Study Bags and Nature Journals

Study Bags and Nature Journals: Study God’s Handiwork in Nature. Nature study ideas for homeschool children.

Study God’s Handiwork in Nature

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Nature study is a wonderful way to “show” God to children and teach them an appreciation and respect for life. All ages can participate at any season, no matter the weather. Looking for tracks in the snow, observing clouds and rainfall, noticing the changing leaves as you slow down and take the time to observe the biggest and tiniest details in nature, you cannot help but see God’s handiwork all around.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7-9 NIV)

Setting up a nature study bag is a great way to have the essentials in one place to pick up and go when the mood strikes.
Keep things simple, and a complete nature study bag can be assembled for little cost. Many items are probably already in your school supply stash.

For younger kids:

  • mesh-type bag, like a beach bag, is easiest to clean when needed
  • nature journal or notebook
  • extra paper
  • pencil pouch
  • good quality color pencils and lead pencil
  • pencil sharpener
  • crayons or crayon rocks for rubbings
  • glue stick
  • specimen bags (zipper-type plastic baggies)
  • a durable magnifying glass for looking at tiny things
  • binoculars for looking at far-away things

Younger kids like to collect rocks, leaves, sticks, cones, and anything else that strikes their fancy, so a larger bag is nice for stashing their treasures. Have young kids do bark rubbings, leaf rubbings, and tracings on paper and then glue these pages into their nature journals. Teach children to be careful with specimens and to “observe, don’t smush” while visiting their home. Talk to them about what they see, hear, smell, and feel.

 For older kids:

  • vinyl art pouch
  • nature journal or notebook
  • good quality color pencils and lead pencil
  • pencil box
  • ruler

Older kids can pay closer attention to detail, and might even want to photograph their observations. With a longer attention span, teens may spend more time perfecting a drawing, and high-quality materials are a worthwhile investment. A compact nature kit is easiest to stash in a backpack for hiking or camping.

Some days call for taking school outside, and nature study can be incorporated into almost every subject. Look at nature from different perspectives. Notice how things look from a distance, through binoculars, and up close. Observe tiny details like color, texture, pattern, and shape.


Study the journals of Lewis and Clark. Take a hike as if you are on an unexplored trail and notice the plants and animals you discover around you. Visit a creek and observe the direction of the current; which ocean does it flow toward? Use a quill pen and ink to record your findings.

Spend time observing backyard birds as John Audubon did, and try to draw a bird both in flight and at rest. Pay close attention to its markings and colors, the shape of its beak, its wing span, what its nest looks like.

Language Arts

Poetry by William Wordsworth might inspire a day observing clouds, flowers, and the countryside. Write your own poem about something you observe in nature.

Beatrix Potter began studying nature as a young girl. Her observations later led to books like The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She painstakingly captured the minute details of insects, mice, and other small animals, as well as flowers. Observe the flowers and small creatures in your backyard and try doing a detailed drawing. Make up a story about your creatures’ adventures.


The Fibonacci Sequence is a series of numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55) that appear in nature over and over again. Observe flower petals, spirals in pinecones, rows of seeds in sunflowers, sea shells, and branch patterns in trees, and record findings in your nature journal.


Learn how to use a field guide to identify plants, insects, and animals. Look at the region map to orient your findings, find a picture in the guide that looks like your specimen, and read the description for identifying features. Once you find your specimen, record the details in your nature journal, including its scientific name. One caveat:  most field guides contain evolutionary content.

Collect specimens to observe under the microscope. What can you find in a drop of pond water? What does a fern frond look like up close?


Collect leaves and use them as rubbing plates. Place them on a flat surface and lay a piece of plain paper over them, taping down the corners. Use crayons or crayon rocks to “rub” a design. Fresh leaves work best.

Tape down a plain sheet of paper and paint one side of a leaf using a paintbrush and acrylic paints. Try mixing colors for different effects. Once the surface is covered, gently press onto the paper. Peel carefully to reveal the “stamped” image. Try painting the tip of a stick, a rock, a piece of pine straw, or a pine cone (roll it). Try doing these on folded cardstock for homemade greeting cards. This is a fun activity to do outside, with wet wipes on hand.

Make a pounded flower bookmark using a cut piece of cardstock. Collect a variety of colors of petals and flowers. One at a time, arrange them on the bookmark, cover with a piece of scrap paper, and gently pound with a rubber mallet. Gently peel away to reveal how the colors dye the paper and gently brush off the debris. Punch a hole through the top and add a piece of scrap ribbon or yarn.

My favorite nature-inspired books to share with children:

Study Bags and Nature Journals: Study God’s Handiwork in Nature. Nature study ideas for homeschool children.

What are your favorite nature study activities? Share your ideas with us in the comments!


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Comments (6)

  1. Cathy

    I love this. Continually keeping the handi work before children pushes their knowledge of him deeper and deeper into their souls. This year in Bible clubs we do in afterschool public schools we are using creation bags during our unit on God Creator King. A lody is making them and we are putting all kinds of neat things in them and will give them away a our start-up conference. Your heart for God and the children is so transparent! Stopping by from Missional Call Linkup. cathy

  2. Anne Campbell

    Thank you so much, Cathy!

  3. Crystal

    Isn’t nature wonderful! You can learn everything you need to know from the world around you! Thanks for the reminder, and keep on having fun learning!

    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      It really is, Crystal. Having time for nature study is one of the best things about homeschooling.

  4. Cee Lee Reed

    What a great idea for kids. They’ll have a blast putting together their nature bags and even more fun when they get to take them out into the wild to track down unsuspecting “nature”. Great way to keep the boredom at bay.

    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thank you, Cee Lee. We have a lot of fun with them and are learning so much about the world and the amazing things in it.


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