How to Start Nature Study?

I spent most of my growing up years in Saudi Arabia. Whilst I daily thank Allah for the parents I have and I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for the world, my exposure to nature was limited to desert trips in the cooler months and outings on holidays abroad in the UK, Singapore, and Malaysia.As the seeds were already planted by my parents despite where we grew up, the naturalist in me knew that it was something I desperately wanted to teach my children as it is through observing Allah’s creation that they will know Allah -subhanahu wa talaa-, but how? and where do i start?About a year ago I started looking online for Nature Study Curriculums to start with the children, and I stumbled upon the Exploring Nature With Children curriculum by raisinglittleshoots (it is a Charlotte Mason curriculum although i personally do not follow any particular homeschool philosophy). Mind you, I hadn’t discovered the homeschooling community on social media at this point. I bought it, started the same week, and haven’t turned back since.

Its simple enough to follow if you’re starting from scratch, and whilst its subject is the study of nature in the UK there is something in there for all sorts of climates and nature. Its very easy to adapt and over the year i have imagined tweaking many of the units to suit places like Saudi, where I grew up. There is nature everywhere, you just have to step out of the four walls of your house and pay closer attention to it, the grass, the sand, the trees, the desert, the soil, the leaves, the sounds, and the stones. These nature outings forced us out of the house, because you are to observe and examine firsthand, then learn more about them through reading, etc. Before we started, I never really knew what to do with the 101 nature finds like twigs, pebbles, and seashells the children would bring home. well, we’d almost always use them for crafts but that was it.  With the introduction of nature study into our school week, we set up a nature table to display their finds, so I no longer see filled pockets as a nuisance, rather as a collection to be displayed, observed, and played with. Conkers become food to cook and serve, the twigs arranged in a certain way is the pretend fire, and pebbles in bottles become rattles for their soft toys, or counting beads during school time. Children become so much more creative when playing with natural items because it forces them to use their imagination in a way a plastic toy kettle with a 1000 noises doesn’t.

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Because nature study is a new experience for me too, I am as fascinated as my children (sometimes more) by our finds, discoveries, and observations. We have become as a family so much more observant to nature. Every leaf or seashell the children pick up is a chance to examine, feel, and identify. We have learnt the names of all the trees in the neighborhood, and have developed a deep sense of attachment to them. Nature study seeks to instill a deep sense of observation and wonder into our children about this earth that Allah has created for us.

When I am planning the lesson for our weekly nature outing, I always try to find verses from the Quraan about the topic on hand, print them, and go through the tafseer (explanation) as we are observing and learning.  We then listen to a recitation of the verses as we are crafting, and usually by the end of the unit, the children will have them memorised partially, if not whole. My mother recently reminded me that my father had printed the following verse from Aal Imran and glued it to the inside flaps of all our living books as children:

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. (3:190)”.

This beautiful earth Allah has given us is an Amaanah, a trust, and the only way our children are going to look after it is if they love it first, and they can’t love it without knowing it. So take the children off the iPads, off the phones and screens, and let them out to wonder..