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Learn to observe nature

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

It is easy to walk through nature without paying it much attention. By sitting still and looking closely at different objects, you can appreciate more of nature. Here are some activities to help you discover more in your environment.

Once you have done these activities, it will open you up to a better observation of nature. You can start in your yard or a local park, and then move to other environments like the beach, mountains, a lake, or the desert. You’ll start seeing nature in new ways.

Activity #1: Sit with an object

1. Find an object in nature. It could be a rock, a flower, a piece of fruit, a nut.

2. Set a timer for 10 seconds, during which time you will study the object. When you walk by objects in nature, you probably spend less time than 10 seconds looking at it. After ten seconds, set the object aside so you cannot see it.

a. Take out a paper and pencil (or pen, crayons, etc.). Draw the object from memory. Add notes about anything you remember, including the color, shape, and texture of the object.

3. Next, set the timer for 3 minutes. During that time, observe your object more closely.

a. Turn it in your hands and feel every side of it. Is it smooth or rough? Does it have a bump or hole? Is it soft or hard? Round or square? Memorize everything about its size and texture.

b. What does it look like? What color is it? Are there different colors or patterns? Is it shiny or dull? Can you see light shine through it? Does it change color if you get it wet?

4. After your timer goes off, set aside your object aside so you can no longer see it.

a. Take out the same paper, and turn it over (or use a new paper).

b. Draw your object again, trying to include every little detail. Add notes about all the details you can remember.

5. Compare your two drawings. Do you think you learned more and found more details about your object when you spent longer looking at it?

a. Remember this lesson when you spend time in nature. When you look closely at anything, and spend time observing the details, you learn far more!


Look closely, and take your time

Activity #2: The art of inquiry

“Inquiry” means asking or looking for information

Asking questions is an important way to keep learning. Sometimes we forget to ask questions, and simply accept things as they are. When we do this, we miss out on learning new things! Sometimes you can easily figure out the answer to a question you may have, but more often you have to think about your question, research it, ask someone, observe longer, or do your own experiment to reach an answer.

Here is an exercise to get you used to the “art of inquiry” or the practice of asking questions:

  1. Pick a natural object to examine (a bug, a tree, a flower, etc.)

  2. Write down all the things you notice about it (observations).

  3. Next, write down all the questions you have about your object (inquiry).

  4. Choose your favorite question or questions, and pick the ones you are the most curious about and follow up! You can Google your question, or set up an experiment to answer it. These are some of the first steps scientists use to discover new things.

  5. Write down what you discovered, and share this new information with somebody else.

As an example, an observation and inquiry for a caterpillar:

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