Wednesday, February 25, 2009

REVIEW: Enjoying "Outdoor Hour Challenges" Too Much ...

We have been so busy enjoying this lovely book written by Harmony Art Mom that we had difficulty finding time to write a proper review. But according to my promise, the Cherubs and I have now written a full review.


First, we want to say that you and your students will thoroughly enjoy this well written, easy-to-use book whether you are seasoned nature-journalers, novices just getting started, or simply curious about Nature Study.

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We have been doing Nature Walks and have been keeping Nature Journals for several years now. We are very well acquainted with The Handbook Of Nature Study (Comstock), and also have gathered a good collection of other resources including Nature Guides. However, the Comstock handbook (for which there is a link in the book to read free online) is used with the OUTDOOR HOUR CHALLENGES, and is more than suitable for a family who does not have additional resources on hand, and also for a family just "testing the waters" of Nature Study. There are also some great websites listed at the back of the book (free resources) for help with identifications and additional information. The lists of resources included at the back of the book is quite extensive, which will make beginning this Nature Study Adventure easier for all involved.

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Because we are a family with 7 (and possibly 8 when dad joins us) , we printed this book (46 black/white and color pages). We read through the GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS and HOW TO GET STARTED pages first, which would be particularly helpful to those new to Nature Study. For each Challenge, we began by reading aloud each challenge and it's components. Then we proceeded with our walks and challenges. We would work on our Journal entries at various times - sometimes "on site" and sometimes when we returned home after walking. We agreed that this book would be simple to use on the computer only, but we have a "preference" for printed resources.

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The included Notebook pages are great. There is a wonderful variety of page styles, and many pages even include suggested information to include. The Journal pages included (26 black/white pages) are lovely and are simple to use. (I would recommend printing them on heavy paper or cardstock for durability.) I spent a lot of time, long ago, making and collecting these types of pages, at the beginning of our Nature Study adventure. Harmony Art Mom has removed that "work" by including them with this book, which is fantastic. These days we prefer to use sketch paper (heavy). On these pages we include written information as well as sketches. Then we insert our journal pages into page protectors, and keep them in a loose-leaf notebook. We decided on this sketch paper method because we have several left-handed children, for whom "bound" books prove cumbersome and difficult. These included Nature Journal Pages could be put into page protectors and into notebook, could be hole punched nad put into notebooks, or could be used "loose". The choice is up to the user, which makes this a great resource. Harmony Art Mom shares some of the optional journal ideas in the book as well.

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We particularly loved the Focus Area information which is woven throughout the entire book. Harmony Art Mom suggests repeated visits to a specific area to watch for "new" and "changed" things. When we have talked about our Nature Studies with families who are not familiar with this form of "study" (and who are curious), they often express frustration due to being "overwhelmed" by all that they see (and remember) on a walk -- "how do you even notice that ?", what should be noticed, what to study in particular, how to narrow it down, what to "journal", how to "journal", where to find such a wide variety of information, and other such concerns. So, we felt that the suggestion of the Focus Area would be particularly helpful to those new to Nature Study who might experience these same feelings.

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The included photos of Nature Walks and also copies of Nature Journal pages are lovely -- these are both inspiring and encouraging to those new to Nature Study and veterans alike. The book is not-too-plain and not-too-cluttered - a perfect balance.

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We HIGHLY RECOMMEND this inexpensive resource for those interested in Nature Study. No one will be disappointed, as there is something for everyone in this wonderful economical resource.

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Outdoor Hour Challenges: Nature Study Close To Home: Getting Started Challenges 1 - 10 can be purchased from the Handbook Of Nature Study Blog (right column) and from Lulu .

1 comment:

Lisa said...

We have done nature studies in the past, but seem to have a tough time finding time for that recently to my great regret. I think we really must try harder to do this again. I plan to check out the Outdoor Hour Challenges, but wanted to share that visiting the same places is a great idea! DS and I used to walk a path through the woods daily and would make note of and discuss all the seasonal changes as we walked. I had always wanted to journal/notebook about them. We'll have to start with snowshoes for now, but that's wonderful too! The animal tracks we've seen were so cool and varied. We think we've even seen moose tracks!

Thanks for posting your review and encouraging me to try this again.

It would be great to have you come snowshoe with us! :)

Lisa W in ME