Nature Study Themes for Spring

Boy enjoying nature study in the spring
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When spring fever hits and you're ready to get outside because you've been suffering from cabin fever for months, do it! Let nature guide your homeschool with these awesome nature study themes for spring.

Birds

Spring is a fascinating time to take up bird-watching and it doesn’t take much to attract birds to your yard. If you provide them with what they’re searching for, they will find you. Make sure your yard offers:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter

An optional bonus is to provide nest-making material. Food can be offered in store-bought bird feeders or you can make a simple homemade bird feeder out of an orange, a bagel, a plastic bottle, or a pine cone.

A bird bath provides water for drinking and preening. We used a shallow dish and a pedestal intended for a potted plant to create a simple, economical homemade bird bath.

Give your feathered visitors a sense of safety by placing feeders and bird baths near bushes and trees to provide a quick getaway in the event that a predator shows up.

Once you attract birds to your yard, you’re ready to observe them. Get a simple field guide to help you identify the birds that visit. Keep a nature journal of your visitors and learn more about each. What do they like to eat? What is the appearance of both the male and female? Where do they lay their eggs and how many do they lay? You may get lucky and have a pair of birds lay their eggs where you can observe them, too.

Butterflies

Butterflies are one of my favorite springtime nature study themes. If you plan ahead, you can try raising them from the larval stage in order to observe the life cycle of butterflies. Otherwise, take steps to attract butterflies to your yard and start your observations there or take a field trip to a butterfly house.

If you’re excited to observe both birds and butterflies to your yard, consider setting up separate areas for attracting and observing each. If you don’t, things might not end well for the caterpillars and butterflies that you’re hoping to enjoy.

As with birds, a field guide and nature journal come in handy. Consider the following suggestions in order to make the most of your butterfly study:

  • Discuss with your children the differences between butterflies and moths.
  • Check out books about butterflies. One of our family’s favorites for young children is Are You a Butterfly? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries.
  • Do a butterfly life cycle craft.

Bees

Bees are another springtime favorite for me. With plants in bloom and pollen high, spring is an ideal time to watch bees going about their work.

Help your children understand the vital role that honey bees play in the pollination process. Learn the role of each bee in the colony. As you see bees going about their work, try to take a peek at them. Are they covered in pollen? Can you see their pollen sacks?

Try to arrange a trip to see a bee hive in action and speak to the beekeeper about what he does. It’s fascinating to watch the bees go about their work in their hive if you have an opportunity to observe one.

Learn how bees make honey and sample some. Once you’re home, try some bee-themed worksheets or bee crafts, just for fun.

Flowers and Trees

The new life on all the trees and plants makes spring an ideal time to begin a nature study of those in your area. We have several evergreen trees in our yard and even they are sporting new growth that novice observers like my own family can easily spot.

Try the following activities this spring:

  • Learn the difference between conifer and deciduous, annual and perennial. Find examples of each and sketch them in your nature journal.
  • Learn the parts of a flower. Add sketches of the examples you find to your nature journal.
  • Choose a particular tree or flower to observe throughout the season. Sketch it each time you observe it and note the changes you see.
  • Check out books from your library to learn more about trees. We really like Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees by Jim Arnosky for younger kids. (He has a title about birds, too.)

    If the trees and plants in your backyard are limited, try a park or nature center.

    Pond Life

    Ponds are teeming with life in the spring and make a wonderful spot to study nature. If you have easy access to a pond, you can:

    • Look for frog eggs and/or tadpoles. You may also be able to purchase them from a fish store to observe at home in a fish tank until they’re ready for release. Just be sure you know how to care for them and provide a rock for the young frogs to climb on as they begin to transition from tadpole to frog.
    • Discuss the differences between frogs and toads with your kids. (And read some Frog and Toad books. They're family favorites!)
    • Observe baby ducks and geese.
    • Observe and identify the plant life around the pond.
    • Look for signs of life in the mud surrounding the pond. Do you see any animal tracks? Pull our your field guide and try to identify them or take photos so you can try to identify the tracks once you’re back home.
    • Observe the insect life.

    After a winter of being cooped up inside, you’re probably as anxious to get outside as your kids are. Take advantage of the moderate temperatures and budding life of spring to get out and immerse yourself in nature study!