How Se7en Do Actual Factual Scientific Observations…

I started writing about how we do science in Se7en of the Best Science NoteBook Inspirations. In that post I mentioned how we have separated our science into observation, research and experiment…

I wanted to start with the observation part of science… firstly how we observe things and secondly how we record them.

One of the advantages of homeschooling is that it is open ended and kids learn quickly enough that science doesn’t happen in a vacuum of the classroom. That being said, I think one of the troubles with homeschooling is that their schooling never stops they are always observing and doing and noticing… because of this I completely back off and let them do their observing themselves… I certainly never say: my goodness you have discovered an arachnid lets do an 80 page discovery file.


The Hoods do have their own science journals and nature notebooks. When it comes to recording what they find we do a lot of little projects, but it is mostly up to them and they do naturally go to their notebooks to make little sketches and write about their findings.

I know, they might miss some vital fact, or they may only be visiting Mount Everest once in their lives and they had better observe everything now, but trust them to their own devices and you will be amazed at where it takes them. Once they have sparked an interest in something there is very little you can do to stop the raging blaze of inquiry that follows.

Se7en things to Observe: This is the easy part, my children are always observing things.


  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Rocks
  • Space
  • Human body
  • Technology
  • Weather

Se7en Essentials to Pack:


My kids have no problem packing for any outing, even if it is to get to the front door, here is a list of se7en essentials to pack:

  • A notebook and pencil
  • A torch
  • A magnifying glass
  • A camera
  • Bags for collecting things.
  • A snack
  • A field guide we use an all purpose one when we are out (plants, beasts, birds etc)


Se7en Tools to help you Observe: You don’t actually need any of these but they sure do add to the excitement of any scientific endeavor.

  • A microscope
  • A magnifying glass
  • A pair of binoculars
  • A telescope
  • A camera
  • A tape measure
  • A leather-man or penknife


Se7en Spots: Luckily wherever you are there are so many creepy crawlies and little bits of wild life. Basically, there are two kinds of spots, those naturally occurring through your daily life: around your home and garden. We set up a nature spot where they are encouraged to collect, sort or construct all things natural – they will do this anyway – so we just localized it so that it doesn’t permeate every drawer and counter top.

We usually have a weekly walk and this takes us further afield:


  • The wetlands
  • The beach
  • A stream up our street
  • Up the mountain behind us
  • Local nursery is a brilliant resource
  • Local Nature Reserve
  • Not to mention our Wonderful aunts wild garden.


And even further afield, we might do one of these a quarter. And locally you should have these options open to you. If you are in Cape Town then these posts: Outings in Cape Town and Outings Near to Cape Town, will give you lots of ideas.

  • Natural History Museum
  • Bird Sanctuary
  • Aquarium
  • Reptile Park
  • Animal Rescue
  • Planetarium
  • Local Public Gardens or Park

Se7en Things to Do while Observing: While we are out on an outing I rarely have to do anything other than be there – and provide the snacks! But we often do things to help keep us thinking scientifically…


  • Collecting and photographing
  • Poking about in the guide book
  • Scavenger hunting
  • Tracking
  • Survival skills
  • Building Hides – our personal obsession
  • Painting and Drawing – My kids adore doing watercolors in the great out doors – this just defines scientific discovery for them.

Se7en ways to Report in our Nature Notebooks:

140-4070_IMG DSC01296.JPG

This is one of the places where I leave it totally up to them to sketch and record… I provide heaps of that’s brilliant and absolutely no correction or suggestion. Kids are naturally curious, given the materials they will discover stuff on their own… my suggestions are so limiting to their natural curiosity, it is far better for all of us for me to look with their eyes.

  • Mapping
  • Sketching and labeling
  • Painting and printing
  • Rubbing and pressing
  • Print out blank calendars, they are great for recording things that change over a period of time.
  • Photographs – let them take their own – it is lovely to see things through their eyes.
  • Writing, listing what they see, poems or quotes they like, not to mention copying from nature guides.

Finally, Se7en Things we have found useful for Nature Notebooking:

  • Get or make the best notebooks you can – they need to be robust.
  • A flower press has been invaluable – we actually have three.
  • Watercolors, and watercolor crayons are fantastic – because you can draw in the wilds but do the painting at home.
  • Crayons – fat ones work best for rubbings.
  • Good pencils and erasers – there is nothing worse than a smeery eraser spoiling hours worth of work.
  • A collection of good pencils and sharpeners.
  • Contact plastic, for sticking tiny little artifacts into notebooks.

Watch and learn, I have had so much fun learning alongside my kids. I will show you more about how we record our observations in our nature notebooks next time.

2 Replies to “How Se7en Do Actual Factual Scientific Observations…”

  1. Hi, I just love this post – TOTALLY inspiring. I really want to start incorporating nature study into our weekly "schedule" as we do do the walks etc but I didn’t know what the next step would be.
    Ok …. so I have some questions:
    1) Which books would you consider to be robust enough to use as journals for young children (3 & 5)
    2) What is the pop out black calendar?
    3) Which pencils do you draw with and which erasers?
    4) Do they draw out in the outdoors or bring home and draw? If out, do you take clipboards etc to push on?
    Thanks. Tammy.

  2. Hi Tammy – so glad you liked the post… I will write more about nature notebooks later in the week. But to answer your questions immediately we usually use black ringbound watercolor notebooks. Normal school pencils, just HB because they can write and draw with the same one. We often sketch and paint while we are out… and then finish up with notes and details at home. Don’t bother with clipboards the less you carry the better. I will link to printable calendars in the next science post!
    Take care and hold your breathe!!!

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