Homeschool Spaces: Indoor Nature Center

Studying nature is a beloved aspect of homeschooling and a delightful supplement to a science curriculum. Kids love nature. And let’s be real: most parents love nature too. However, for a lot of homeschooling families, it is not realistic to go outside and spend hours upon hours in nature, day in and day out. Would that be fun? Definitely

But these kinds of expectations are not the norm for most homeschooling families. So how are we solving this conundrum?

With an indoor nature center as part of our homeschool space!

Setting up a nature center for your homeschool is a great way to involve your kids in nature studies without having to spend a lot of time dealing with inclement weather or neglecting other more urgent studies.

What to Include in a Homeschool Nature Center

When you start considering what to include in a homeschool nature center, you may ask these questions: 

  • How do I decide what posters or prints to put on the walls? 

  • How do I know what science projects to display? 

  • What makes me pick one resource over another?

There are no right or wrong answers here! In my case, I like to keep our homeschool room and indoor nature center very fluid.

Sometimes I’ll display a book, activity, or experiment that stays up for a few weeks to a few months. 

I’ll give you a tour of our nature center so you can get a few ideas. But remember, the best nature centers always reflect the personality of the family. Make these suggestions your own by applying your family's style and interests.

Homeschool Room Tour: Our Indoor Nature Center

When I set up our indoor nature center, I didn’t start with the goal of a perfectly organized space. I merely wanted a space that would bring the serenity and peace of the great outdoors into our home.

We tend to do our studies throughout the house. Some days we’re at the kitchen table or in the living room, while other days we are piled on my bed. But our most consistent study space is in our basement. We have sectioned off a part of the toy room and dedicated this space as our school room.

And in one little corner of this space, we have created a dedicated indoor nature center.

Are those picture-perfect homeschool spaces you see all over Pinterest pretty? Yes. But are they the norm? Maybe for some people, but surely not for me.

This is what our nature center looks like.

Indoor Nature Center Charlene

A Simple Nature Center Setup

See? Nothing Pinterest-worthy. Just a real homeschool mom and her real homeschool mess. As you can see, our nature center consists of a bit of shelf space.

There’s a shelf dedicated to whatever nature-themed experiment we are working on at the time. Right now that experiment is a classroom aquaponics system. In the past, we have used that space for other gardening experiments. We have also raised class pets and included them in our nature studies. There is also a space for desert plants that we used during our study of desert climates.

On the other shelf, I’ve got enough space to display any guides or visual aides we are using in our studies at the time. Since it’s winter at the time of this photo, we’ve got animal print identification guides and pictures of animals that change fur with the seasons.

See? It’s a pretty basic, no-frills setup. But the kids love it, and it enhances our study of nature. For my part, I'm a fan of how simple this nature center setup really is.

Experiencing All the Seasons in Our Homeschool Nature Center

One of the best and worst things about studying nature outside is the changing of seasons. While observing the seasons change is fascinating, weather changes are not always conducive to a comfortable learning environment.

To solve this problem, I like to change up my nature center throughout the year. Another added perk to changing our setup regularly is it keeps things exciting and the kids interested.

1. How to Set Up a Homeschool Nature Center in the Middle of Winter

Our winter setup includes an indoor aquaponics system. This system makes it easy for the kids to forget how cold it is outside and also provides them with an opportunity to experience gardening even when the ground is frozen.

We also include pictures of animals that thrive in the snow; animals that experience changes in fur with the changing of seasons instead of hibernating through the cold.

A few other wintertime nature center ideas could include pictures of backyard birds visible in your area this time of year. Including a wintertime bird feeder or seasonal, bird-friendly decorations are other fun winter nature center ideas.

2. Enjoying Spring in Our Nature Center

Springtime is a wonderful time to raise caterpillars and learn about the metamorphosis process. In fact, we have included a caterpillar habitat in our nature center no less than three times over the last ten years, and we will probably do it again next spring.

We also frequently use our nature center to sprout seedlings with the intent to transplant them outside once the weather turns nice enough.

Springtime is a great time to include hang posters of butterfly species or pictures of local wildflowers.

Homeschool Learning Spaces: The Indoor Nature Center3. Setting Up a Nature Center in the Summer

Our summertime nature center is barer than other seasons, mostly because we spend so much time outside. But we do make an effort to display photographs we have taken during our outdoor adventures. These photos include birds and animals we catch a glimpse of on our nature hikes.

I also keep a plastic tub in our school room that is perfect for collecting all the treasures we find while out exploring:

  • rocks

  • leaves and twigs

  • freshly picked flowers 

  • shells or driftwood

  • feathers

  • mosses

  • dead insects or snake skins

Last year, we did a fun experiment that involved white flowers and colored water. We learned about how plants absorb water and nutrients through their veins and how those nutrients go to their leaves and petals. The kids enjoyed watching the white flowers turn colors as the colored water traveled through the veins.

We also often include a worm farm in our summertime nature center. The kids love playing with worms, and I love teaching them about how beneficial worms are for the soil.

4. How to Set Up a Fall-Themed Homeschool Nature Center

Our fall-themed nature center is always a little sparse. As much as I love the different colors of leaves on the trees outside, I don’t really like bringing them inside. Colorful leaves are always quick to crumble and make a mess.

Honestly? This time of year is usually the time of year that I like to overlap other seasons. Either our summertime displays go longer or our wintertime displays start earlier.

If you’re not afraid of a few crumbly leaves, then, by all means, bring in some colorful leaves to display. Or do what I do and take the neat and tidy way out by just printing off some visuals of colorful leaves and trees.

As you can see, a homeschool nature center can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just follow your children's lead, and you’re sure to have an awesome indoor nature center as part of your homeschool space.

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About the Author

Charlene Hess of Hess Un-AcademyCharlene Hess spent many years teaching before she had her own kids. She now has 7 of her own, whom she has been homeschooling for the last 10 years. Although she still teaches other children outside of her home, she finds great joy in exploring the world with her family.

Charlene has participated in many leadership trainings with John C. Maxwell. She and her husband blog about their homeschooling and parenting adventures at Hess Un-Academy.