Choices for a traditional science curriculum for students in kindergarten to grade eight include unit studies on the history of science, unit studies on nature, formal nature study, and unit studies on individual aspects of nature study including plants, birds, animals, fish, and insects.
The History of Science
These are all vintage books, so modern scientists are not represented. These books would make wonderful read-aloud stories for elementary level children. You could also do a nice unit study on the history of science with these texts, or a unit study on early inventors. Please note that books that are found on the Baldwin Children’s Literature site are not downloadable and must be used online. Sometimes you can find the same title in a downloadable format if you do a search on Archive.org.
Great Inventors and Their Inventions by Frank P. Bachman
From the website: “Twelve stories of great inventions, grouped under inventions of steam and electric power, inventions of manufacture and production, and inventions of printing and communication. The final chapter introduces the famous inventors of the early twentieth century. The story of each invention is interwoven with that of the life of its inventor. Through these stories, the reader learns how big things are brought about, and on the traits of mind and heart which make for success. Ages 10-14” Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
Stories of the Great Scientists by Charles R. Gibson. A collection of stories about several famous early scientists. Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
Story Lives of Great Scientists by F. J. Rowbotham.
A collection of stories about several famous early scientists. Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
The Wonders of Scientific Discovery by Charles R. Gibson. Discussion of some scientific advances such as microbes, ect. Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley
From the website: “Introduces children to geology through conversations about earthquakes, volcanoes, coral reefs, and so on. Encourages children to wonder about the distinctive features of the landscape around them and how they came to be the way they are. Ages 10-14.” Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
Pioneers of Science by Sir Oliver Lodge.
A series of lectures on the history of astronomy beginning with Copernicus. Found on Archive.org but also found as a recording on Libivox here.
Stories of Great Inventors: Fulton, Whitney, Morse, Cooper, Edison by Macomber, Hattie E. Found on Project Gutenberg.
Great inventors and their inventions by Bachman, Frank Puterbaugh. Found on Archive.org.
Children’s Stories of the Great Scientists by Henrietta Christian Wright. Found on Archive.org
The absolute best resource for learning about nature is without question the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. (1939).
This is the definitive textbook on teaching nature study to children. You can find it for free on http://www.archive.org because it is out of copyright, but you will see that it is still for sale on Amazon and many other sources. It is a huge book and has over 900 pages. If this was the only resource available to you, you would still be able to teach nature study to your children for years with the material in this book.
Part one discusses the teaching of nature study, with information and ideas as relevant today as they were when they were written. Part two covers animals, part three covers plants, part four covers earth and sky. You will find observation guidelines, review questions, and writing assignments included within. This is an incredibly complete reference and is indispensable for anyone who is thinking of teaching nature study to children.
There is a Librivox recording of some of the material in this book here and the recording of the rest of it is in progress if you would like to assist.
It can be a bit overwhelming to review this text and try to figure out exactly how to use it in your homeschool. Fortunately, this book is extremely popular among homeschooling families and they have written quite a bit about how to make it all work. One of my favorite resources for practical guidance in dealing with the 900 pages of the Handbook is found here at Charlotte Mason Help How to Use the Handbook of Nature Study
This is a blog with has dozens of free printables related to the Handbook of Nature Study that you might find useful.
Check out this website that is based on the Handbook of Nature Study, and print out some of these useful nature study notebooking pages. If you click around on this site you can also find some free nature journal ideas.
General Nature Study
Our Wonderful World by Emery Lewis Howe. (1927). Thirty two chapters in story form meant to be read aloud to younger elementary children for nature study. A great read aloud for science class for younger students.
Our Wonderful World nature study curriculum
A free nature study homeschool curriculum based on the vintage book “Our Wonderful World” by Emery Lewis Howe for download with 32 weeks of lessons for elementary students, with links to suggested video, lessons, and activities. Caution: There are some biblical suggestions included in this curriculum, like suggestions for bible memorization to accompany lessons, but these are few in number and not a big part of the curriculum so we decided to post the link and let you decide for yourself if this curriculum may be useful in your homeschool.
Little Nature Studies for Little People volume one: A Primer and First Reader by John Burroughs (1895). A nature study based early reader. This book is set up so that the teacher has a short story to read aloud to the children on a topic related to nature (the first story is about a mouse), then some pages of simple text with a picture, related to the short story follows. The children are coached to read the individual pages of simple text for themselves. The teacher is to lead a conversation about the topic. There are notes for the teacher scattered throughout the text.
Little Nature Studies for Little People volume two: A Second and Third Reader by John Burroughs (1895). An innovative phonics-based nature reader interspersed with short stories meant to be read aloud by the teacher and extra information for the teacher included in the text.
All the Year Round: A Nature Reader, Volume 1: Autumn by Frances Lucia Strong Martha Allen Lane Margaret Lane (1896). A seasonal nature study course for elementary level students.
All the Year Round: A Nature Reader : Part II : Winter by Frances Lucia Strong (1896). A nature study course for elementary level students.
All the Year Round: A Nature Reader: Part III: Spring by Frances Lucia Strong (1896). A nature study course for elementary level students.
