Handbook of Nature Study / Anna Comstock

Handbook of Nature Study / Anna Comstock

# 014298

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Item #: 014298
ISBN: 9780801493843
Grades: PK-8

Category Description for UNIT STUDIES - CURRICULUM:

Unit Study Curriculums are "complete" curriculums based on the unit study approach that are intended to be used over a longer span of time (typically a year or more). They generally have an organized structure or flow and incorporate as many subject areas as possible. Typically, organizational materials and methods are provided along with some instruction for use. Broken into logical segments or "units" of study, they are intended to comprise the core of your curriculum.

Category Description for UNIT STUDIES:

What is a "unit study"? Briefly, it's a thematic or topical approach to teaching as opposed to the traditional by-subject approach. Rather than teach each subject separately, a unit study attempts to integrate many or all subject areas into a unified study - usually centered around a particular subject or event. Obviously History (the study of events) and Science (the study of "things") are well-suited to unit studies, and usually form the "core" around which other subjects are integrated. Subjects like Bible, Geography, Government, English (writing), and Reading/Literature, Music, Home Economics, Life Skills, and Art, are usually easy to integrate around a core topics. Remaining subjects (Math, Phonics, Grammar, Spelling) can be integrated to some extent via related activities. Each, however, has its own "system" (progression of skills, mastery of "rules") which must be followed to some degree. Since one of the additional advantages of a unit study curriculum is the ability to use it with students of varying ages and skill levels, these subjects are generally taught apart from the core curriculum. This may be as simple as assigning pages in a grammar or spelling book, or using a separate "program" for Phonics and Math. Unit studies also tend to be more activity-oriented than the traditional approach, a real boon to kinesthetic learners. Advocates of the unit study approach site studies showing that children learn best when learning is unified rather than fragmented and when learning is more participatory than passive.

Category Description for Elemental Science:

If you prefer your science "outside the textbook" then you'll want to look at Elemental Science. Designed as a Classical science program "loosely based on the ideas for classical science education that are laid out in The Well-Trained Mind," this one may also appeal to Charlotte Mason home educators. The program itself provides a framework of science study while your science "text" and experiments are found in a selection of quality resource books including DK, Usborne, Kingfisher and Janice VanCleave

Category Description for Intro to Science (Gr. K-1):

There are two Elementary Science programs for younger learners: Intro to Science for K-1 and Exploring Science for PK-K or K4/K5. These are structured similarly to the grammar stage programs, but simplified for younger learners. At this level, the program emphasizes observation, hands-on activities, nature studies, read-alouds from resource and library books - and lots of coloring (although I have already noted some concerns about the graphics with the upper levels, you may want to locate alternative coloring pages especially at this level, as young students may not be particularly eager to color some of these rough sketches). These are also 36-week courses, with weekly assignments provided in a bullet-point-like format and two scheduling options (2- and 5-day) provided. In Intro to Science, you'll spend six weeks each on chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, botany and zoology. Exploring Science spends four weeks each on "the world around me," water, air, weather, plants, Earth, chemistry, sound, and motion. Recommended library books are listed for each week, and there are just a few primary resources you'll use all year long. For Intro to Science, these are More Mudpies to Magnets, Handbook of Nature Study, and Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science. Exploring Science uses only Science Play as a basis for experiments (reading selections are found in other resources). Student pages at this level provide very simple experiment record forms, coloring pages and blank pages to paste results from activities.

Category Description for Handbook of Nature Study:

On a warm spring morning I dawdle here and there along the path toward the one-room schoolhouse, watching the birds feed their little ones, finding different kinds of wildflowers, viewing a battle between two beetles. Here's a plant I've never noticed before. I'll show it to Mrs. Brown - she'll know what it is... Such are the images that come to mind as I browse through this book. The late Anna Comstock, a professor of nature study at Cornell University, wrote in such a charming, descriptive manner that it is easy to visualize such things as a bumblebee gathering nectar or a raccoon settling on a branch for an afternoon nap. This 887-page volume, originally published in 1911 (updated in 1939), was designed for use by elementary school teachers with little knowledge of nature. Engaging background information is provided, and 232 lesson plans are supplied. Lesson plans are structured with a leading thought followed by a method to demonstrate the leading thought. Several discussion questions follow, generally based on observations made. (Note: lesson plans will be somewhat difficult to implement in urban surroundings). Subjects covered include the teaching of nature study, animals, plants, and earth and sky. Black and white photographs and drawings are abundant. Use as a stand-alone science course, or as a reference. Whether you live in the city or country, this book will open your eyes to the world around you. Our HANDPK below includes an 8 1/2½ x 11" horizontal format Notesketch pad (see Art section) that will be excellent for your nature observations and sketches.

