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Turtle Nature Study for Your Homeschool

Learn about pond life, pondweed and a pond habitat with this fun turtle nature study for your homeschool. Includes activities for learning about tortoises and microscopic pond life too.

Turtle Nature Study Inside Preparation Work

Learn about pond life, pondweed and a pond habitat with this fun turtle nature study for homeschool. Includes activities for tortoises and microscopic pond life.
  • Read in the Handbook of Nature Study about Turtles on pages 204-209 (Lesson 52). Also read about Pondweed on pages 498-500 (Lesson 130).
  • Homeschool Nature Study Members: Use the Pond Study Cross-section Notebook page in your Pond Course as a way to generate interest for this challenge. You can complete the page during your outdoor time if you would like.
  • Advanced Study: View and read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 400-403 (Lesson 102). Use this information as you make your observations at your local pond. Here is another idea for the field: Guide to Pond Dipping. I also found this excellent resource for identifying things you find when you scoop your pond water: Simple Guide to Small and Microscopic Pond Life.

Pond Homeschool Nature Study Outdoor Hour Time

  • Look for opportunities to spend your outdoor hour time at a pond. Ponds are a center of many nature study opportunities. Let your child lead your pond time (with your careful supervision).
  • Use the ideas from the lessons in the Handbook of Nature Study to observe closely any turtles or pondweed that you find. Make sure to keep an eye out for anything of interest that you can follow up with in the Handbook of Nature Study.
Learn about pond life, pondweed and a pond habitat with this fun turtle nature study for homeschool. Includes activities for tortoises and microscopic pond life.

Turtle and Pond Follow-Up Homeschool Activities

  • Follow-up with any interest that you found during your pond study. Use the Handbook of Nature Study as a reference for any additional subjects that came up. Make a nature journal entry for your turtle or pondweed.
  • Homeschool Nature Study Members: Find a Pond Life Study on page three of your Pond Course and accompanying Pond Outdoor Hour Challenge Curriculum.
  • Advanced Study: You can research individual turtles for you nature journal. Use this website for more information: Turtles and Tortoises of the United States.
  • Advanced Study: Use the information from the Wetlands/Ponds video and create your own pond life images. You can record any pond dwellers in your nature journal. Ebook Users: There is also an additional notebook page in the ebook to use if you have more to record.

Additional links:

Learn about pond life, pondweed and a pond habitat with this fun turtle nature study for homeschool. Includes activities for tortoises and microscopic pond life.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership for the Whole Family

Can you believe all of these turtle and pond resources you will find in membership? You will also find a continuing homeschool nature study series plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

– By Barb July 2012, updated by Tricia March 2022

Learn about pond life, pondweed and a pond habitat with this fun turtle nature study for homeschool. Includes activities for studying microscopic pond life.
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Rock Cycle Activities For Middle And High School Homeschool Nature Study

An introduction to geology with rock cycle activities for middle and high school. This is a great homeschool nature study and a simple way to explore rocks as a nature study in your own backyard!

An introduction to geology with rock cycle activities for middle and high school. A great way to explore rocks as a backyard homeschool nature study!

Rock Study of Granite and Other Igneous Rocks

Note To the Parent: There is a lot of great information in this study, far more than can be covered in a week. Use this study as an introduction to geology as it relates to nature study in your own backyard or neighborhood. Read the information in the Handbook of Nature Study and share any facts or ideas with your child that make sense to you. Keep it simple.

Rock Cycle Activities, Nature Study Lesson Plans and Inside Prep Work For Your Homeschool:

  • Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages 743-750 (Introduction to Rocks and Minerals and Lessons 209—210).
  • For this challenge, concentrate on Lesson 209– Granite. You can also observe other igneous rocks: basalt, obsidian, and pumice.
  • View the images and the videos in the Additional Links section below.
  • Advanced study: Interactive Rock Cycle—This is a great overview of the rock cycle and identifying rocks.
Hunt for rocks during your homeschool nature study outdoor hour challenge time.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Go exploring for rocks. Bring along a collecting box or bag and see if you can find some rocks, particularly granite or other igneous rocks. Remember what you read in the Handbook of Nature Study and the images you viewed in your preparation.
  • Collect some samples to bring inside to look at closely. Make sure to take a photo for your Rock Photo Scavenger Hunt notebook page.
An introduction to geology with rock cycle activities for middle and high school. A great way to explore rocks as a backyard homeschool nature study!

