Become a Backyard Naturalist Sample Lesson

By Holly Giles

This is a sample a three part lesson on creating a backyard habitat. Backyard Naturalist appears in our lesson modules. This section is in “Exploring local, state and national parks”.  A video is included with each lesson part inside membership.

Lesson One

A naturalist is someone who studies living things in their habitat. A naturalist observes the same thing over time to see how it changes. A naturalist appreciates nature, the life and behavior of plants, animals and other living things.

You and your children can become naturalists by observing the changes in nature in your own backyard.

We want to inspire a lifelong appreciation for the natural world and what better way than to start right where you are!

This lesson will get your feet wet with the great outdoors by starting right outside your back door.

This month your family will create a backyard/front yard habit for wildlife. You will also have the option of getting your own backyard certified through the National Wildlife Federation.

We won’t be turning your landscaping into a jungle for monkeys, we will observe what you already have and add a few touches to bring nature to you.

If you have a bit of apprehension about nature study or venturing out into the wilderness, this will calm your fears and show you nature is all around, you just have to provide a few items and it will come to you.

Observation Skills

A child has to learn to love something before it will become part of them. They must experience the joy and repetition of the wondrous excitement of birds, butterflies and other creatures for them to be curious to learn more, want more and grow up discovering more.

Today’s lesson focuses on observation skills. What do you already have in your yard to attract wildlife and what can we add to it.

  • Take a walk around your yard. Observe any signs of wildlife. Lizards, spiders, birds, butterflies, and insects can be on the house, in the bushes, and on the grass.
  • What did you see most?
  • Discuss simple ideas to bring more wildlife to your yard.

Simple Ideas

A habitat contains food, water, cover, nesting material, native plants, and trees.

Examples: A dead tree offers a cavity for nesting. Leaves, twigs and debris offer nest building material. Can you find any of those things in your yard or neighboring yards?


  1. Download the checklist to help you decide what you need to add to prepare your yard.
  2. Look up any unknown bushes, trees or plants in a regional field guide.



This learning module, Backyard Naturalist has been broken down into three lessons. Make the lessons work for your family and schedule. Each lesson module is designed to work on over one month, however, they can be done at your pace. The goal is to introduce the ideas and activities to your children to enhance their learning experience. It is not necessary to do every part of the lesson to gain valuable insight for your family.

  • Record your activities in your current lesson planner. Make these modules work with your current plan. Keep it simple.
  • Keep notes on your discoveries in a family journal or allow each child to have their own.
  • Recording your journey through membership will give you treasured memories of the activities and visible changes through nature.

Lessons included in Backyard Naturalist lesson module:

  1. Become a Backyard Naturalist.
  2. Map your yard. Bird Feeder Experiment.
  3. Create a simple yard friendly habitat and certify it with our Junior Trailblazer Club.
  4. Share your habitat with LLR members.


The book exploration of The Raft goes well with this module.

The Raft book exploration is in the “Gathering Table” section of membership.

Optional: Certifying your backyard with the National Wildlife Federation is a fun experience for the whole family. We provide the links below to do that. However,  NWF recently changed their policy and it now costs $20 to certify your yard with them.

Become a Citizen Scientist with Cheryl Bastian. Ideas for middle to high schoolers. (link below)

Book Recommendations:

The Practical Naturalist, DK Publishing

Guide to William Bartram’s Travels, Brad Sanders

Natural Gardening for Birds, Julie Zickefoose

The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book, Stacy Tornio

The Young Naturalist, Usborne

The National Wildlife Federation’s Guide to Gardening for Wildlife, Craig Tufts


Download a Backyard Naturalist journal page in the resources below. The pages are drawn by Elizabeth Quigley. Each month a new page will be available.



Resources for this lesson

Next lesson »