Thursday 24 May 2018

Australian Nature Study Guide Volume 1 Review

Ever since I read Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion (Chapter 33 Nature Study, Chapter 34 - Nature for City Children and Chapter 35 - Neighbourhood Nature Study) I have had a love affair with the idea of Nature Study and Nature Journaling. I even gathered a whole list of  Resources for Nature Journaling. After discovering a few wonderful blogs showing how to do nature study as well as the Handbook of Nature Study Home of the Outdoor Challenge I was even more inspired, I did not however follow through because all the challenges were Northern Hemisphere challenges.  Due to the demands of marriage, motherhood and home education I just did not have the energy or time reserves to develop our own Southern Hemisphere equivalent.  I was so excited and relieved earlier this year when I discovered Nature Study Australia which is hosted by Marie, a fellow veteran home educating Mom here in Australia.

Marie had been educating for a few years and was feeling burnt out when she was introduced to a Charlotte Mason educational philosophy and as such implemented the gentle arts into her home school. As her homeschool took on this new way of learning she found it was important to become organised before each study so that they did not run down rabbit trails and become despondent due to no direction.
As a busy mum, I appreciate the time I save by out sourcing resources, and this is one of the reasons I’ve written the Australian Nature Study Guide for Aussie mums and dads, who love the idea of nature science, but need the encouragement and resources to get started. - Marie
 After discovering this wonderful resource I contacted Marie via Instagram and asked her if she had any samples available for review.  She kindly blessed our family with Volume 1 of the Australian Nature Study Guide Summer/Autumn edition and Free Notebook Pages (Advanced, Intermediate and Kinda).

The guide contains
  • 68 pages
  • Five weeks of summer study covering
    • Honeybees
    • Blue Tongue Lizard
    • Summer Tree Study
    • Spotted Grass Frog
    • Jacky Winter
  • Five weeks of Autumn study covering
    • Kangaroo Apple
    • Bandicoot
    • Autumnal Equinox
    • Emperor Gum Moth
    • Golden Orb Weaver Spider
  • Starting Out Guide
  • Optional Gear for Nature Exploration list
  • Ideas on starting a Nature Journal both for basic and advanced journaling
  • Each week of study contains
    • an introduction
    • colour photograph of the thing you are focusing on that week
    • Ideas for further exploration
    • Related Internet links
    • Nature Ramble Ideas
    • Recommended Literature
    • Non Fiction Ideas
    • Poetry
    • Scripture
    • Hymn
    • Picture Study
    • Digging Deeper (for younger, older and oldest students)
  • Additional Activities contains ideas from expanding your nature studies at home 
  • Resource List - contains a list of wonderful books to collect to enhance your nature studies at home. (Field Guides, Amazing Fact Series, Nature Journaling, Poem books, etc)

How a study works
Since it was Autumn we jumped in on the first week of Autumn studies, Week Six, page 34 - Kangaroo Apple. Being an immigrant it was fun to learn that the local Aboriginal people call this a Bush Tomato and that it is a part of their bush tucker menu in the drier parts of Australia.

Marie does not dumb down her introductions and uses enough scientific jargon along with explanations to keep the information both interesting and relevant.  For example she explains that the Kangaroo Apple plant in hermaphroditic meaning that it contains both male and female organs.

My husband is a passionate bird photographer and he was very impressed with the introduction to the Jacky Winter in Week five.

As we read through the information provided there were a few Internet linked recommendations to books and YouTube clips which helped us to learn more about the item of study.

In the Nature Ramble section there were recommendations on where to go and look for a Kangaroo Apple along with ideas of what to do on your walk.  There are some questions to use to expand the experience and help both you and your children appreciate the experience more deeply.

Being a passionate book enthusiast I have greatly enjoyed the Literature Jaunt sections in each study. A couple of lovely discoveries have been: Wild Food Plants of Australia and the very beautiful Bush Seasons by Joan Semmens. I appreciate these recommendations as I do not need to seek out relevant books in our local library I can simply log in from home and request the books on the list for pick up.

Each of the poems in the Poetry Picnic have been Internet linked and are just beautiful. I have not had to seek out the recommended poem or book to find it.  The same goes for the Hymn each week.  Marie provides links to the lyrics, music and instrumental pieces.  I have found some new albums to add to our listening pleasure on Spotify from her recommendations.

I am a huge fan of beautiful art and pictures to fill the minds of both children and adults alike.  Each week in the Picture Study area Marie provides a Internet linked picture.  For the Kangaroo Apple she recommended this beautiful painting by Louisa Anne Meredith.  This beautiful painting is from 1891 and illustrates the leaves, flowers and fruit.

In the Digging Deeper sections there are some wonderful ideas to broaden your students learning and includes some wonderful resources to help you learn some new drawing or painting skills such as this YouTube clip on painting foliage in water colour.  Since we are new to Nature Journaling I chose to start Nathaniel off slowly and asked him to simply draw a Kangaroo Apple. I was rather impressed with his first attempt.

Scattered throughout the book are quotes such as this one:
"A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning." - Brad Henry
 There is no planning neccessary other than getting in books from the library to expand your experience should you wish to.

Notebook Pages
There are three separate levels of Notebook pages: Kinda, Intermediate and Advanced.
  • 13 pages
  • Sunrise/sunset record chart
  • Cover page to colour
  • PDF Format 

Each of the Nature Journal books is beautifully presented.  Above is a sample comparison of week 6 Bush Food page.  From left to right Kinda, Intermediate and Advanced. Click on the image to see it full sized.

 Australian Nature Guides Available for Purchase
Photograph by Nature Study Australia

Connect with Nature Study Australia on Social Media
Final Thoughts
Nature Study Australia's blog is inspirational, Marie shares some wonderful information on Australian Fauna, Flora, Seasons and Backyard . Recently I was inspired to make a Phenology Wheel after seeing one on the blog.

I highly recommend you subscribe to their news letter your in box will not be inundated with junk, you will however be blessed with free resources and a once a month news letter with relevant information pertaining to our current season here in Australia. It's also a great way to know when the new volumes are released!

I LOVE the Australian Nature Study Guides and am looking forward to purchasing the future Volumes as they become available later this year.


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