Follow-Up Rock Cycle Activities For Your Homeschool:

  • Choose one of the rocks you collected outdoors and look at it closely using a hand lens. If you collected some granite, can you distinguish the various components? Record your observations in your nature journal.
  • Advanced study: Diagram and describe the rock cycle in your nature journal.
  • Advanced study: Use your observation skills and record your information in your nature journal. Use a rock identification key to identify your igneous rock.
Homeschool nature study rocks - with handbook of nature study outdoor hour challenge curriculum

Rock Nature Study in Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Find rock cycle activities and rock homeschool nature study resources in Homeschool Nature Study Membership! Included in membership:

  • Rocks Big Grid – filled with nature study prompts for weeks of rock study!
  • Rocks notebooking pages for: pyrite, obsidian, coal, chalk, hematite, pumice, zinc, talc, geode, amethyst, flint, coral and sponge.
  • Rock Photo Hunt prompts and notebooking page
  • Under a Rock notebooking page
  • Plus 25+ courses and an interactive monthly calendar filled with nature study prompts and new nature study lessons.
An introduction to geology with rock cycle activities for middle and high school. A great way to explore rocks as a backyard homeschool nature study!
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Outdoor Hour Challenge 2018-2019 Plans

Outdoor Hour Challenge

September 2018 through August 2019

Plans and Instructions


OHC Plan 18 to 19 Join UsAs we start another year of nature study together, I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to see the year’s plans all in one place. This plan was made with Handbook of Nature Study members in mind but it will also be very accessible to non-members who would like to join us.

Benefits by Level Updated size 500Outdoor Hour Challenge September 2018 – August 2019 for Members

Get the Year Plan in a PDF: Subscribe to the Ultimate Naturalist Library, Journey, or Discovery level membership: This membership will give you access to a detailed schedule for the entire year. You’ll have a printable plan that shows dates and specific topics that will be considered every Friday. This makes your planning super easy!



Winter Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudyWinter Nature Study Series

Garden+Flowers+Cover.jpgGarden Flowers and Plants

More Nature Study Summer @handbookofnaturestudySummer Nature Study Continues

Download the Ebooks: Ultimate Naturalist Members will have access to the three ebooks needed for the year’s nature study plans.

Click the covers below to go to more information for each ebook. Check your files to see if you own these ebooks already!

Autumn 2009 cover graphic

Note: There is no separate ebook for the autumn season. We’ll be using the free notebook page bundle from 2009 that is available to everyone under the Autumn tab on the blog.


nb bundle 1

Download the Notebook Page Bundle: In addition to receiving the year’s plan in a pdf to download, Ultimate and Journey level members will also have access to a new Notebook Page Bundle printable that includes EVERY notebooking page needed for the entire year’s plan. This 78 page bundle can be printed for each student in your family. The Parent’s edition of the Notebook Page Bundle includes an index of challenges AND chart that shows the nature topics and corresponding pages in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

I’m super excited about this new Notebook Page Bundle! This has been a much requested item and I’m happy to make this a part of the Ultimate and Journey level memberships.  Note: These are not new notebook pages, but for convenience they’re the pages from the ebooks gathered into one file for you to print and use with your family. This saves you time and energy as you plan and then complete your nature study!

OHC Plan 18 to 19 Join Us

Do You Want to Join Us?

Here’s what you need to do!

  1. Purchase a membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Remember that if you want access to all the ebooks and other resources you will need an Ultimate Naturalist Membership.
  2. Download the ebooks.
  3. Download the Notebook Page Bundle (both a student version and a parent’s version are available).
  4. Download the September 2018 through August 2019 plan.
  5. Subscribe to the Handbook of Nature Study blog for reminders each Friday.


This can be your best year ever for nature study!

Click Below to Get Started!

Use the discount code: Nature4U for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Code Expires 8/18/18.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy



If you can’t purchase a membership at this time, you can still follow along by subscribing to the blog and each week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge will come right to your email inbox.

