Nature Study Planning for High School


We are heading into our 5th-ish year of Nature Studies with the Handbook of Nature Study with 13 and 16 year old boys. It has been a great adventure and one I am looking forward to again this year. 

We have not made the Friday Outdoor Hour Challenges a priority over the last year. I’d know what they are, and if they came up in our nature walks, I’d point them out. However, we spent 99.9 percent of our spare time at the beach surfing, so finding most of the items didn’t occur naturally.

That’s not to say we didn’t do any nature studies. My oldest son heard of a spot on the coast called Thor’s Well. He researched it, a secret-ish spot, and tried to figure out the location. This week, after a couple of attempts – we found it.  As you can see, he couldn’t get too close to it, but said that the insides looked fantastic. Fantasy level. The locals call it the Toilet Bowl. It fills up with water, then flushes. Depending on the angle of the wave, once it’s full, you’ll get a decent spout type effect, or at least, as shown below, a pretty good splash. (He is Facing the Well in this Shot.)


As we were walking down, Queen Anne’s Lace was abundant on the trail. My 13 year old son, in a weird accent, started a story – (in the sound of a goofy 13 yr old) “Queen Anne really liked lace and liked this flower. It was hard to grow in England and she had it in her garden. Someone came over and planted it here and it took off as a weed along paths and roads. See the lil dot in the middle – I imagine that it is a prick of blood in the middle, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla (yes he said the bla’s).” Then he says , “There, now you don’t have to tell me the story while we walk down to the Thor’s well.” Ha.


I wanted to share these tiny stories from this week to share that it has been worth it. To learn to identify the world around us. To be able to call a plant by name. To anticipate migration. To be able to identify weather patterns and read the night sky. To know when an animal or insect is out of place. To be able to know what level of tide we are walking on by viewing the types of critters found in the pools. To know where to look for mushrooms depending on the trees and seasons. These create some amazing, along the road, conversations.


This weekend I was able to go back down south for a weekend away with a few friends. An UN Planned weekend to UN. I set a goal to de-tox from all of the crazy 8th and 11th grade planning. It is overwhelming to see the year’s goals as a whole, to see the steps, all lined out. I needed to refocus on the first steps. The first days, just September. I also needed to release my planning. What I mean – is that I needed to be able to breath, and allow my boys to lead. What if what I’ve set a plan in motion, but the third week of September they get a crazy passion they want to pursue? I need to release my plans, and be able to go with the flow of things. A detox.


This is me deboning a chicken for Greek Salad. This is my Detox Face. Ha.



Just before I left, I downloaded the new Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Nature Study Continues e-Book from the Members Area, which houses the Members Area Library.  I wrote down each challenge and the corresponding pages of the Handbook of Nature Study book. I also printed out a page in the “Three Steps to a Better Nature Study” for Advanced Nature Journals. I had these and a few sticky tabs in my book bag.


Am I ever glad I did! I had a quiet afternoon to go through each upcoming challenge. This is why we’ve always enjoyed buying the e-books. I tabbed the challenge by week number in my Handbook of Nature Study book. Then scanned a bit of the information in the book and highlighted any questions or interesting facts that caught my eye. It was quick, not too much time or thought. I had a mental image for where these items could be found in my yard, neighborhood or county. Now that I know where the focus may be this summer, if we are walking along and I see an object, we can study it right then, and come home and work on the research later.

Although we have these items to be intentional with each week, we are always open to using this style of study for any object that holds our curiosity.

I enjoyed the Advanced Nature Journals page. We are going to have a co-op with a few older teens that have never done Nature Studies before, at least not with intention. The list of Additional Tips are spot on. Even though it says For the Parents, I think I’ll use it as an introduction to what we’ll be doing. I am also grateful for the For the Student part at the bottom. It is a checklist of things to remember that can be included in nature journal entries. If you are new to nature journals, a big blank page is – well, a big blank page.

A couple of years ago the Outdoor Hour Challenge started giving Advanced Ideas for study for their challenges. Each year that has developed. For every challenge this Autumn, there is a beginner notebooking page and an advanced notebooking page. I love how the boxes help the learner along giving them ideas to research in the field guides once we get home. I feel that it helps move more into botany, geology, animal studies, etc. We count this towards our science time for a well rounded education. Again, since we’ll have  few new teens this year, it will help them to see how to pursue notebooking. My youngest son still prefers to answer his own questions on a blank journal page, my oldest enjoys the challenge of finding the answers to the questions in the Handbook of Nature Study book and the Advanced Notebooking pages.


And that was one of the reasons I allowed us to back off last year. It became Mama Led, and not student enjoyed. It was forced nature observation. Anna Botsford Comstock advises not to pull a child along into nature studies. My now 13 year old was a bit too old for simple nature journals, yet too young, maturity, to enjoy the advanced pages. His mind has become all the more curious, and simple details no longer satisfy. I think he is going to love diving into field guides. The teens we will be with are also quite chatty and enjoy sharing their interests with each other. I look forward to providing a lot of supplies and then sitting back and enjoying the conversations.


Oh – and on the way home – it was low tide, so we got to walk down and peek into Thor’s Well, or the Toilet Bowl. Wish I had a video of this, you can search on You Tube for one. It is pretty amazing to watch this fill, and then suddenly empty. It is still half full in this shot. Plunge, then fill fill fill fill, Plunge. Nature – never a boring topic of study.

Please head over to the and sign up for their newsletter – upper left hand corner. If you join their mailing list, you’ll get the challenges sent to your e-mail each Friday. You will not get the Advanced notebooking pages with that email. If you’d like the whole package, please look at the Members Options. It is a new part of her New site. But now, instead of buying each e-book each season – you have access to ALL of them as a member. Different member levels. I am not an affiliate, and I actually haven’t spent tons of time on the new site – but I can answer questions, and I know who to ask for those I don’t know.

This is not a review of the site – but just the how and why I chose to set the Autumn Studies as intentional learning for this next term of school. OH – and another thing that stopped it, the challenges are on Friday, and our local schools did not have school on Friday. So we surfed almost every Friday last fall. Once we were not in the habit of being intentional – it was super hard to pick up. This year, our local kids will be in school Mon-Friday so we can hold that day for nature field trips!

Be Intentional!

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
This entry was posted in Beach Schooling, Lake Schooling, Outoor Hour Challenge, Some Schooling and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Nature Study Planning for High School

  1. Carla says:

    I enjoyed reading through your planning process. There is always good inspiration with the Outdoor Hour Challenges! Have fun surfing!

  2. Ann says:

    Enjoyed reading this post – especially because my daughters are getting older as well (13 and 11) and I’m looking for ideas for nature study for the upcoming year.

  3. Kerry says:

    It is so nice to hear what you are doing with your boys. I will also using nature study with my 8th grader!

  4. harmonyartmom says:

    Angie…love this entry. You make me feel so much better about what I do with the OHC, especially from a mom’s point of view. Loosely planning the challenges is really the way to go and then to let things unfold naturally. If you don’t get a topic this year, then it will be just as good next year or the next. I look forward to seeing any of the challenges you share in the up-coming months.
    Plus, love the glimpse into your OR coast…missed our trip this summer to the coast but there is a chance we will get their later this year.

  5. Jon just had a year that all he wanted to do was learn about surfing. I’m excited. Even if the boys shy away from some of the notebooking – I am going to encourage them to pursue it – we’ll be low on any other academic goals on Friday. and I am excited to do it, even alone!

  6. Eva Varga says:

    I haven’t downloaded the new eBook … excited to do so now. Middle School is a blast already! 🙂

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