Nature Study: Metamorphosis

Bud recently had a birthday and received a butterfly kit as a gift. I remember growing caterpillars into butterflies as a child so I was very excited to do this with the kids. We ordered our caterpillars and they arrived several days later in the mail.

When they arrived they were small, black caterpillars. We received 5 and Bud immediately felt like a proud foster father.

As they continued to grow each day, Bud drew what he saw in his observation chart. You can download a PDF of the chart I created for this project here.



After about two weeks we came down to breakfast one morning to find one of our caterpillars in his chrysalis. The following day the other 4 followed suit. Peanut came running upstairs each morning to give me the update on what she saw in the butterfly habitat. We moved the lid of the caterpillar cup inside the basket. They would stay here and rest quietly as they began their amazing metamorphosis.



After another week we woke to find that one butterfly had emerged. It was so exciting to see a butterfly hanging and witness the amazing change that had occurred.

Peanut watched the habitat all day in the hopes of getting to see one emerge before her eyes. I was emptying the dishwasher when she called out for me to come and see. Bud rushed upstairs and the three of us got to witness one of the butterflies emerging. It was so amazing. It only took about 30 seconds for him to come out. He had crumpled wings and he seemed very weak.

The butterflies all emerged over the next few days and we enjoyed watching them flutter around their habitat and drink nectar.


Later that week we decided to let our butterflies go in a community garden in a nearby town. We thought they could help pollinate some of the fruits and vegetables that were starting to grow there.

I had painted the kids faces to practice for Peanut’s birthday party the next day. They had cute butterfly and dragon faces for our exciting afternoon giving our butterflies freedom.


Dad got out the habitat and we all waited anxiously after unzipping it to see what the butterflies would do.


The first butterfly flew out and over the fence around the gardens and straight off into the sky. He was so excited to be free and it was awesome to see him fly off into the sunset. The other four slowly fluttered out and rested on the ground.

We had such a wonderful time doing this project. It was so neat to see and observe God’s amazing design right before our eyes. We felt sad to let our friends free, but knew they would enjoy their new home.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Nature Study: Century Plants

We visited the Denver Botanic Gardens for one of our recent nature studies to observe Century Plants or Agave Americana. The gardens are home to about 10 of the plants along with many other closely related species of agave plants. We were able to print a map at home of the location of the 10 plants and use it as a kind of a scavenger hunt to locate them on the 23 acre property.






I read a newspaper article reporting that one of the century plants at the Gardens had recently budded its one lifetime’s flower and then died. I particularly hoped that we would see this one. The morning before we left, we read a wonderful story in Outdoor Secrets by Margaret P. Boyle about a century plant.

The kids loved the story and were eager to see this plant for themselves.




We found the cacti and succulent area of the Gardens and Bud ran ahead to explore. Suddenly I turned a corner and saw it! I was so excited! It was SO tall – probably 15 feet or more. The plant at the base had died and completely dried up. We were all excited to see the plant and the kids immediately related it to the story we had heard that morning. What a wonderful homeschool moment!





We drew in our nature notebooks that afternoon. It was easy to recall the dramatic plant and its umble shaped buds. I love the aquamarine blue color the living plants had had even in the dead of winter amidst the other dried plants.

Bud – Age 7

Peanut – Age 5

My journal entry

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:11

Nature Study: Buffalo

We did a nature study focusing on buffalo a few weeks ago. This official national mammal was  wonderful animal to study because our history focus this year is Western Expansion. We have been reading books about the Oregon Trail, Buffalo Bill, and the Native Americans out West.
picture-1270
Thankfully, there is a buffalo herd close to our home that is maintained by the Denver Parks and Recreation department. We didn’t have far to drive to enjoy viewing these gentle giants.
picture-1271
We got takeout from our favorite Mexican lunch spot Tamale Kitchen and had a picnic near Bison Meadow park. Then we walked a short distance and could see them grazing in a field nearby.
picture-1272
picture-1269
picture-1273
We were in this area another day and got to witness the park rangers moving the bison across the interstate to a different pasture. I didn’t have my camera that day (bummer!), but the kids had a BLAST watching them unload the buffalo from the cattle truck. There was a large bull rolling around in the dirt and scraping his foot to intimidate the new animals. What a show! It made me so thankful that I homeschool and we can pull over any day of the week to watch things unfold. We didn’t even need a permission slip. 😉

During our nature study journal time that week, the kids drew buffalo from what they could remember seeing. Here are Bud and my journal entries:
picture-1295
picture-1296

You have exalted my horn like that of a buffalo; fine oils have been poured on me. Psalm 92:10

Nature Study: Big Horn Sheep

picture-1237
We recently did a nature study with our kids about Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. They are frequently sighted on the side of I-70 near Georgetown, Colorado. My husband spotted a large group of them so we exited and slowly approached and observed them for a while. We kept our distance because whenever they moved across the steep slope rocks would slide down and threaten our minivan.
picture-1236
picture-1238
We spotted 2 ewes, 1 ram and a lamb.
picture-1239

picture-1240
The next day we read and Bud narrated from The Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock about common traits and habits of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. We also read the story about Isaac and Abraham from Genesis 22. We watched several National Geographic YouTube videos about rams competing by head butting each other. Clack! The noises apparently be heard for miles.
picture-1241
picture-1242
The next Tuesday, we drew pictures of the sheep in our nature notebooks.
picture-1243

