Well, the holidays are over. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting back into the swing of things in January. (Then comes February, the bane of a homeschooling mother’s existence, but that’s an entirely different topic.) How do you get your children back into their school routine? If you have good suggestions, I would dearly love to hear them!
Nature study can be a great way to gently draw children back into the idea that school is in session (and fun!). Even though it’s cold in January, there’s still a lot you can see and do outside. If it’s too cold to be out for long, there are still some fun things you can do.
Nature Study Ideas for January
- Make sure you’re keeping your bird feeders filled! This time of year is when it’s hardest for birds to find food, particularly if you’re in an area with a lot of snow. If you keep your feeders filled, you will get lots of visitors, and learning to identify them is a great nature study! You can make a list of the birds you see – don’t forget the free printable bird list if you would like to use it.
- In December, we had the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Once a week, go outside at noon, and measure your shadow, making sure you stand in the same place each time. How does your shadow change from week to week?
- Make a study of the constellations you can see. In North America, the circumpolar constellations (ones you should always be able to find, year round) are Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cassiopeia, and Cephus. Check out this website from the Iowa State Polaris Project for more information. There’s also a great free app called Star Chart, for Apple devices (click here for the Android version), that will show you what you see in the sky. If it’s really cold, just do one per evening!
- Once you’ve located the circumpolar constellations, look for the winter ones: Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Gemini, Auriga, and Taurus.
- For an inside activity, put a house plant near a window, and observe it 2 days later. Is anything different?
- Do you have any flowering shrubs or fruit trees in your yard? Snip a few branches and put them into a vase with water.
I got some of these ideas from a wonderful book that has been reprinted recently: Natural Science Through the Seasons, by James A. Partridge. Along with the Handbook of Nature Study, it’s one of my favorites. There is a calendar for each month with ideas for activities you can do with your students.
I included a bit of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, because the line “thy breath be rude” made me giggle. If you’ve ever been outside when the wind was cold enough to take your breath away, you know what he’s talking about! You could use the poem for copywork, if you were so inspired, or just keep the phrase about rude breath in your arsenal of Shakespearean insults.
What do you and your children enjoy studying in nature during the winter months?