The authors suggest that the teacher and the student first go outside and gather specimens of the material that is to be the subject of the lesson. The teacher, back in the classroom area, leads the student in observing facts about the specimen, making comparisons, and finding “resemblances and differences”. Then, the student draws the subject. A spelling lesson is done based on new words in the lesson. Finally, the child reads the story related to the specimen, or the story is read aloud to the child. The child then completes copywork or a written composition based on the specimen. The child may also memorize a poem or a short verse related to the specimen. I would imagine that if a specimen was difficult to find, like a rabbit, a good photograph or video of rabbits would be an effective substitute.
This series would provide one year’s instruction.
Nature Study in Elementary Schools: A Manual for Teachers by Lucy Langdon Williams Wilson (1898). Helpful notes and guidance for the teacher.
Nature Study in Elementary Schools: First Reader, Book 1 by By Lucy Langdon Williams Wilson. Organized by months beginning in September. Though titled ‘First Reader’, this is written more at a second grade level and probably intended to be read almost daily.
Nature study in elementary schools: second reader, myths, stories, poems, Book 2 by Lucy Langdon Williams Wilson (1899). Organized by months.
It’s always nice to come across a teacher’s manual for a textbook series. According to the teacher’s manual, this series is intended for children in grades k to 3, and is arranged according to the months of the year. The authors state that the course is designed to focus on aspects of nature that can be observed or collected even in an urban environment. I’m a bit suspicious about that, since the First Reader has goldfish, snails, and tadpoles listed for December, but I guess that we are lucky these days because we can plan ahead and find a few books on the planned topics at the library ahead of time, or look up some photographs online. I also have to add that I rarely tend to encounter lambs, horses, and cows in the city.
The first year text includes spelling words, poetry, and short reading passages. I’d suggest that you gather as best you are able some real specimens for the student to examine if some are available, like goldenrod for example. Some of the short verses can be used for copywork or memorization as well. The second-year text has no spelling words, though you could certainly choose a few if you wanted to. It’s mostly stories and poems about the topic, including quite a bit about Greek mythology.
Nature Study by Grades: Teachers Book for Primary Grades volume one by Horace Hall Cummings. (1908). Intended for first, second, and third grades and organized by grade and season. This first volume is different from the other two in that it’s written for the teacher.
Nature Study by Grades: A Textbook for Lower Grammar Grades volume two by Horace Hall Cummings. (1909). This is the companion volume to the previous book. It is intended for use in fourth and fifth grades and is organized by grade and by season.
Nature Study by Grades: A Textbook for Upper Grammar Grades volume three by Horace Hall Cummings (1909). Intended for grades six to eight. Some of the information is of course obviously outdated and it would be nice to have some answers to the questions posed in the book, but still this series is interesting and potentially useful.
I’d say this is a more complete science course than most nature study series. The series poses a lot of questions for the student to think about, but it doesn’t supply the answers! It would be a good idea to have a download of the Handbook at the top of the page to refer to, and perhaps an armful of library books on the planned daily topic so both teacher and student can look up the answers.
Miscellaneous Nature Study Textbooks
Introduction to Leaves from Nature’s Storybook For Kindergarten and Primary classes by Meriba Ada Babcock Kelly (Google Play) (1895). An early reader in simple language that tells the tale of a child’s exploration of the natural world.
Apple Blossoms and Other Stories: Compiled for Culture and Nature Studies as Outlined in the Course of Study for the Public Schools of Kansas (1898). Includes an outline of lessons and is intended for the K-2 level student.
Nature Study: A Pupil’s Textbook by Frank Overton (1905). Thirty three chapters arranged in the order of the seasons and pertaining to natural life accessible even to the urban child, intended for the upper elementary student. Encourages children to keep a nature journal of observations, drawings, and compositions. The first subject of observation is the house fly.
Course in Nature Study by Detroit Public Schools (1922) (Google Play) This nature study book is intended for use in first and second grades. Neatly organized by months of the year with activities and suggested stories in the literature readers of the era that are also available.
One Hundred Lessons in Nature Study Around My School by Frank Owen Payne (1885). Easy to implement nature study lessons, even if you live in an urban environment.
Ambleside Online’s Nature Study Schedule
A suggested schedule for teaching nature study to children, including tips and links to resources.
Stories about mixed topics in nature study
Friends of the Fields by E. N. Sullivan – January 1, 1898) Pleasant stories of plants, animals, and more found in nature intended to be read aloud to children K-2
A Song of Life by Margaret Warner Morley (1891). Descriptions of plants, fish, and more intended to be read aloud to younger or middle elementary level students.
The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre
From the website: “The wonders of plant and animal life told with rare literary charm by Uncle Paul in conversations with three children. Besides such stories as the ants’ subterranean city, the spider’s suspension bridge, and the caterpillars’ processing, he unlocks the mystery behind thunder and lightning, clouds and rain, the year and its seasons, and volcanoes and earthquakes. Ages 9-12.” Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
The Secret of Everyday Things by Jean Henri Fabre
From the website: “Fascinating conversations with Uncle Paul reveal the mysteries behind the dyeing and weaving of cloth, the lighting and heating of homes, the processing involved in bringing oil, coffee, tea, spices, and other foodstuffs to the table, and the power of water in all its manifestations. Excellent as follow-on to The Story Book of Science.” Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
Nature Stories by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Among the Farmyard People by Clara Dillingham Pierson. Stories about farm animals intended to be read aloud to younger elementary level students.
