for your money!

Having a print copy is nice to take along when you are out studying nature in the field. But it's nice to have it as a computer file that you can just print selections as needed. For example, if you wanted to focus on birds, you could print off some of the illustrations pertaining to the species you studied and have your children cut and paste these into a nature notebook of their own.
Stay tuned for a work of fiction that details how a family incorporated nature study into their homeschool studies. Until next time, keep reading!



Shower Doors said...

Book sound really awesome. I will definitely try it. Anyway I am going towards the download link. Thanks for the free offer.

Jill Stanish said...

It was providential that you should stop by this week as the Handbook of Nature Study just happened to be offered as a repeat freebie. I hope you really enjoy it. Thanks for visiting~

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