Living books and nature study go hand-in-hand

Living books and Nature Study – An educational match made in heaven {Sassafras Science}Often we look at living books and nature study as the fun extras of science education. The icing on the cake so to speak.

The two sure taste good, but living books and nature study can’t possibly have the substance we need to teach science, right?

The truth is that you can easily teach elementary and middle school science with just these two tools in your arsenal.

Today, I want to share with you today how living books and nature study can fit together to form a complete picture of science education.

Before I really get into the meat of how these two resources can work together, let’s chat about what makes a living book along with what nature study is.

What is a Living Book?

Here’s how I like to define a living book:

“A living book is a book that engages the reader and draws them into learning more about a certain subject.”

These three factors are what makes a living book truly great:

  • It is written by someone with a passion for the material or by someone who has experienced the story first hand.
  • The author pulls the reader into the story.
  • The writer presents the scientific or historical facts in such a way that the student hardly realizes they are learning.

When choosing a living book for science, you need to look two key elements:

  1. Choose books that will engage the students. In other words, books that are interesting, exciting, and/or visually-appealing)
  2. Choose books that are educational sound. In other words, the facts included are accurate and relevant.

Living books teach your students about a subject in a way that no textbook ever could.

What is Nature Study?

Nature study is a style of science education that seeks to find the principles of science in nature. Which is just a fancy way of saying that nature study is purposely looking for science in the nature we pass by every single day.

The beauty of nature study is that it awakens the scientific side of the brain the way a good book can awaken the imagination. Just read what one it the leading authorities on nature study has to:

Nature study cultivates the child’s imagination… there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore, at the same time nature study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true, and the power to express it… Nature study gives the child practical and helpful knowledge. It makes him familiar with nature’s ways and forces, so that he is not so helpless in the presence of natural misfortune and disasters.” pg. 1 Handbook of Nature Study

In other words, nature study teaches the student to slow down and really look at their environment. To find the beauty of science in their everyday world.

How can the two fit together?

Here’s a glimpse at how you can structure your week using both living books and nature study.

With Younger Students

  1. Read and enjoy a living book.
  2. At the end of your reading time, have the students answer some questions or tell you about what was read.
  3. Head outside to find the principles you just read about in nature.
  4. Have the students sketch something they have seen and write any information they have learned from the nature study one the journal page.

With Older Students

  1. Read and enjoy a living book (either together as a family or on their own).
  2. Have the students write a bit about what they have learned in the form of a written narration, a summary of the chapter, or a bullet-point list of the facts they learned.
  3. Head outside to find the principles you just read about in nature.
  4. Have the students sketch something they have seen and write any information they have learned from the nature study one the journal page.
  5. Have the students read and/or research a bit more about what they are learning in other relevant non-fiction books.

Final Thoughts

When you use living books and nature study to teach science, you will not only awaken the student’s imagination, but you will also open the other side of their brain to the principles of science.

The two are an educational match made in heaven – a partnership that will most certainly prepare your students for high school and beyond.

by Paige Hudson

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