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2


We’re so proud to have been chosen as a top Elementary Science curriculum by readers at Practical Homeschooling. I hope you’ll think about using our nature study ideas in your family with the confidence that families from around the world are happy with their results!

Practical Homeschool Reader Award 2018 border

How would you like to enter a giveaway for an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership?

OHC Membership Giveaway graphic

You can enter below! I will be giving away three memberships!

Giveaway ends on Friday, August 10, 2018 at 11 PM.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Garden Flowers – Aster Nature Study

Monarch on the Butterfly Bush
I don’t know about you but ever since we really learned about Fibonacci numbers in nature we have been on the lookout for the patterns and swirls. They seem to be everywhere once your eyes learn to focus on this interesting design in creation. The More Nature Study Book #4 Summer Sizzle challenge for garden flowers shares lots of ideas for getting to know about the Fibonacci sequence and the aster family.

Our Garden Flowers Study using the Handbook of Nature Study led us to discover some different kinds of asters that we have right in our own yard. The clue is the shape and arrangement of the flower petals.

White Daisies
The challenge was actually to study White daisies, Black-eyed Susans, and Asters. We went beyond and tried to find all the flowers in the aster family that we have in our garden. We found quite a few.

There are the dahlias. This surprised me that it was in the aster family. My son grows dahlias in his garden box for me and this year they are all shades of pink. I would like to add a few more colors next year.

Dahlia in a Container
We do have dahlias growing in pots on the back deck. We planted these from seeds that we purchased from Rene’s Garden. The package calls them Watercolor Silksand they live up to their name.

Light Orange Dahlia from the container garden

I bring them in and let them fully open up inside on the kitchen table.

We have lots of Echinacea in our cutting garden. We looked this flower up and it is in the aster family! Can you count the petals?

Bee Balm
We were not sure about the Bee Balm so we looked it up on Wikipedia…no, it is not in the aster family. Knowing what makes an aster an aster, we should have known better. Sometimes it adds to the learning experience to NOT find what you are looking for because it makes you stop and take note of the different attributes of a flower like petal arrangement and the way the flower grows.

The nasturtium is also not a member of the aster family. I would love to have a whole bed of nasturtiums. I settled for four scrawny plants this year. There is a study in the Handbook of Nature Study for the nasturtium and I think our family will be following up this aster study with that one in the near future…just for fun and to record this flower in our nature journals.

Other Miscellaneous Garden Adventures from the Past Month

Cabbage White butterfly
We have lots of Cabbage White butterflies in our garden everyday. I really love this link: Cabbage White. I learned so much by taking the time to look up this butterfly even though it was technically garden flower week. I love it when nature study subjects come to us and we slow down enough to learn a few facts. This is what makes our nature study so rich and satisfying. I think it is such a joy to know about the common everyday things in my garden. There is so much to learn.

Hot Cocoa Rose - Shores Acres

We visited a beautiful rose garden when we were on our Oregon trip last month. Shores Acres has a garden that is so magical that you don’t know where to look and you are afraid you are going to miss something. The rose above is my absolute new favorite…it is called Hot Cocoa. It had a slight chocolate fragrance and the color was reminiscent of cocoa.

Barb at Shores Acres
A rare sighting of me on the blog but I want you to know how much I enjoyed this rose garden. My son obliged me by taking a few photos of me as we wandered around and tried to find our favorites.

Shores Acres Rose Garden 1

My other son decided that the bench was just too inviting and he rested awhile in the rose garden…what a great way to spend a few minutes while you wait for your mom who decided she wanted to read very sign.

OHC Blog Carnival
So have you completed your garden flower study for the summer yet using the Handbook of Nature Study? I would love to see your garden entries in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival…you have until the end of the month to post your entry and send in your links.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Southern Oregon Beaches – Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

Our recent trip to Oregon let us sample the different kinds of beaches there are along this section of the Pacific Coast. The coast of Southern Oregon has become our summer getaway of choice. We enjoy the break from the hot temperatures at home and we cooled off with the misty foggy days of the Oregon summer.

Would you like to see some of the beaches we visited along with some of the treasures we found to observe and record in our nature journals?

