After gaining and understanding of what Nature Study is and why it is vital to do it, it's beneficial to look at the dynamics of using nature study as a part of your Charlotte Mason curriculum, rather than just an accessory activity. Those dynamics are viewed by examining what it looks like to have nature lessons as a part of your weekly Charlotte Mason schedule.
In Charlotte Mason's schools Nature Study was the sole science instruction for younger elementary grades. In upper elementary, it remained the backbone of science, adding in science reading. Middle school and high school students still did Nature Study weekly, and increased their experimental science. Nature Study is an observational science, and it wasn't by accident that Charlotte used observation before experimentation. Observation is the building blocks of experimentation, and in order to truly grasp the science of high school a child must develop his observational skills and also his understanding of the natural world. This gives science life and provides connections to the natural world to increase understanding. This, my friends, is the science of relations. I present the exact usage of Nature Study by Charlotte Mason herself to you with the sole purpose of assuring you that Nature Study is sufficient science for students in elementary, if you would like to use it as such. Charlotte Mason students excelled in upper level science, not in spite of having a background in ample Nature Study, but because of it.
To use Nature Study as science itself, you can simply study nature 2-3 times a week, implement nature journaling with your students, and read Nature Lore. This is sufficient, wonderful science instruction and I dare say it might be more impactful than many current science curriculums. You can also use an actual Nature Curriculum, to guide you through things to study.
(My absolute top choice for Nature Curriculum is Our Wonderful World, which is a book written in the 1920's, with wonderful, living nature stories and observational exercises.)
Charlotte Mason students studied animals of all kinds, and it's still beneficial to do so. Observing animals that aren't local to us in their natural habitats is impossible, but a zoo visit and closely examining pictures of animals will give detailed observation of the physical characteristics, which can be enhanced by reading about their behavior in the wild. Another wonderful aspect of Nature Study is to study plants throughout the year. To do this, you would choose one to three trees or plants to observe throughout the entire year. You would study them weekly, or at least monthly, to observe and record any changes. Lastly, Nature Study can be done by keeping a record of bird, spider, and insect sightings. Students can record where they saw the bird, spider, or insect and what it was doing. These can be kept in Nature Journals.
Any of these things can be used in any combination to make Nature Study the sole science that your children do. They can also be used, however, in combination with your science curriculum or studies. Any aspect of Nature Study can be added to your homeschool schedule weekly to gain the benefits of it, and should be included to some degree, even if you choose to study another observational science.
Students should also be reading what we call Nature Lore. These are books read for enjoyment, that contain stories of animals written by naturalists. As with all books, it is best if these are quality, and have great language in them. The delight from these stories is infinitely valuable in itself, and you will no doubt find your child making connections between them and actual nature as you increase both nature lore and nature study.
Things to Ponder:
I invite you to ponder this thought with me: "How can we study science without studying the things that science is made of?". Can we truly exclude the study of the created, natural world and call a science education complete? Furthermore, is any other science as important for day to day living than the science of created things? In addition to their value to science, I think it is imperative that we remember that God's creation was given for our enjoyment. We were commanded to have stewardship over it, and I would say that's a task best done when we have observed, studied, enjoyed, loved, and understood it. What a noble way of thinking that is to be naturally gifting to our children!
Things to Do:
Bite Sized Challenge for Implementing-
1. Choose animal study, a book of firsts, sighting records, or plants throughout the year to implement. Include it with your weekly nature study of 30 minutes.
2. Offer your child some Nature Lore.
Digging Deeper Challenge for Implementing-
1. Choose a Nature Study curriculum from the resources below and use it weekly.
2. Include Nature Lore in your weekly read alouds. (It works great in Treasure Time)
Our Wonderful World
(This website has the free download link, and also has a guide for each lesson with a multitude of additional links to articles, pictures and updated activities for each lesson)
Handbook of Nature Study
Exploring Nature With Children
Thornton Burgess Books
Audio of Burgess Books
(There's also a Librivox app to listen from!)
James Herriot Books
From Charlotte Herself:
"The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same as knowing them personally..."
“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation."
May All Your Days Be Spent Delightfully Feasting...