Jim's 3 Steps to
Here's how you can teach yourself to be a pretty good backyard naturalist:
STEP 1: Identify something -- figure out the name of plants and animals you discover in your backyard and elsewhere by using naturalist "tools," such as the special kinds of books known as field guides and identification keys, along with Internet sites. At first you'll be overwhelmed by special terms and concepts you don't understand. However, there's a special technique we call leapfrogging by which you can teach yourself what you need to know to complete the identification process.
STEP 2: Find out what's interesting about the thing you've identified when you look up the name in a book or on the Internet.
STEP 3: Finally, Over the years, keep gathering information, mainly from your own observations but also from books, journals, web sites and other sources, and keep this information handy in your Nature Notebook (which can be kept on your computer).
(Jim's 3 Steps are outlined in a PowerPoint presentation. If PowerPoint is installed on your computer, to see the outline, click here. If you don't have PowerPoint, see the online HTML version here. These presentations are about 245 KB large.