For the past three years of teaching school at my house, part of our day has been filled with "Nature Study." It basically means what it's called- it's a time to study nature- in your backyard, in your neighborhood, at the park, etc. Every week we take a 10-20 minute walk around our neighborhood- observing, hunting, chasing, discovering, feeling, smelling, and listening. The children have a journal where they can draw/sketch/paint their findings in, which ranges from pressed flowers and leaves, along with pictures and sometimes a poem or two. Even if you are not homeschooling or have kids that are school-age, I'd encourage you to mark out a time with you and your family- or even if it's just you!
I will admit that I've had a hard time knowing what to do each week, but through the recommendation of a friend, I've been following the "Outdoor Hour Challenges" that you can find on this website. It's based on a wonderful book that I think every family should have: Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. This book is an amazing reference that really comes in handy!
We complete one challenge a week, which is our walk one day and then an entry into our journal (if we want/need to) on another day. The challenges are really simple, but I like them so much because it helps to put a focus on things. On the website, you can find all the challenges on the right hand side, starting with challenge #1 and then tons more. You can also see what other families and schools are doing on their walks.
I have a table in the schoolroom designated for things we find on our walks. It's neat to see how the table changes through the seasons, and I'm sure everyone has a spot somewhere in their house where you could do this. Even though there are some days where I might not be in the mood to go traipsing through our neighborhood, it's amazing what a little fresh air can do - and needless to say, there are cheers from all the girls when they hear that it's time for our nature walk. We need to be out there, and if you're in our neck of the woods, we'd love to see you out there, too. Who knows what we'll find?
PS...Along with The Handbook of Nature Study, I've loved these Take-Along Guides. They're perfect for younger children and have helped us identify many things, like a Northern Cardinal's egg and nest. We've also used this guide and this guide on our walks - they're small enough to take along in your pocket!