Having pets around is AWESOME for nature study without knowing. :) Trick them into it, that's right!
Cats, how nimble, how independent (for the most part), their claws, how they look after themselves; dogs how rowdy, their habits, digging, protecting, chasing, fetching... these are all things we observe about our animals without even trying.
How about fish? We put a glass bowl in the middle of our dining table, with fish, snails and water plants. It provides for a very interesting eye-catcher during meals without being obtrusive. We've learned a lot just by watching. Did you know that snails eat fish? Well, I can tell you they do. I've observed it with my very own eyes! Keeping a small aquarium is a great option for people who move around a lot.
Having living things around is SUPER for laid back nature study. You can add interest or get those thinking juices flowing by throwing out questions now and then such as, 'Why do you suppose his claws are like that?' or 'How do you suppose he moves along the side of the glass without any fins or feet?', etc. Don't give an answer. Let them wonder about it. Let them pull out a book or two if they're still wondering later.
Apart from the normal pet options, here are others we've really enjoyed:
I'm sure you can think of others!
If you'd like to join us this nature study monday, please leave the link to your post in the comments! :)