Category Description for Paths of Exploration:

This program has been revised and is now formatted into six perfectbound units. Student notebook pages are now a separate purchase by grade level. Please see the "Resources" category to the left to find required resources needed for the course.


Items listed in this section tend to be complete science programs with a teacher and student component, requiring few supplements besides science supplies.

Category Description for Trail Guide to Learning:

When several very talented authors create a curriculum that combines the educational philosophies of Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason, you know its worth taking a look. Designed to incorporate Dr. Beechicks educational principles in their entirety, this curriculum attempts to guide students in building their thinking skills through the knowledge they gain, not as a separate process. The Trail Guide to Learning program is a very comprehensive unit study curriculum that incorporates reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, science, art and more into a study of history and geography. Math is the only core subject not covered. Currently, three complete levels are available: Paths of Exploration (for grades 3-5), Paths of Settlement (for grades 4-6) and Paths of Progress (for grades 5-7). These first three levels focus on American history and are designed for the elementary grades (although they are adaptable for students at the top or bottom of each intended grade range so you could use Paths of Exploration with a 2nd grader or 6th grader). These make up the first segment of a planned complete curriculum series that will cover U.S. History (elementary), World History (jr. high), and Modern U.S./World History/Government/Economics (high school). While this review will undoubtedly be modified as this ambitious curriculum continues to be published, most of this review will focus on Paths of Exploration (POE), Paths of Settlement (POS) and Paths of Progress (POP).

Each level is organized into six topical six-week units. In POE, the units are: Columbus, Jamestown, Pilgrims, Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark, and Trails West. The units are fairly discrete, and do not blend into each other. Each topic is covered exhaustively, however, with relevant cross-curricular content. Units are divided into six lessons, which are further split into five parts, so each level features 180 daily lessons in all. The authors make a point that although the lessons are broken down into daily chunks, there is enough review built in (particularly on Fridays) so you can be somewhat flexible with scheduling. Specific teaching instructions are provided for students in Grades 3-5, with a different animal track symbol designating each grade level suggestion. These assignments can be easily found in each lesson, or you can view the Lessons At A Glance in one of the Appendices to see a whole lesson broken down by skill area and assignments, with handy checklists for completion. As students progress through the course, they will add their student pages, artwork, and other projects into their Student Notebook (Notebooking Pages for Paths of Exploration are no longer available in pdf format. You can purchase the actual printed pages - 3-hole punched, blackline format, with activity pages included for all six units), a permanent record of the year. Reading material and additional activities are found in the required resources. that you will need for each unit. Please note that student pages are now a separate purchase for POE but are included in digital format for POS and POP until those are revised.

Lessons are written for ease of use for both teacher and student. Although the directions are written to the student, notes in the margins are intended for the teacher. No answers are given in the lesson content, which makes it easier to share the book. Each lesson begins not with specific knowledge-based objectives, but with several "Steps for Thinking" which are the larger ideas behind the topics students will learn in the lesson. In Lesson 1 in the Columbus unit, these include: "1. Journeys are made for a reason. 2. Knowing the reason for a journey helps you understand the decisions people make along the way. 3. Planning ahead and making preparations are essential for a successful journey." These are the ideas that should come up in discussing lesson content later on.

As you might expect from a curriculum co-authored by Debbie Strayer (author of Learning Language Arts Through Literature), language arts is heavily emphasized in every lesson. Each daily lesson segment begins with copywork and dictation, with assignments given at the three grade levels. Reading follows, with the student reading selected sections or pages aloud to the teacher. Then the teacher reads several pages from a more advanced book used in that lesson and reads the discussion questions, or the student narrates a provided assignment. Word Study, which encompasses vocabulary and spelling, is next, and typically is tied into the reading or the copywork. Again, several different grade-level specific assignments are provided. For example, in Unit 2 (Jamestown), Lesson 1, students look at words with apostrophes that they find in their reading book, A Lion to Guard Us. Theyll examine words with apostrophes, and learn the difference between an apostrophe that signals a contraction and an apostrophe that shows belonging. They also make a word list of names of people and places in their notebook and look at words that make the j sound with the dge combination. Throughout their reading, students will also make vocabulary cards for words that they might not have come across before. The guide stresses that these are not flash cards for memorization, but making the cards will help children remember the word and its meaning. That may sound like a lot, but remember that lessons are weekly, not daily.

Geography, history and science are well-integrated integrated into each lesson. History is naturally absorbed from the books the students read (and listen to). A related geography lesson is provided just about every day, which ties in beautifully with the units topic. For example, in the Columbus unit, students learn about compasses, directional terms, globes, maps, culture and worldview, the oceans, the continents, navigation, ships, map skills, using a map key, and more. Students will also locate the places they are reading about on maps, and become aware of where they are and why this is important to the events studied. In POS, students will also study the states as they work through the curriculum. POP emphasizes scientists and inventors, so students will soak up biographical details as well as science concepts.