Among the Pond People by Clara Dillingham Pierson.
Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson. Stories about squirrels, owls, snakes, and more.
Among the Meadow People by Clara Dillingham Pierson. Stories about birds, insects, and more.
Among the Night People by Clara Dillingham Pierson. Stories about raccoons, skunks, foxes, and more.
Books by Arabella Buckley
The Fairy-Land of Science by Arabella Buckley
From the website: “Introduction to the wonders of the physical world: sunbeams and the work they do, the aerial ocean in which we live, a drop of water on its travels, the two great sculptors—water and ice, the voices of nature and how we hear them, the life of a primrose, the history of a piece of coal, bees in the hive, and bees and flowers. Ages 10-13.” Found at the Baldwin Children’s Literature Project.
Through Magic Glasses, and Other Lectures by Arabella Buckley. The sequel to The Fairy-Land of Science.
Wild Life in Woods and Fields by Arabella B. Buckley. Suitable for young elementary students.
By Pond and River by Arabella Buckley
Birds of the Air by Arabella Buckley
Nature Study based on Animals
In the Animal World by Emma Serl. (1913). A storybook discussion of several different types of animals from veteran teacher and storyteller Emma Serl suitable for younger elementary level students. Find this vintage book on Google Play.
Stories from Animal Land by Annie Chase (1891). These stories are meant to be read aloud to young students K-2. The stories are about common farm and household animals.
Nature’s Children: Little Stories of Wildlife by Clarence Hawkes (1911). Suitable for reading aloud to younger elementary level children.
Wild Animal Ways by Ernest Thompson Seton (1917). Eclectic collection of animal stories suitable for upper elementary level students.
The Wonder-Book of Horses by James Baldwin . A retelling of an eclectic collection of tales about horses, told by a master storyteller.
The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess. (1919). A storybook introduction to animals for young children
Squirrels and Other Fur-Bearers by John Burroughs. Suitable for independent upper elementary level readers.
Secrets of the Woods by William J. Long. Readable stories for upper elementary level students.
Ways of Wood Folk by William J. Long. More enjoyable stories for upper elementary level students.
Nature Study based on Birds
Stories from Birdland: Volume 1 by Annie Chase (1896). Sweet early reader stories about birds for young elementary students.
Stories from Birdland: Volume 2 by Annie Chase (1896), Designed as an early reader for lower elementary level students.
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess. (1919). A storybook introduction to birds for young children.
Birds of the Air by Arabella Buckley
Nature study of water environments
Up and Down the Brooks by Mary Ellen Bamford (1889). Vintage tales of natural life in and around brooks intended for elementary level students.
Fish Stories Alleged and Experienced: With a Little History Natural and Unnatural by Charles Frederick Holder and David Starr Jordan (1909). A book for those interested in fishing and being entertained by tales of the one that got away, suitable for the older student.
By Pond and River by Arabella Buckley
The little water-folks; stories of lake and river by Clarence Hawkes (1907)
Nature study of Plants
Buds, Stems and Roots by Annie Chase (1897). The first book in a course in the study of plants for the young elementary level student. The book listed below was written to follow it, but both books can be used separately.
Some of Our Flower Friends by Annie Chase (1897). A course in the study of plants for the young elementary level student.
Little Plant People at Home and what They are Doing There by Annie Chase (1903). A book to be read aloud to young K-2 level students.
Nature Study: One Hundred Lessons about Plants by David Worth Dennis (1903). Suitable for upper elementary to middle school students.
Flowers and their friends by Margret Warner Morley. These books are surprisingly informative and useful for upper elementary and middle school students.
Seed Babies by Margret Warner Morley. This one is intended as a read aloud story for younger children.
Little Wanderers by Margret Warner Morley. A good introduction to the study of plants for elementary age children.
Plants and their Children by Frances Theodora Parsons (1896). A gentle story-based nature study book on plants for the younger elementary level students.
Botany: An Elementary Text for Schools by Liberty Hyde Bailey (1900). A more serious text for middle school students.
Nature Study about Insects
The Honey Makers by Margret Warner Morley (1899). Upper elementary and middle school students would benefit from this book.
The Insect Folk by Margret Warner Morley. A book about insects for elementary level students.
Grasshopper Land by Margret Warner Morley. A book about, of course, grasshoppers. For elementary level students.
Butterflies and Bees by Margret Warner Morley. For elementary level students.
The Bee People by Margaret Warner Morley. For elementary level students.
Wasps and Their Ways by Margaret Warner Morley. (1900)
The Life of the Spider by Jean Henri Fabre
Nature Study of Rocks and Minerals
Stories of rocks and minerals for the grammar grades by Harold Wellman Fairbanks. Found on Archive.org
Stories of our mother earth by Harold Wellman Fairbanks. Found on Archive.org