Love your farm: nature research books that set off "appreciation for creation"
Natural history … or appreciation of creation?
I am a nature study junkie. And my children have been with me since they were born. It is so much a part of our life that walking with it can be very annoying. Hm.
We have to reclaim the "study of nature" and call it "appreciation of creation".
Studying nature (or appreciation of creation) is a wonderful opportunity to get to know our creator better. His creation is really great. The order inherent in nature testifies to its design and sovereignty over every detail; Google the Fibonacci number and flowers, pine cones or shells and let yourself be surprised. If we ever needed to be reminded that the Lord is in control of nature, including things that we cannot see (like germs), it is this year.
Butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, ladybugs, beetles and honeybees have amazingly beautiful and complex bodies. Watch a group of ants march in an orderly fashion, each carrying a tiny piece of food. Pull apart a dandelion and marvel at its construction. Watch the trees change color as the seasons change and be amazed that God made these giant plants grow out of water and sunlight.
Natural history in YOUR back yard: love your street
It is likely that all personal trainings will look dramatically different this fall. Natural history is a small thing that you can add to your day at home to focus your thoughts on our great gentleman and help everyone to undress, whether you're officially teaching at home, attending a virtual school, or go to school personally.
The good news is that you can appreciate God's creation from your dining room window, in your own garden, or simply by walking down the street. You don't need access to a lush park system or nature trails.
Use books to arouse appreciation of creation (or "nature study")
The best books for this are those that make us learn more about the natural world and not those that offer scripting activities. Read the naturalists' joy in their surroundings and then look out of your own window. Learn about different birds and then see which you can find in your own garden.
Read the psalms alongside. So many psalms praise the Lord for his creation!
Many of the following books contain some Darwinism / Evolution language, but it is minimal and / or the book is still worth reading.
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Nature study books that trigger the appreciation of creation
Nature study gold standard
Anna Botsford Comstock's Nature Study Guide. This is a HUGE doorstop of a book. DO NOT READ IT COVER TO COVER. Read the introductory materials (worth the price of the book). Before going outside with your kids, fly over the section of a particular flower, bird, or insect and ask some interesting questions. If you're traveling with your kids, use these questions to help them notice more details. The print version of this book is far better than on Kindle. See the John Muir Laws titles below for additional resources on teaching nature studies.
Nature study books for younger children
A small square: Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne's back yard. So much to discover in a small space in your own back yard! This book is full of activities and observations.
Living in a bucket of soil by Alvin Silverstein and Virginia Silverstein. Perfect for children who like to dig in the dirt – they will be amazed at what lives in this bucket of earth.
The Burgess bird book for children by Thornton Burgess. Place a bird feeder in front of your dining room window and you can do nature studies without leaving the house! Children love bird watching, and this classic book is a perfect companion.
Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Halperin. Beautiful, delicate illustrations show the many ways in which seeds are distributed in the wild. This is a good read in autumn when so many plants distribute their seeds!
James Herriot's treasure trove for children by James Herriot. Even your pets can provide "nature study" feed, and there is no one better than James Herriot to spark your interest in the eccentricities of your cat or dog companion (or farm animal).
There are picture books on every imaginable topic of nature. When your local library is open, ask your librarian for the locations of books on birds, insects, weather, and more.
Nature study books for middle classes
Sy Montgomery's Tarantula scientist and others in the Scientists in the Field Series. This series is a fascinating look at scientists doing what scientists do: observing, making hypotheses, drawing conclusions, researching, and more.
The tree book for children and their adults by Gina Ingoglia. Nice drawings and a large picture book format make this a great introduction to botany and the study of trees.
The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley (and others from Sibley, Audubon Society, Peterson, etc.). When children are in upper elementary / middle school, they love knowing the names of things, recognizing them, thinking about the Latin scientific names, and more. Field leaders are a must. Depending on the interests of your children, there are field guides for:
- Birds (Audubon has colored photos; Sibley guides have more helpful drawings – as well as drawings of teenagers / men / women.
- and more!
We recommend the Peterson "First Guides" as a good first step if your children are younger, but you will end up collecting lots of guides. Make sure you get a guide for your region.
Nature study books for older children and adolescents
The Bluebird effect: occasional ties with ordinary birds by Julie Zickefoose. Based on her own nature journals, Zickefoose dedicates each chapter to a particular bird that she has observed in her garden / region. Your illustrations are very beautiful. See also Baby Birds by the same author.
The everyday secrets of nature from Sy Montgomery. A wonderful view of the flora and fauna in the backyard of this naturalist. Look for a used copy!
Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. This book is a modern nature conservation classic and contains the original almanac and additional essays by Leopold. Thought-provoking and much more balanced than many contemporary conservation books.
Another shade of green from Gordon Wilson. Wilson is behind that Riot and the dance films, so his name can be familiar to you. This is a Christian view of nature conservation and environmental protection, and it's worth reading. I wish he had added more practical tips on how to work out his philosophical recommendations, but it's an excellent companion to read something like Sand County Almanac.
A walk through the year by Edwin Way Teale. Daily reflections on Teales Farm and the surrounding landscape. This will make your teenagers (and you) notice what is going on around them in the usual ebb and flow of the seasons. Teale is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author (for Wandering Through Winter) and it is a pleasure to read him even when he says things that I philosophically disagree with.
Pilgrims on Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This meditative work is another Pulitzer Prize winner and is staged by Tinker Creek in Roanoke, Virginia. Just a stone's throw from Megan and Betsy, where Megan and Betsy graduated from Children's Literature at Hollins University! It is a breathtaking landscape.
Characters and seasons by Jay Ryan. A Christian view of classical astronomy that relies heavily on observations that you can make with the naked eye (no telescope required). Natural history is not limited to what is on site! If you are at home in school, you should accompanying field manual;; Ryan claims the field work is equivalent to a high school lab credit, and this is a lab credit that does not require expensive additional equipment.)
Nature Journaling Books
Keeping a nature journal is not essential, but it can be of great help in observing the life around you!
The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws. A gold standard reference that is both art class and natural history. See also his latest: How to teach nature journal.
Running a nature journal: discover a whole new way of looking at the world around you from Clare Walker Leslie. A wonderful addition to the code and full of examples.
Orienteering type books: natural history as a means of navigation
Find your way without a map or compass from Harold Gatty. Written by an experienced navigator, this is a fascinating look at how the "primitive man" navigated first and how we can apply some similar principles when we find our way in the wild. A little out of date, but the information is a lot of fun, and your kids will test whether they walk in a straight line, follow migratory bird paths, see the direction on trees, and more.
The Lost Art of Reading the Signs of Nature by Tristan Gooley. This is a current bestseller and is likely to be in your local library. I actually prefer the book above, but it is easier to read and covers much of the same content.