Because history and geography often go hand-in-hand, and because the curriculum is published by Geography Matters, I had expected the geography lessons to be top-notch. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the science topics are related to the unit topics. Science can occasionally seem like an afterthought in unit studies, with vague assignments for the student to simply "research a topic." Here the topics are relevant and the content is good. Looking again at the Columbus unit in POE, students will learn about science topics that directly affected Columbus expedition, including oceans, air and ocean currents, the sun, stars, constellations, the solar system, weather and how it relates to climate, the moon, the early history of astronomy, spices, and the senses. There are several outside resources that you will use again and again for science material, including The Handbook of Nature Study and the North American Wildlife Guide. Although much of the science work is researching and reading, hands-on experiments from The Handbook of Nature Study are also used. It is worth noting that science is not covered every day like geography, but makes an appearance about 2-3 times per week.

The later sections of each daily lesson may be devoted to writing, art, drawing or another project. Writing activities are the most frequent of the three, and include a lot of variety in the assignments. Students may write fiction based on a place or event they have learned about, use a graphic organizer to identify the parts of a story, make lists, write about something learned that day in their own words, create poetry, make a book review card, write a friendly letter, and much more. Many of the art activities combine drawing with one of the topics covered in the lesson. Art or drawing is included about twice a week, with some activities contributed by homeschool art pros Sharon Jeffus and Barry Stebbing. The Lewis & Clark unit in particular uses Sharons book Lewis & Clark Hands On heavily and often combines art and writing activities. Although art is covered consistently, dont worry too much about investing in a pile of art materials from what I can tell, youll primarily be using the basics (drawing paper, construction paper, colored pencils or crayons, glue, modeling clay and possibly some paint).

The final portion of each days lesson is devoted to independent reading. Student and teacher will work together to find a book that interests them, and the student will read for 20-30 minutes (depending on their age) and record their reading time in their Reading Log. The reading material is completely left up to you and your student(s), which offers them the chance to read other books outside of the historically-based ones theyll primarily be exposed to.

Part 5 of each lesson is less structured, and is designed for completing any work that has not been finished, or for exploring some additional activities. Instead of assignments in each subject area, a bulleted list of activities is included, followed by several enrichment activities. In the unit on Daniel Boone, Part 5 of Lesson 4 suggests that you: review the Steps for Thinking, trace the Appalachian trail on an outline map, review the spelling words from the lesson, complete a week-long observation of your neighborhood, walk a hiking trail in a nearby park, and do a Daniel Boone crossword puzzle. Enrichment activities include researching General George Rogers Clark and making a list of facts about him, and finding a story or video about Daniel Boone and comparing it with the facts learned during the Daniel Boone unit.

There are a few things to note about this curriculum. First of all, it is written from a religiously neutral viewpoint, so it is an option for those of you ordering through charter schools. There is however a strong emphasis on good character, and many units spend some time studying the best qualities of historical figures. If you want to incorporate Bible study into the curriculum, you can either supplement your own program, or purchase the optional Bible study supplement, Light for the Trail directly from Geography Matters. Also, as noted previously, math is not included, so you will need a separate math program. Testing is not built into the program (the student notebook takes the place of assessments), but Geography Matters does offer an optional Assessment CD if this is important to you. Lastly, there are a number of resources that are required for use with the curriculum. These are listed below. Many titles have been chosen to accompany specific units of the program, while others are used all year long. - Jess

