Many homeschoolers value outdoor education and want to incorporate this into their day-to-day practices, but it’s hard to know which direction to take. Focusing on play works well for a time, especially for younger kids. But as kids get older, home educators often look for a productive way to introduce more specific topics into their nature-based homeschooling. Be a Naturalist from Science Through Nature provides a helpful segue into “real” science. The information is easily accessed by learners because it aligns well with many children’s natural enthusiasm for the outdoors. Recommended for learners in grades 2-5, this curriculum provides a solid framework for introduction to the natural world. It could well serve as the beginning of a lifetime of naturalist practices! The text and activities encourage students to take a closer, more nuanced view of the natural world around them.
After providing an outline of the resource, authors Jennifer Watts and Leah Adams introduce readers to the characters Naturalist Kate and Wildlife Biologist Nate, who works at the fictional Hawk Valley Nature Preserve. The two guides offer insight into the world of naturalism and introduce the eight “Quests” that learners will embark upon in their learning. Each Quest offers varied methods of learning, with suggested preparatory reading and research, a narrative introductory note from one of the fictional guides, and “adventures” including indoor and outdoor activities and games. The program is meant to be highly experiential, “built upon the belief that elementary science should focus on topics a child can see, feel, and experience for [themselves].” There are also “extensions” offering students the opportunity to learn about historical naturalists, make nature-based art, and to engage in efforts to help their local wildlife.
Each quest begins with a brief outline of topics to be covered and a list of the supplies needed. A variety of supplemental resources are suggested, and the reading list is given with specific age recommendations. While the supplemental suggestions are a huge boost and round out Be a Naturalist to a more robust curriculum, the PDF can certainly stand alone to provide a full experience. Lessons, aside from prep instructions, are “written to the child, but are meant to be enjoyed by the parent and child together.” The activities outlined in this curriculum are varied, providing opportunities to engage different styles of learners. Information is presented through narrative writing, textbook-style informational writing, parent/teacher guidance notes, worksheets, activities, games, graphics, and discussion questions.
Among the topics covered are how to keep a nature journal, basic botany, and zoology, finding natural areas to explore in your region, discovering new outdoor activities, using clues about your environment, visiting a nature center, and more.
The curriculum covers quite a lot, with 193 pages of learning material. The PDF costs $47 and is ready to download right away.