With summer on the way, you may want to do a family project that is both fun and educational. Something that will be a keepsake for years to come and perhaps be a family project every season... How about doing a RELAXED nature study?
I would suggest just a few tools of the trade to get started:
First off, a composition book for each member of the family. This will be the place for you to record your information, sketches, quotes and observations. When finished, this will become a keepsake (don't forget to put the date on the inside cover). I like using composition books because they are cheap (at the back to school sales) but classic and when all is said and done, they look nice and neat on your shelf (or stack neatly in a plastic storage container).
I would then paste a pretty label, sticker or handmade picture on the blank space of each cover to give each family member a sense of ownership and style (nature related of course). Perhaps the clip art above of the young girl with the birds and flowers would be my choice! What about you? What about your children? (Isn't this fun already!)
A magnifying glass would be a useful tool in order to observe any specimens that are too small to get detail. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively. Depending on your budget you can keep a "family" one to share on hand or purchase one per "naturalist".
Besides a pencil and glue stick, I would also add a nice set of quality colored pencils (again, if your budget allows, one set can be shared with the whole family of course). My favorite are the Prismacolor Colored Pencils as they bring such beauty to any page!
At this point you are ready to begin! If you are anything like me, sometimes you need a little inspiration or perhaps you want to keep up a family read-aloud time in your home in the summer. If this is the case, I would recommend a book that you can either read together once a day, once a week or whenever you need ideas for your nature study book entries. We have begun reading The Story Book of Science (Yesterday's Classics) by Jean Henri Fabre. This is an excellent book about nature written by a French naturalist in the early 1900's and is creation based and rich in vocabulary. His love of God and creation are pouring through this little gem of a book and I know you will become inspired as you read through these pages together (you will also grow in vocabulary as well). The author writes about his summer with his nephew and nieces as he educates them about the living world around them in story form which we think is very fun!
For example, the first couple of chapters discuss ants. After this interesting account you will be inspired to go outside and observe them on your own. Draw and color them, label which type of ant they are (a field guide or internet would be helpful in this area) and include a diagram of an ant by labeling the body parts. When everyone is hot and sweaty, come back into the house and find the Bible verse about ants to include as another nature study book entry (Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard...). Discuss what it means to be an ant (productive, provident, steadfast) and how we can learn from them. You can purchase The Story Book of Science (Yesterday's Classics) to add to your home library or use this link to view online for FREE (or perhaps you already have some books that inspire you about nature in your own home already).
Maybe it is just too hot outside and you want to do an "indoor"nature study entry. Consider the chapters in The Story Book of Science (Yesterday's Classics) on volcanoes (or any other chapter with a subject that won't be available on your back porch) and do a different type of entry based on the authors information rather than what you are gathering outside. Draw a volcano and diagram it. Include a list of volcanoes in your notebook (each family member can see if they can come up with one based on what they already know or learned about). Discuss the idea that Sodom and Gomorrah may have been destroyed by a volcano and why obedience to God is important.
Take it with you on your vacation! Include samples of the nature around you such as pasting in photographs of pretty shells you find on the beach (don't forget to find a field guide and label it when you get home!) Or include tree bark rubbings (cut and paste into nature book once done, find in field guide/online and label tree when you get home)... Include a poem about trees next to your entry... Pressed flowers or leaves you find can be added and pasted in... Include a Bible verse about flowers right next to your entry on flowers, etc.
I think you get the idea. By the time summer is over you will have a treasury of pictures, lists, diagrams, poems and Bible verses all about nature and all recorded inside one volume (not to mention all the quality time spent discussing as a family the various concepts and lessons). This will be something to review and appreciate in the years to come! Perhaps you will continue the study every summer. Perhaps you will continue throughout the year. However it works for your family, one thing is for certain, Nature Study Journals would only take about an hour a day but the growth and fellowship will last a life time!
"But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall teach thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee; Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." ~ Job 12:7-10