Nature Study Activities for Teens - and How to Make them into a High School Elective

Summary:  Nature study for homeschooled teens can be so fun and can include photography, entering nature contests, nature journaling, etc. And it is easy to make it into a homeschool high school elective! #homeschoolhighschool #naturestudyteens  Note - This post may included affiliate links to products that we love and have used or would use in our  own homeschool. Please see my disclosure policy. 

Fall is here.

Has that feeling of fall come to your house yet?

When it hit our house, we often took some time off our academics in favor of something different and seasonal.  

We are all crazy about birds in our house.  Often, we spent a lot of time identifying birds, learning to distinguish their calls and making bird feeders, all when my daughter was young.
 And that led to an ongoing interest in bird watching, even through the teen years.  Plus a number of related activities that my daughter enjoyed, including:

- photography
- entering nature photography contests
- making a photo notebook for bird identification
- nature journaling
- starting a small business project. 
- Video Art Lessons on Birds  

These activities were put together one year, to grant my teen a high school credit in nature study-bird watching.  Below, I share about how we did that.

As I mentioned above our birdwatching and science activities started when my daughter was a little one, a preschoolers.

When my daughter was about 8, I gave my daughter a camera, and she soon she began taking pictures of birds...I enjoyed teaching her basic photography principles.  She still loved doing this in middle school.....

That led to a photo contest......

Entering Nature Contests

Cornell Universityan authority on birds and birdwatching, offered a contest that my daughter wanted to enter, with for their bird photography contest.  I helped her to find this, just by googling "nature photography contests".

To find a nature oriented contest for your young teen, Cornell now has a site that lists contests and resources at Young Birders Network.  There are a number of contests here, including the Young Birder of the Year Contest.  

These contests are not just for photography.  They also list art and essay contests related to bird watching.  

Participating in this contest added a lot to our daughter's self esteem and inspired her to continue to improve her photography skills.  It also gave her something to put under "awards" on her college application. 

Creating Photography Books 

My daughter decided to compile her pictures into a notebook of bird photos, using a simple ring notebook, report covers, and her photos, printed on thick printing paper.  This made it a frugal project, as photo quality paper was not needed.  Below, shows how she simply put together her pages...

This kind of notebook became a creative way to share birdwatching with others, inspiring her friends to begin bird identification activities, too.

Nature Journaling

Nature journaling is just the idea of putting drawings of nature and notes about plants, birds, etc, all in one place.  

Lots of families enjoy doing nature journaling, and there are tons of resources on the web, to help you get started.  Doing a nature journal fosters art skills, essay writing skills, of course nature study.

One of my favorites for getting started with a nature journal is this post by Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth.  

40 Journal Entry Ideas for your Nature Notebooks

Jes offers these 40 beautiful printables for nature journaling, with essay prompts to get you started, and all with a free download.  

Later on, that year, my daughter decided to try her hand at making nature photo cards, and this led to a small business project....

Starting a Small Business Project 

My teen learned how to make her nature photo cards, from studying online, and meeting with friends who had done this type of project in the past.  Doing this project gave her practice in a number of organizational skills, including:

selecting and purchasing supplies
organizing and planning
time management
assembling the cards
finding local sales opportunities
deciding on pricing
setting up and selling cards

All of these things were helpful task skills that teen needed to develop.  Making and selling these cards also introduced her to basic business principles.

There were many places to sell these cards, such as at local consignment stores, church rummage sales, farmer's markets, etc. And they don't have to be just photography cards.  Notecards can also be done through - drawings, paintings, stamping, or collage.  

Making the nature cards and the other activities mentioned above, easily became a homemade course which earned high school credit...

Turning it into a Homemade Course

Through the activities listed above, we were easily able to put together a course in nature photography... for high school credit.  It also counted as one of my daughter's fine arts requirements for college admissions.

To make this a high school course, we used the mastery method, and granted her one credit in nature photography.  By earning an award from Cornell's nature contest, and making a notebook of our local birds, with identifications, and participating in nature photography activities and birdwatching over the year, my daughter showed a beginning level of mastery in nature photography.

