Nature Study Notesby Stephanie Ward
My oldest sister-in-law, a successful microbiologist, is now a medical writer for one of the nation's top pharmaceutical firms. I once asked her what ignited her interest in science. She attributed it to her family's love of nature. Such simple gifts as her parents' love of bird watching and walks in the woods with her brothers and uncles inspired an abiding love of biology. When she began college, she had little doubt as to her major. In an era when women were not encouraged to pursue scientific professions, she persevered and succeeded in an exciting and challenging field.
Appreciation of science and nature does more than facilitate career possibilities. It certainly offers knowledge and appreciation of science which lays the foundation for later learning in the sciences, including biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and astronomy. It sparks an interest in the natural world, and teaches a child the scientific skills of careful observation and inquiry. It also provides many active, hands-on scientific learning experiences which will continue to blossom long after paper-and-pencil activities have been forgotten.
The scope of these experiences goes well beyond science, however. Charlotte Mason taught that not only is knowledge and appreciation of nature a fundamental part of being in the world, it can teach children the skills of observation and attention, which are essential to all aspects of learning and development.
"It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things ... Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun––the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?
(Volume 1: Home Education, by Charlotte M. Mason, Vol 1, page 62)
Nature study can also nurture a child's social, emotional, and spiritual development. A child's concern over a grounded baby bird, which has not yet mastered the skill of flight, fosters empathy. Exploring nature nourishes us spiritually. It deepens our understanding of God and connects us to the world around us.
Copyright 2004 by Stephanie Ward