A few years ago, when my youngest daughter was 5 years old, I was at the beginning of the homeschool road once again. She would be my last and I knew God wanted me to do things differently this time, but I had no idea what that would be. I just knew I had to seek Him and listen for His voice—He would help us know what to do.
On our first day of Kindergarten, we decided to go for a walk in the nearby hills where we encountered a family of deer, countless lizards, and all sorts of plants and flowers. It was then that I suggested we photograph our nature finds and put them in a notebook.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? (Job 12:7-9).
Fast forward to my daughter’s 3rd grade year…
Inspiration struck again. During a quiet conversation with God, I had the thought to do a new photographic nature study—a Four Seasons Project! It’s a simple activity since all we have to do is locate a variety of plants and shrubs in nature, photograph them, and revisit this foliage during each season. My daughter and I started this project the day before the first day of fall (because the 1st day of fall had too much scheduled already). I can’t wait to see the end product, but we still have 3 more seasons to go.
- A camera
- Several sheets of plain paper
- Clip Board
- Clear tape
- Optional: Single subject notebook (you won’t need all those pages so making your own notebook from stapled pages is fine too)
What To Do
- At the beginning of every season (we started in the fall), go for a walk in a place where there are a variety of plants and trees. You don’t have to go far or live in a rural area to do this—a city park or neighborhood is fine, too.
- Find 5-7 different plants, bushes, and trees to photograph. Choose some that are in bloom and some that aren’t. Also, it’s a good idea to take a close-up as well as one that shows more of the plant.
- Print the pictures and glue them into a notebook you buy or make.
- Wait until the next season comes around and repeat the process—photograph the same plants as before and see how they change throughout the year.
But Wait, There’s More…
There’s another layer of learning and skill-building that can happen here. After all, will you recognize the plants you chose after 3 months have passed? They may have changed considerably. Therefore, on the first day of this project, I recommend also making a map of where you walked. Note with numbers or letters where you took each photograph so you’ll have your map and your photographs to help you find them again.
This is where the clipboard and tape came in – it’s hard to know how big and what shape the map will take. Be prepared to tape on an extra sheet of paper if needed (we ended up needing one extra sheet).
Of course, this isn’t just an activity worthy of primary students. There are ways you can also appeal to older kids. For example, they can use a compass to include the cardinal directions or they can calculate the the angles of the forks in the trail. Maybe older kids could research the types of plants found or extend the study to include animals and bugs.
Whatever we do, it’s important that we listen to the Lord AND to the questions our children ask. You will be awestruck by what the Lord consistently brings to the table in unexpected opportunities and spontaneous lessons.
I’m sure there are more educational benefits than the ones I can think of, but these ones come to mind:
- Strengthening observation skills and attention to detail
- Experiencing the need for maps and their usefulness
- Direction and spatial awareness (What direction is the path turning? (**However, don’t get hung up on scale and angles with younger kids; that’s a lot of complex pieces to put together and you really just want to be able to find your plants again**)
- Discovering some of the different cycles in nature
- Knowledge of local flora and fauna
- Observation of seasonal weather patterns (we also took a picture of what the sky was like when we went)
- Patience – after all, we’ll have to wait almost a year to finish the project