Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Nature Curriculum

Last year I purchased a science textbook to use as a guide for what my son (9yrs) "could" learn however we never used the textbook. Instead we spent the last year learning science and other subjects, through nature. So this year my son wants to do the same thing and use what he calls The Nature Curriculum. The nature curriculum doesn't involve textbooks, worksheets or a sequencing scope but instead supports the interest of the learner while encouraging a connection with nature and a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world around them.

Why use the Nature Curriculum
There are so many benefits for getting children outside and into nature not just for their health and well being but also for learning. Learning from nature encourages a sense of wonder and amazement as children learn about different animals, their habitats and the different environments in which they live. The ladies over at 100 Hours Outside blog have talked about 100 Reasons to Spend 1000 Hours Outside which gives reasons why being outside are good for children's well being.

How to use the Nature Curriculum
One of the best things about using the nature curriculum is that it is completely child-led. When my children are out in nature there is always something that captures their interest such as a beautiful flower, a butterfly or bird, a plant or bugs that are crawling around. This child-led curiosity generally leads to beautiful conversations between my children and I where the scientific process is used and a deeper understanding is gained. 

Children naturally use the scientific process when they discover something. This process usually starts with an observation of something followed by  questions, make a hypothesis, conduct experiment or research about their questions, draw conclusions on what they've seen and learnt, and reporting their findings to those around them. 

How Nature Covers Different Subjects

If I had to put the nature curriculum into subject areas, it would easily cover quite a few. So here are some of the ways we have used the nature curriculum last year and the ways we plan to use it again this year to cover science and other subjects.

Earth Science can be explored through nature by topics such as weather. Watching a storm build up and roll in can provoke questions about about clouds, the water cycle, how to record rainfall, where air and wind comes from and why the seasons change. Other earth science related activities would include flora and fauna. This year my son wants to learn more about the flora and fauna of Australia and has already started with collecting and pressing different flowers and leaves.

When we have been on nature walks, family picnics, camping trips or travelling across the country, my children love to collect different nature items such as shells and rocks. Having a nature table where children can leave their collected items so they can return to them later, plays an important roll in supporting learning through nature. 

At different times collecting rocks has brought about discussions on different environments, how rocks are formed and the rock cycle, volcanoes and layers of the earth. Other ways to learn about earth science through nature is by scavenger hunts, being involved in bush care projects, wildlife centres and visiting different national parks. Last year we were able to visited a range of different national parks, such as a one below, for our children to explore and engage in nature. They were amazed to find sand at this gorge we visited as they only thought sand was found at the beach so lots of learning for everyone.

Space Science has always been an area of interest for my son so learning about space has come about naturally. Spending time star gazing in the evening and watching the moon rise can easily encourage questions and curiosity about space as well as visiting planetariums together. Further learning about the constellations, phrases of the moon and the solar system can be explored when spending time observing the sky at night.   

This last year we saw two lunar eclipse with one eclipse producing a blood moon for us to observe. We also observed a beautiful honey coloured moon which was absolutely specular!  

Biological Science can be learnt as children discover animals by exploring animal groups, their different anatomy, life cycles, their diets and general habits. Some of the animals we have seen and learnt about include turtles, birds, ladybugs, moths, butterflies, spiders and grasshoppers. We are hoping, in the next year or two, to raise some baby chicks and baby goats but at the moment we are learning about frogs.

Life cycles can also be explored by gardening with children. Observing how plants grow from tiny seeds to blooming flowers and picking fruits and vegetables from your garden is such as beautiful way to learn together about life cycles and where our food comes from. We have successfully grown our own watermelons this summer as well as some potted tomatoes. It has been wonderful to watch the changes that have taken place in our plants as well as watching my children care for their garden and experiencing the joy of eating what they have grown.

Chemical Science is an area that we have explored by composting our kitchen waste. This year we plan to explore compost chemistry and microbe management further by looking at microbes. Other projects such as worm farms, growing crystals, growing bacteria, experimenting in mud kitchens with loose parts and a range of different liquids and materials, are also great ways to learn about chemical science through nature.

Literacy is always involved with the nature curriculum as we keep nature journal for recording learning and discoveries. Nature journals are also a fantastic way to encourage writing recounts, observations and thoughts as well as drawing diagrams and sketches. Our nature journalling this year has started with sketches and diagrams of our growing tadpoles. 

Reading is always involved in learning as it's a way of researching questions and finding answers. We use a range of Steve Parish books as they have beautiful photographs and information on Australian animals and birds. We also have made good use of the FREE Field Guide to NT Fauna app for the ipad as we research different animals to identify them and find out more about them.

Technology and Design for us, is all about using recycled natural materials to make something new. My son has plans this year to build a bird nesting box from a range of recycled wood. He has already drawn up plans with measurements on how he wants to do this and has researched which birds may use a nesting box.

I hope this has given you some idea about how to use the nature curriculum to learn not just about science but a range of subject areas and to explore them in depth. You can follow along and see how we continue to use The Nature Curriculum this year for learning on Facebook and Instagram

 "Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters" - St Bernard of Claurvaix

This blog post has been linked up with:
Stem Saturday - Blog Hop and Link Up 


  1. This sounds magnificent. There is endless inspiration in nature. You wont be able to help but have fun.

    1. Learning should be fun right?! It is a wonderful way to learn.

  2. What a beautiful post! Loved the pictures and this curriculum!

  3. Great post! We've been enjoying child-led nature learning all year! Beautiful photos! I'd love for you to come link up at STEM Saturday!

    1. Thank you! I've linked up this post you STEM Saturday. It's wonderful to hear that you too are enjoying child-led learning through nature.

  4. I love what you do! Incredible! Thanks for being such a fount of information! :) x

  5. amazing pictures! thanks for sharing..

  6. It is so much fun to watch children learn things they enjoy. Great ideas and examples. :)

    1. It sure is! Thank you for your lovely comment :)