project 17: family field guide

This time of year we seem to have a steady stream of visitors and she’s constantly asking, “What’s this?” I love her curiosity, but there are times (too many times) when I have to say, “Sweetie, I’m really not sure.” And at this age, suggesting that we’ll look it up later doesn’t cut it. Once we’re outside of the moment, she’s lost interest. So this year, when we were still cocooned indoors during bitter February I started to work on a family field journal – a nature guide at our fingertips. If it was going to be used, it had to be portable (small), interesting (good pictures) and durable (easy to clean / hard to destroy). Mission accomplished after much hard work!

I used a plastic three-ring folder for the cover (the kind with brads inside to hold pages) but I cut it down to a more manageable size for our outdoor adventures. It now measures only 6.75″ by 9.5″. Then I began gathering resources. This was the time-consuming part, particularly since I was trying to make it relevant to our region of the country. Our field guide includes:

(1) this guide to feeder birds from Project Feederwatch (Cornell)
(2) the  bug identification chart was pieced together from the images provided by UKY. I just copied and pasted them into a word document and got something useable. See the links under the heading for “Line Drawings” here.
(3) regional guide to butterflies (found a free download from a natural history museum nearby)
(4) regional guide to wildflowers (same as above)
(5) tree, leaf, fruit and nut silhouettes (I wish I could remember where I found this because I LOVE them. I’ll keep looking!)
(6) animal track guide found here.
(7) frog identification guide (I researched the frogs native to our area, and created my own id chart with images online)
(8) snake identification guide (found a free download from a nearby state park)
(9) cloud identification chart (not sure where I found it…)
(10) skywatcher’s guide to the moon
(11) moon phase schedule for 2011
(12) this rock classification chart found here

I resized each of the charts and guides to fit on half of a sheet of printer paper to fit into the folder we cut down. Then I laminated each page for durability, and used a three-hole punch to make holes for inserting them. Be careful with this part! You need to make sure the holes that you punch line up with the brads in your folder. It’s not hard. Just double-check it first. Of course, if you’re using a full-size folder, you don’t have to worry about resizing anything. We just wanted ours to be smaller for convenience. 

It’s so nice to have all of this information at my fingertips when we’re out and about and the size is not a bit cumbersome.


Happy adventuring!




13 responses to “project 17: family field guide

  1. What a fantastic job. It looks great and will be useful for years.

  2. Wow! That is such a great project. SO useful and creative.

  3. What a great resource! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. so totally awesome. what a lot i would learn!

  5. That is so very awesome! I love how you describe the bugs as “visitors”.

  6. What a wonderful project, and a great take-along guide to figure out what’s what.

  7. I’m a huge fan of anything that gets kids outdoors and connecting with nature so I LOVE this!

  8. Wow, this is wonderful! I’m lucky enough that the city I live in has printables exactly like the ones you have already on their website for the park we want to visit. My favorite place to visit is a trail that used to be a 2-way highway that they closed down running right through our local swamp. Tons of wildlife to be seen!

    Thanks for visiting Dilly-Dali Art, I love your site 🙂

  9. this is awesome! we can’t wait to do this 🙂

  10. I love these ideas! Be careful with pinecones indoors. We had a beautiful collection of pinecones and acorns last season which were hosting eggs that hatched and flew by the hundreds all over the kitchen. It was crazy. we now have a specail basket outside for such treasures and take photos and draw or paint still lifes.

  11. also here are more illustrations can reduce them a little for a nice field guide or great coloring pages. Also the silhouettes of the leaves link to the gallery is here. I just copied the gallery putting all the leaves on 2 pages. I found more printable on many are free. They are coloring pages but on my printer interface I chose to print multiple pages on one page and print 3 accross 4 down to make great pages to laminate.

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