Look outside your front door and you will quickly discover a world of adventure, excitement, inspiration and discovery.
For thousands of years people have studied this incredible sphere of life, death and cycles of organic and inorganic energy, yet we have only barely scratched the surface of everything there is to learn.
Most of the world's wisest scientists, philosophers & leaders have looked to nature as a source of knowledge...
So what would happen if you could learn to understand the world of plants, trees and animals on a deeper level?
Maybe you already know you want to explore your local environment on a deeper level... so how will you actually do it?
The most important thing when it comes to developing naturalist skills is that you need to put in "dirt time" (or time in the field). You need to get outside frequently and explore nature.
What makes naturalist skills challenging is when people believe there are specific rules for what you need to learn 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.
But that's actually the hard way to become a naturalist...
So What Is The Easy Way To Be A Naturalist?
In one word... Options.
In my experience developing naturalist skills is much easier when you have lots of options for how to conduct your studies.
This is because some days you might be drawn to learning about birds. While other days you might be more interested in plants.
Experience has also shown me that people who study both plants AND birds are able to learn much more deeply and quickly than those who only study plants or birds in isolation.
This also enables you to shake things up. You can do a little bit with plants one day and then spend some time looking at trees or weather the next.
The really cool thing is that each different area of naturalist study will also give you insights and build skills for going deeper with the other areas of nature study.
For example... practicing observation with weather will make you better at observing birds (and likewise with everything else). Having options for how you study nature keeps things exciting because you get to "choose your own adventure".
Here are some reflection questions to help you choose your next outdoor adventure:
What am I excited to learn outside?
What would be easy for me to do in the amount of time I have?
What would be easy for me to do in the locations I have nearby?
What areas of nature study am I most passionate about?
What areas of nature study have I not done in awhile?
If you ever get stuck and unable to go deeper in a particular area of naturalist curricullum... simply take a break and go study something else for awhile!
For the rest of this article I wanted to offer you a list of options for exciting naturalist activities that you can choose from.
Next time you want to grow your naturalist skills... just take a look at this list and choose something that feels easy to you, and have fun out there!
Building Your Identification Skills
Identification skills are one of the most basic yet important parts of being a successful naturalist.
Often the plants, birds & trees have very interesting stories to tell… yet part of being able to read those stories comes from whether or not you know what you’re actually looking at.
The basics of plant and tree identification are fairly easy to learn, but applying that knowledge to the many thousands of plants, birds and trees does take time, so remember to be patient with yourself.
Try collecting leaves, flowers, or anything else you might have trouble identifying. It’s a good idea to start by getting a local field guide and learning any potentially hazardous plants like poison ivy or poison oak (Don't collect poisonous plants!)
"Being a naturalist is simply about being aware of nature."
The one routine that I consider to be most important is having a place outside where you can sit and observe nature on a regular basis.
I've spent literally thousands of hours sitting quietly & watching nature happen. I still practice to this day in my backyard. It's not the most epic wilderness in the world but it's a great place to practice watching & listening.
It doesn’t matter where you live or how much experience you have… everyone has eyes and ears. You simply need to use them.