Handbook of Nature Study- Cattails



Outdoor Hour Challenge

Spring Series #5

Spring Cattail Observations




After reading the Handbook of Nature Study introduction – I think I’ve found that we approach these topics more like a unit study – Incorporating the theme into our whole week. The actual nature study time should only be 15 minutes of directed out door observations according to Comstock – we seem to drag it out for a week. 🙂

Our general activity highlights:

  • Looked around areas that we thought they would grow and finally found 2-3 spots;
  • Read books from the library, sketched from the books;
  • Remembered past experiences, shared memories;
  • Visited the general area of the cattails, took a nature walk to see if there were any more in the forest;
  • Observed the cattails closely;
  • Pulled roots, touched, dissected, squeezed, smelled and photographed plants;
  • Drew the experiences in our sketchbooks;
  • Answered questions in the Handbook of Nature Study;
  • Recorded the information in our notebook and quick words in our sketchbook; and,
  • We shared our experiences with others, and they shared their observations with us.

The boys were intrigued that the plant was used for food in various ways, and they met a person who looks forward to “corn on the cob” fried cattail heads in June.

Our whole family learned so much about cattails – and all marveled at what we hand not observed previously.  We lived in a house that had cattails in the front yard by the pond – we saw them every day – yet never observed them, or learned anything about them.

What are you “seeing” everyday, and yet not observing with intention?

Here is the photo gallery from our afternoon:



Near one Cattail, Anthony D Fredericks – We learned that it is god for food and medicine, and near frogs and snakes – the snakes and frogs were confirmed during our observation time.

Botany in a Day, Thomas J Elpeis – We learned that the core can be used for flour, and the tops like corn on the cob.

Watersheds, A practical Handbook for Healthy Water, Clive Dobson and Gregor Beck – we learned from their examples of water coloring cattails.

Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Comstock – We learned what observations to look for, and I learned detailed information, so as to be equipped to help guide the questions.

and last but definitely not least – the

Spring Nature Study with Art and Music Appreciation by Barbara McCoy –


This book helps me to narrow down the Handbook of Nature Study – and gives us a help with direction on what to choose each week to study. The book gives us many ideas, and helps like the Notebook Pages. Inside Prep, Outdoor Time, Suggestions for study and the follow-up Activity.  We use the Notebook Sheet as a guide in our sketch books. This e-book has helped us step up our academic game from “casual walk in the woods” to  – Observations with Purpose, and Learning, which we learned in our cattail study, and dandelion study – which we see every day and knew so little about.

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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12 Responses to Handbook of Nature Study- Cattails

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  7. Oh I love it! And, I’m like you, we seem to drag it out over a week – or at least notice what we should have noticed a week later? But that’s the beauty of it all I think. Wonderful!

  8. Samantha says:

    Your post makes me desperately want to FIND CATTAILS to study! We will have access to a pond in a few days so I am hoping there are cattails there.

    As we’ve been doing nature study, I truly think noticing the beauty in the everyday is one of the greatest benefits.

    I also really liked how you incorporated other books with your study.


  9. Jamie says:

    Great study! We need to get back into doing these studies ourselves!

  10. Amy says:

    Great pictures!!! I giggled at the alien space ship. So true!! You and the kids did an amazing job, I can’t wait to re-visit our cattails 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    I am so with you! I love turning these into week long studies – there is so much you can do, and it is something different from the normal! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your awesome photos! You really did a fabulous job photographing and documenting all your learning. Great job! =)

  12. Awesome entry and I love all the great observations you made of your cattails. I think you did a great job observing the habitat and the other living creatures too.

    Did you happen to read the cattail entries from the Winter Series on Mr. Linky? There was a mom who showed us how to make torches out of the cattails and for some reason it seems like something your family would like to do once the cattail flower spikes form.

    Here is the link:

    Your photos were great and really told the story of your day. Thanks so much for sharing.

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