Nature study is one of the coolest things about homeschooling and one of our favorite weekly activities. We go on a hike around the neighborhood or an area park and look for something: wild flowers, clouds, trees, acorns, insects, birds, animal tracks, rocks, or fossils. We talk about weather, life cycles, ecosystem, man’s effect on nature, and look for annual events such as butterflies, when flowers bloom, or bird migrations. We have been using our Nature Journals from The Good and The Beautiful for the past two years, however those are filling up and I have started looking for new resources for next year’s journals.
I have found that a Google search for Texas Wildlife guide turns up a plethora of free or inexpensive resources from state agencies such as Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Wildlife Association.
The Texas Wildlife Association offers an inexpensive “Critters of Texas” pocket guide that I recently ordered and received very quickly. In fact, I think I received the package of field guides within the same week I mailed the order form and check. At this time, the guides are $3 with shipping depending on how many are ordered. I paid $4 to ship the three books I ordered.
These are better than I expected! The glossy pages are full color with kid friendly info and are heat-bound (not stapled). They are perfectly pocket sized for adults, but might be too big for kids pockets. They are a nice size for kid sized hands though, and would be very easy to carry while walking on nature hikes. The back of the books contains a check-list for sightings as well as a glossary.
I have found several useful free guides online for downloading and printing. Texas Parks and Wildlife offers a free Texas Wildlife Identification Guide. This guide contains color pictures, information on description, range, habitat, and footprints for some of the animals.
TPWD also offers a Texas Birds guide with color pictures, or a black and white illustrated Backyard Birds in Texas guide. My favorite resource for my middle school students is the Learn About Texas Birds activity book. We are using this particular book this year as a supplement to our regular nature journals.
If you are looking for kid-friendly information about endangered species in Texas, check out TPWD’s Endangered Species Activity Book. It contains information and activities for nine species in easy to print black and white format.
TPWD also offers a Learn About Texas Insects activity book. This book is similar to the Learn About Texas Birds activity book in that there is a lot of information, even though it has pages for coloring, and is better suited for students middle school age and up.
Here is the links to other coloring and activity books offered by Texas Parks and Wildlife for kids: https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/learning/color/
I am so thankful these resources specific to our state are available! However, nature study does not actually need any fancy guides or journals. A regular spiral notebook can be a nature journal. My kids also want to take along colored pencils for drawing and tape for adding in leaves or flowers to press into their journals. Books from the library and provide extra info for specific topics of study. Apps such as Seek by iNaturalist can help with identifying plants and animals. The most important thing is getting outside and doing it on a regular basis to explore and discover nature.