Nature study is an educational approach that focuses on observing and learning about the natural world. It emphasizes hands-on experiences in nature to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the environment. This educational philosophy has been around for centuries and has evolved over time to align with modern teaching practices.

History of Nature Study

The roots of nature study can be traced back to the early 19th century when educators and naturalists began to recognize the importance of connecting children with the natural world. One of the pioneers of nature study was Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, who believed that direct observation of nature was essential for learning.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nature study gained popularity in schools around the world, particularly in the United States and Europe. Educators like Anna Botsford Comstock and Liberty Hyde Bailey played significant roles in promoting nature study as a valuable educational tool.

Goals of Nature Study

The primary goal of nature study is to help students develop a strong connection to the natural world and cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity about their surroundings. By engaging in hands-on activities such as observing plants and animals, students can develop important skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and scientific inquiry.

Another key goal of nature study is to instill a sense of environmental stewardship in students. By fostering a deep appreciation for nature, students are more likely to become responsible and environmentally conscious citizens who care for the planet.

Methods of Nature Study

Nature study is typically conducted outdoors, where students have the opportunity to observe and interact with the natural environment. Some common methods used in nature study include:

  • Field trips to local parks, nature reserves, and botanical gardens
  • Outdoor exploration and observation of plants, animals, and natural phenomena
  • Keeping a nature journal to record observations, sketches, and reflections
  • Engaging in hands-on activities such as planting a garden or building a birdhouse

These methods allow students to engage with nature in a meaningful way and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Benefits of Nature Study

Nature study offers a wide range of benefits for students of all ages. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Enhanced observation skills and attention to detail
  • Improved critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • Increased appreciation for the natural world
  • Development of empathy and compassion for living creatures
  • Stress reduction and improved mental well-being
  • Enhanced physical health through outdoor activities

By engaging in nature study, students can develop a holistic set of skills and values that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Integration of Nature Study in Education

Many schools and educators are incorporating nature study into their curriculum to provide students with a well-rounded education. Nature study can be integrated into various subjects, including science, art, language arts, and social studies. By connecting classroom learning with real-world experiences in nature, students can gain a deeper understanding of academic concepts and develop a sense of curiosity and wonder.

Teachers can use nature study to enhance learning in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Integrating nature-themed lessons and activities into the curriculum
  • Organizing field trips to local parks and nature centers
  • Creating outdoor classrooms or nature-based learning environments
  • Encouraging students to keep nature journals and document their observations

By incorporating nature study into education, schools can provide students with valuable learning experiences that promote environmental awareness and foster a lifelong connection to nature.


Nature study is a valuable educational approach that encourages students to explore and appreciate the natural world. By engaging in hands-on experiences in nature, students can develop important skills, values, and attitudes that will benefit them both academically and personally. As educators continue to recognize the importance of connecting students with nature, nature study will play an essential role in shaping the next generation of environmentally conscious citizens.