Primary Subject
Grade Start
Grade End
Trade Paper
Revised, Illustrated
Series Title
A Comstock Bk.
General Adult
Verne N. Rockcastle (Introduction by)
Anna Comstock
Softcover Book
Brand Name
Cornell University Press
2.9 (lbs.)
9.0" x 6.0" x 2.0"
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Why did you choose this?
Rainbow Resource Center Store
Audria S on Oct 3, 2019
We want to learn about nature. Since people don’t spend enough time outside we thought this book would help us get outside more.
April L on Jun 16, 2019
Audria S on Oct 3, 2019
This should be a great resource for our "Nature Time".
Patricia J on Jul 1, 2019
We want to learn about nature. Since people don’t spend enough time outside we thought this book would help us get outside more.
April L on Jun 16, 2019
Wonderful book!
marina c on Mar 25, 2019
Needed for CM science course.
Cindy S on Feb 13, 2019
A part of our Charlotte Mason style homeschool. Using Ambleside Online Curriculum
Angelica A on Jan 17, 2019
Good Charlotte Mason option
Melinda G on Sep 19, 2018
This book is also an Excellent resource for co-op groups. Its a must have Resource!
lorinda c on Aug 30, 2018
We are starting nature journaling and need a strong reference guide.
Jared L on Apr 17, 2018
I've heard good reviews from other homeschoolers.
Katharine Y on Apr 14, 2018
Buying based on other reviews. We love nature. Looking forward to this as addition to our home library.
Shali W on Apr 9, 2018
basic kindergarten science
Phyllis H on Apr 2, 2018
Nature Study must have.
Amy S on Oct 24, 2017
This book is suggested by the Charlotte Mason learning style - AND it was less money at Rainbow resource than on Amazon!
Sheila B on Oct 16, 2017
nature study
Emily M on Oct 3, 2017
This guides our nature studies on Friday. Almost everything is included in the book, and it has become our centerpiece for nature study.
Angela G on Sep 2, 2017
Not only does this book appear to be a great reference for young and old alike, it also suits the Kindergarten science curriculum offered by Elemental Science, which we adore.
Traci on Aug 12, 2017
AmblesideOnline recommendation for Nature Study, following a Charlotte Mason approach
Katie on May 10, 2017
I am using this for a Charlotte Mason-type nature study.
Elsa E on Apr 23, 2017
For our nature studies
Crystal M on Apr 20, 2017
This was recommended for Nature Study by Simply Charlotte Mason
Karyn K on Oct 2, 2016
Everyone says this is the best handbook for nature study. I am going to be implementing nature studies into our curriculum this year and I am not very knowledgeable in this subject, so I am hoping that this will help me and the children along in our backyard studies.
Melanie J on May 31, 2016
Good read to learn more about plants & animals.
Brenda Y on Jan 7, 2016
It's through, comprehensive, and just what we need for our studies.
Olivia S on Oct 1, 2015
This should be a great resource for our "Nature Time".
Patricia J on Jul 1, 2019
Wonderful book!
marina c on Mar 25, 2019
5.0 / 5.0
4 Reviews
5 Stars
4 Stars
3 Stars
2 Stars
1 Star
Great book! Would recommend to any nature lover
July 14, 2018
1 year ago
Oldie but a goodie
At first glance, this may not seem very impressive. It may even be intimidating. It's an old book with black and white pictures, and it is HUGE. It is amazingly informative, a one-volume nature encyclopedia. You can download this for free online, but the electronic version is very unhandy, and mine does not include the photos or illustrations. The graphics and index make it well worth the money. I will be doing most of my homeschooling overseas, so I hesitated to purchase this, knowing it is for the US. But much of the information can be applied to nature anywhere. For example, we do not have the same kinds of earthworm or beetle species in the tropics, but we do have earthworms and beetles, so we can learn much from Comstock's book. Great resource!
March 13, 2017
over 3 years ago
Anna Botsford Comstock's book "Handbook of Nature Study" has been heralded by the public schools and home education parents as "the Bible of natural history" I fondly remember as a freshman our biology teacher using Ms Comstock's book as the spine for our biology course The Handbook of Nature is a hefty 887 page volume on the topic of nature study Ms Comstock devotes the first section of the book to the topic of "teaching nature study" This section is a "how to guide" which guides the educator in how to approach the topic and present it to their students From there the book is divided into three sections on "animals plants and earth and sky" Educators can use this book as their spine for teaching the topic of science or as a supplement to a pre-planned curriculum
January 7, 2010
Nature study is not just for crunchy granola back to nature tree hugger types You don�t need to strap a two hundred pound backpack onto your aching spine and head off into some Blair Witch project area just to teach your younglings about trees and wildlife Color field guides are extremely helpful but you certainly don�t need an advanced degree in botany to teach your child the difference between a morning glory and a daisy And almost one hundred years ago Ms Comstock recognized that and set about showing others the joy of introducing a child to the natural world with her book Handbook of Nature StudyThe first section covers the how-tos of her method This method encompasses all the core subject areas and is covered in further detail in the methodology section Subsequent sections cover the entire spectrum of the natural world There is an area devoted to animals which includes subsections on mammals fish birds and other branches of the animal family tree Another area is devoted to plants and covers trees wildflowers crops and even weeds But this is not just a biology and botany manual The third main area is devoted to the earth and sky and includes astronomy climatology and geologyLessons include an information section for the parent/teacher to read followed by observational questions to be asked of the student Easily utilized in a zoo botanical garden or local park even those in the most urban of areas will find incorporating this book into their lives relatively simple Best used with the 12 and under set the Handbook of Nature Study should have a place on every homeschooler�s bookshelves
June 2, 2007

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