Peanut – Age 5

picture-1244

Bud – Age 7

picture-1245

My journal entry

It can be hard to venture out into the single digit temperatures this time of the year to enjoy nature study so we jump at any opportunity to see wildlife up close. The kids had fun studying these amazing creatures.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Genesis 22:13

Nature Study: Crayfish

In October, we enjoyed a wonderful nature study discovery at a little pond in our neighborhood…crayfish! We started by finding several shells and talked about the molting process.
picture-1215
picture-1216
Then we found raccoon prints in the shallow parts of the lake. We read several books in the following week about raccoons to learn more and see the connection they have with crayfish.
picture-1217
picture-1218
We found a large crayfish that had recently died and floated to shore. It was about 6 inches long!
picture-1219
picture-1220
We also looked in the brook nearby and found several smaller crayfish that were 1-2″ long.
picture-1221
picture-1222
The next day we came back with our nets in the hopes of catching a few crayfish to bring home and observe. The kids had fun exploring the ponds and nearby brooks. We didn’t find any crayfish, but we watched a friendly mallard duck and 3 small snakes.
picture-1223
picture-1224 picture-1225 picture-1226 picture-1227
We reviewed the anatomy of a crayfish in our Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock and then we all spent time drawing crayfish in our nature notebooks.

picture-1228Bud – Age 7

picture-1229Peanut – Age 5

picture-1230My journal entry

We also read and Bud narrated several great books about crustaceans and raccoons.

  • Lobster’s Secret, by Kathleen M. Hollenbeck
  • Hermit Crab’s Home: Safe in a Shell, by Janet Halfmann and Bob Dacey & Debra Bandelin
  • Dancing on the Sand: A Story of an Atlantic Blue Crab, by Kathleen M. Hollenbeck and Joanie Popeo
  • Character Sketches from the Pages of Scripture, Illustrated in the World of Nature, Vol. 1, by Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts
  • Raccoon At Clear Creek Road, by Carolyn Otto

It was a wonderful study and we enjoyed being outside in the clean, fresh air making discoveries and observations.

Nature Study: Pine Cones

nature_study_pine_cones
We studied pine cones this week during our nature study walk. Our home is surrounded by century-old ponderosa pines so pine cones are a common part of our backyard life here in Colorado.
picture-1174
picture-1175
picture-1176
picture-1177
The kids had fun crunching the pine cones on the ground.
picture-1178
picture-1179
picture-1180
We collected 3 different species of pine cones. The first one we came across was a spruce. The cone had light brown flakes around it.
picture-1181
picture-1182
picture-1183
Next, we found a white pine. Its cone had sharp prickles on each section protecting the seeds.
picture-1184
picture-1185
Lastly, we found a lodgepole pine cone. We could only find dark gray cones on the ground. It was rounded with sections more spread out. These beautiful trees towered above us on our walk.
picture-1186
picture-1187
At home later that week, we read from The Handbook of Nature Study about pine cones. We found out that each section has two seeds inside and each seed has a wing that acts like a helicopter to carry the seeds away in the wind. We all drew the 3 species of pine cones in our journals.
picture-1190

Bud – Age 7

picture-1188

Peanut – Age 5

picture-1189

My journal entry

After our journal time, quite by accident, we found some of the seeds. Someone dropped one of the pine cones on the floor and little seeds with wings came flying out. We went outside and threw the other cones on the ground and seeds came tumbling out of those as well. We had fun examining the cones – it made for a fun fall nature study.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls. Proverbs 11:30

Nature Study: Yarrow

Throughout the months from March to October in Colorado, you can find little groups of white flowers at your feet. These little umbels of flowers are called yarrow. We recently made them the focus of our weekly nature walk. My kids, husband and I headed to the high country and hiked along a path at 10,000 feet and found many of these flowers.
picture-1142
picture-1138
picture-1139
The kids discovered a visual treasure as they looked closely at each individual flower. I am always amazed at the intricate nature of God’s amazing creation.
picture-1140
picture-1141
We pulled one plant up to examine the roots. The kids were amazed to find a purple taproot! We later saw and learned that many of these flowers can be a pinkish color.
picture-1144
We also carefully looked at plants still in a bud state. The leaves were fern-like and spread out on the stem in a Fibonacci sequence.
picture-1146
picture-1147
picture-1148
Later that week, during our nature journaling time, we read from our Rocky Mountain Wildflowers book that the plant was used by early Western settlers as an antiseptic. We learned more about when and where it commonly grows. Bud gave a narration of our walk, recalling all he could remember about what we observed that day. Then we spent sometime drawing in our notebooks about the plant.
picture-1149

Bud – Age 7

picture-1150

Peanut – Age 5

picture-1151

My journal entry

We saw some other beautiful fall plants on our walk. These daisies were blooming everywhere. I love the abundance of daisies and sunflowers in late summer in Colorado bidding us a fine farewell to summer.
picture-1145
This ground cover had the most beautiful array of color.
picture-1143

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?” Luke 12:27-28


You might also enjoy these Fall Nature Study posts:
Traveling SeedsApple Trees