Nature Study Activities for Teens - and How to Make it into a High School Elective

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Nature study is not only important for our little ones, it can be a big part of the middle and high school years as well.  It not only adds a lot to your teen's high school science studies, while engendering a love of nature...It can also launch them into other areas of study.

Here are four ways to enjoy nature study and bird watching with your teens, including entering nature contests, creating photo notebooks, making a nature journal,  or even starting a small business project.  These all can earn high school credit at the same time.

In my last post, I talked about birdwatching and science activities for younger kids.  In the elementary years, I gave my daughter a camera, and she soon she began taking pictures of birds...I enjoyed teaching her basic photography principles.  She still loved doing this in middle school.....

That led to a photo contest......

Entering Nature Contests

Cornell Universityan authority on birds and birdwatching, offered a contest that my daughter wanted to enter, with for their bird photography contest.  I helped her to find this, just by googling "nature photography contests".

To find a nature oriented contest for your young teen, Cornell now has a site that lists contests and resources at Young Birders Network.  There are a number of contests here, including the Young Birder of the Year Contest.  

These contests are not just in photography.  They also list art and essay contests related to bird watching.  Lots of choices, if your teen is interested.......

Participating in this contest added a lot to our daughter's self esteem and inspired her to continue to improve her photography skills.  It also gave her something to put under "awards" won, on her college application. 

Another fun activity that she enjoyed, was to make a photography book for bird identification.....

  Creating Photography Books 

My daughter decided to compile her pictures into a notebook of bird photos, using a simple ring notebook, report covers, and her photos, printed on thick printing paper.  This made it a frugal project, as photo quality paper was not needed.  Below, shows how she simply put together her pages...

This kind of notebook became a fun, creative way to share birdwatching with others, inspiring them to begin bird identification activities, too.

Making a Nature Journal

Nature journaling is a wonderful way for your teens to put their drawing, writing and science skills into practice.  Lots of families enjoy doing nature journaling, and there are tons of resources on the web, to help you get started.  Doing a nature journal can foster art skills, essay writing skills, of course nature study and more.

One of my favorites for getting started with a nature journal is this post by

40 Journal Entry Ideas for your Nature Notebooks

Jes, from Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth, offers these 40 beautiful printables for nature journaling, with essay prompts to get you started, and all with a free download.  Thank you, Jes!

Later on, that year, my daughter decided to try her hand at making nature photo cards, and this led to a fun small business project....

Starting a Small Business Project 

My teen learned how to make her nature photo cards, from studying online, and meeting with friends who had done this type of project in the past.  Doing this project gave her practice in a number of organizational skills, including:

selecting and purchasing supplies
organizing and planning
time management
assembling the cards
finding local sales opportunities
deciding on pricing
setting up and selling cards

All of these things are important task skills that teens need to develop.  And isn't it fun to do some of these things with non-academic activities!

Making and selling these cards also introduced her to basic business principles.

There were many places to sell these cards, such as at local consignment stores, church rummage sales, farmer's markets, etc. And they don't have to be just photography cards.  Notecards can also be done through - drawings, paintings, stamping, or collage.  

Making the nature cards, and the other activities mentioned above, easily became a homemade course which earned high school credit....

      Turning it into a Homemade Course

Through the activities listed above, we were easily able to put together a course in nature photography... for high school credit.  It also counted as one of my daughter's fine arts requirements for college admissions.

To make this a high school course, we used the mastery method, and granted her one credit in nature photography.  By earning an award from Cornell's nature contest, and making a notebook of our local birds, with identifications, and participating in nature photography activities and birdwatching over the year, my daughter showed a beginning level of mastery in nature photography.

Please see my post on assigning high school credit for more info.
I loved homeschooling high school, as it not only gave my daughter a solid education, it also built lifelong hobbies and a love of nature and nature study in my graduate.  

Here is the book that we liked using for bird identification........

 Golden's Guide to Field Identification 

What kinds of things do you like to do for nature study and homemade electives in your homeschool?  This post was feature on....

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Happy Birdwatching,


Betsy blogs at BJ's Homeschool , where she writes about high school collegeand all the fun of homeschooling the early years, too.  As a former OT, and a veteran homeschooler, Betsy also offers homeschool help to families 

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  1. Great ideas! I have a nature boy who will probably need this when he gets to high school.

    1. Thanks, Mother of 3, for stopping by! How nice that your son already loves nature. That is wonderful!

  2. You have given some great ideas here Betsey! I am currently teaching a high-schooler and will implement some of this. Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! :)

    1. Thank you JES, from Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth! I hope your high schooler enjoys her nature study activities, and I'll be back to the Art of Home-Making Mondays soon,

  3. Thanks for linking up to the Homestead Blog Hop this week! Great info!

  4. Good morning! Just a little note to let you know that this post has been *featured* today on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! Thank you for joining us and have a beautiful week!

    1. Thank you, JES of Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth, for the feature! I am honored. I will be over at the Art of Home-Making Mondays again, where there are lots of excellent resources each week!

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks and thanks for sharing your resource, too!


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