Please see my post on assigning high school credit for more info.
I loved homeschooling high school, as it not only gave my daughter a solid education, it also built lifelong hobbies and a love of nature and nature study in my graduate.  

For bird identification........

 Golden's Guide to Field Identification 

Would you like to have your kids learn more about specific birds through art?

These video art lessons by Chalk, are taught by a master artist and include the following birds: (Sale through Feb 16th:

  • owl
  • cardinal
  • goldfinch
  • hummingbird
  • chickadee
  • robin
  • sandpiper
  • bluebird
  • Bonus! baby bluebird and bird nest
Click here for more information, a free sample bird drawing lesson and more.  

And lots more nature study resources for your teens are here from iHomeschool Network - Nature Study and Bird Watching, by me!

Is your high schooler college bound?  

More high school posts are on Pinterest here: Homeschooling High School Pinterest Board.

Do you have a college bound teen in your house?  
Have you seen my NEW book yet called Homeschooling High School with College in Mind, 2nd Edition?

It lays out 10 easy steps for homeschool to college, and covers everything you need to help your teen get into the college of their choice, with 7 NEW chapters. Recommended by Lessa Scherrer, a certified college counselor and a homeschooling mama of 3.

Create your own unique and nurturing high school program for your teen and showcase their accomplishments to the colleges. 

The 17 Chapters include:

>Chapter 1 - How to Start Homeschooling if you are a Newbie
>Chapter 2 - 101 Reasons to Homeschool High School
>Chapter 3 - Researching and Getting Started
  Chapter 4 - Planning High School and Making a 4 Year Plan
>Chapter 5 - Choosing Your High School Curriculum
>Chapter 6 - Three Ways to High School Credit
>Chapter 7 - Making Your Teen's Transcripts
>Chapter 8 - 100 High School Electives
>Chapter 9 - Making Homemade Courses
>Chapter 10 - Writing a Winning College Essay
>Chapter 11 - Course Descriptions and Reference Letters
>Chapter 12 - The Common Application - Your GUIDE
>Chapter 13 - Preparing Your Teen for College Writing
>Chapter 14 - Dealing with College Testing SAT/ACT
>Chapter 15 - Top Sources for College Scholarships
>Chapter 16 - Dealing with “Those Questions” from Others
>Chapter 17 - Don’t Forget the FUN!

>There are 12 downloadable high school homeschool planning printables plus a transcript form for you to just fill in. The kind of transcript form that the colleges are used to seeing.
Review by Lit Pick is here: 

Homeschooling High School with College in Mind Video 

Paperback is at Amazon $11.99 
15% OFF at Barnes and Noble 

College in Mind - 2nd Edition

It has lots of planning printables on:

Making your overall plan
Writing the college essay
Dealing with reference letters
Writing those course descriptions
Choosing your curricula

...and more.

Thanks for stopping by,


Betsy is mom to her college grad whom she homeschooled from age 3.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college and wrote the book Homeschooling High School with College in Mind - 2nd Edition.  She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting

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This post was shared on my favorite linkups here.
Copyright, 2016
Revised 2019

 All Rights Reserved


  1. Great ideas! I have a nature boy who will probably need this when he gets to high school.

    1. Thanks, Mother of 3, for stopping by! How nice that your son already loves nature. That is wonderful!

  2. You have given some great ideas here Betsey! I am currently teaching a high-schooler and will implement some of this. Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! :)

    1. Thank you JES, from Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth! I hope your high schooler enjoys her nature study activities, and I'll be back to the Art of Home-Making Mondays soon,

  3. Thanks for linking up to the Homestead Blog Hop this week! Great info!

  4. Good morning! Just a little note to let you know that this post has been *featured* today on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! Thank you for joining us and have a beautiful week!

    1. Thank you, JES of Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth, for the feature! I am honored. I will be over at the Art of Home-Making Mondays again, where there are lots of excellent resources each week!


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