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Nature Study in Your Own Backyard

Updated on March 20, 2015

Fun Science and Nature Study Ideas in Your Backyard

This simple nature activity will focus your attention to a square foot of ground in your own backyard. You will measure off a square foot using yarn or string and then take a deep look into what you can observe. This simple nature study activity is appropriate for all ages of children. You can simplify this activity by making your square smaller if you need to for younger children.

You can also make this a seasonal activity by keeping your square up for a long period of time and then keeping track of the changes you see within the square.

If you decide this is an activity your family enjoys, try making a square foot in different environments like at the beach, in the woods, or in the desert. This will give you a whole new perspective for nature study.

Using a magnifying lens will also give you another layer of nature study to observe. See the suggested resources below for my recommendations.

Many times this is called a "Quadrat Study".

Small Square Nature Study Activity

Follow this link to my Outdoor Hour Challenge that includes a square foot nature study. You can read the instructions on the blog entry and then read what other families did to complete this activity. Great inspiration!

Magnifying Glass Observations Nature Study
Magnifying Glass Observations Nature Study

What is a Square-Foot Nature Study?

Before you begin, hypothesize what you think you will find in your square once you do your observations. Record your ideas on one side of a sheet of paper or in your nature journal.

How to Conduct Your Study

1. Choose a square foot area outdoors.

2. Mark the square with yarn or a coat hanger bent into a square. To make it more scientific, randomly throw the bent coat hanger square into the yard and see where it lands.

3. Now the fun part! Get down on your knees and carefully observe every thing in your square. You may find ants, leaves, grass, weeds, spiders, worms, seeds, rocks, sand, etc.

4. Record on your sheet of paper exactly what you found. Make a tally if you find more than one of an item.

5. Compare your results to your hypothesis.

Use Your Magnifying Lens for Another Perspective

Use Your Magnifying Lens for Another Perspective
Use Your Magnifying Lens for Another Perspective

Awesome Guide to Learning about Your Own Backyard - Open Your Eyes to Things You May Never Have Thought About Before

A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard
A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard

I love finding books that encourage you to get outside in your own yard to look for interesting things to observe and then learn about. This book gives just enough detail to get you started and the confidence that you will find something worth the effort of getting outdoors. The book is divided up by seasons for easier reference.


Nature Study Activity: Square Foot Observations

Gather yarn, scissors, ruler, and four rocks.

Optional: small garden trowel and magnifying lens

Measure off one square somewhere out in your yard or near-by park. (I prefer to do this somewhere I can dig up a few inches of soil and not get into trouble.) Use your ruler to place rocks in a one foot square plot. Use the yarn to mark off the edges of your square. If you are completing this challenge with younger children, you might consider making a two foot square plot to investigate to make it easier. Each child could have their own square if you wish.

Now the challenge comes in. See how many different things you can find in your square. If there are leaves, lift them up and see what is underneath. If there are rocks or gravel, scrape them aside and see what is underneath. If there is grass or weeds and you have permission, use your trowel to dig up a few inches under the grass, moving it carefully to the side to replace when you are done observing. Use your hand lens if you have one along with you on your challenge.

Small Square Activity

Here is an example of a simple nature journal page to go along with this activity.

Creating a nature study area in your own yard 1
Creating a nature study area in your own yard 1

Backyard Nature - Creating a Wild Side

Some Easy Ways to Get Started

First thing is to choose a section of your yard that you can designate as your "wild side". We chose the side of our house where the neighbors won't see too much or care that the weeds are going to get a little taller.

Let the grass and weeds grow for a period of time. Periodically check the area for living creatures like spiders, worms, and ants.

Granite rock with moss and lichen
Granite rock with moss and lichen

Backyard Nature Study - Find some rocks

Critters and Other Living Things Need Shelter

We brought in some big pieces of granite as accents to our yard and this gave us the perfect spot to watch moss and lichen grow.

It also gives lizards a place to hide and children love to explore under rocks looking for spiders, worms, and snails.

Need some more inspiration? - Try this series of books for more ideas

This series of books will help you learn more about particular habitats that you may have close at hand. These are a great way to stimulate interest in your own square foot nature study.

You can read a review of these books on Curriculum Choice.

You are never sure what you will find!

Goldfinch feather
Goldfinch feather

Once you start to look in your square you are going to be amazed at what is there. It could be feathers or seeds that you really need to observe closely to see. You might see an ant or a worm or a spider. Look closely and use your magnifying lens.

I would love to hear your comments!

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    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 6 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I have fond memories of studying nature outdoors in the 7th grade. Wonderful suggestions.

      Blessed by a Squid Angel**

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 7 years ago

      That sounds like fun. There are so many resources out there for when my boys get a little older!

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 7 years ago

      I keep planning to do this activity (square foot in the backyard) but never get around to it. I'll have to refer back to this lens and give it a try soon. Great lens! :)