McVay Rock tidepools and rocks (6)

Let’s start off with the most southerly location we visited, a little gem of a beach with lots and lots of agates and pebbles, McVay Rock. This has become one of my favorite rock beaches and it has tidepools too! The boys enjoyed searching for the most colorful or interesting rocks. This was a great location to start our Outdoor Hour Challenge on Rocks. Although we didn’t examine any granite, we took advantage of the time to closely examine some other rocks.

Whaleshead Beach (16)

On the other side of Brookings, Oregon we spent some time exploring Whaleshead Beach. The sun was out and we walked the sand, climbed over rocks, and watched the sea birds flying.

Whaleshead Beach (13)
There were colorful flowers and grasses growing along the rocky cliffs. It hardly seems possible that this dudleya can grow right on the rocks but it does.

Pistol River (8)
This is a close-up of another beach we visited at the Pistol River in Oregon. It was early morning and we had the beach to ourselves. We had to walk over sand dunes and then over a flat area to get to the shore. There were lots and lots of empty shells…the birds must feast here when the time is right.

Pistol River (2)
Here is a view down the beach with the shorebirds in the distance poking their beaks in for a morning meal. We have friends that come here to go clamming but we were just on a refreshing beach walk as we traveled up the coast.

Bullards Beach Sunset Kite
Here is another beach we camped at on our trip, Bullards Beach near Bandon, Oregon. This image is in the evening and if you look closely you can see horses in the distance and a family having a bonfire up sheltered in the pile of driftwood.

Bullards Beach (11)
Here is another section of the beach early in the morning. Look at all that driftwood!

Bullards Beach lighthouse
This is the lighthouse at Bullards Beach and you can see the sandy dunes and grasses that border the actual shore. Behind the lighthouse is the Pistol River outlet which is where all the driftwood comes from during certain parts of the year.

Cape Arago (3)
Farther up the coast, we visited Cape Arago and Simpson Reef. It was a wet day but we braved the rain to observe the sea life down on the rocky islands. I had my binoculars and we were able to see sea lions resting on the rocks and in the water.

Rock and Shell Nature Journal (3)
Rocks and shells are rather difficult to draw in my nature journal. It is an exercise in slowing down and really looking at the object before you put your pencil or pen to the page.

Rock Shell Collection
We had a great time looking for rocks on this trip. Not much granite to look at but we did see many things to capture our interest and to look up in our field guides.

Just looking at these photos makes me want to turn around and go back to Oregon.

You can find other rock related challenges here on the Handbook of Nature Study blog.
Quartz Study
Sand and Soil
Salt Study

If you are interested in more of our Oregon Coast adventures, here are some links.

Oregon Coast Trail

Have you seen the new product over at If you own a Lifetime Membership over on Debra’s website, you can log into your account on and download your set right now. If you aren’t already a member over there, you can purchase the set separately or I would highly recommend a Lifetime Membership so you can access all of the 1000’s of notebooking pages she has to offer. ($4.95 for the set or get started with your membership with $10!)

Marine Invertebrates Notebooking Pages

Please note I am an affiliate for and have used the notebooking pages with my family for years!

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Family Monarch Study – How To Conduct a Nature Study Follow-Up

In any blackboard reading lesson, and, so far as possible, in individual written work by the children, tell —
First. What I did.
Second. What I saw.
Third. What I thought.
If this order is habitually followed, the children are more apt to think for themselves, and to base their conclusions on what they have seen. If told in the first person, as far as possible, class reproduction is apt to be more thoughtful and the pupil’s work more individual.
Nature Study and the Child by Charles Scott, 1900

What We Did:
We sat in the garden on several occasions to try to spy out some butterflies as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge for summer butterflies. Mom had her camera and was ready to snap some images if a beauty came along. We mostly saw bees of various kinds and the occasional dragonfly.

Fiery Skipper from 2009 – I forgot to plant my cosmos this year…just realized.

What We Saw:
Western Tiger Swallowtail (We studied this butterfly during the summer of 2011.)
Cabbage White
Fiery Skipper (We identified this way back in 2007.)

Swallowtail on butterfly bush
Photo from a few weeks ago showing the damaged wing.

What We Thought:
We wondered why we never see the caterpillars in our yard so we investigated the host plant for the Western Tiger Swallowtail. Turns out we have no host plants so that solves that mystery. The host plants are: willow, cottonwood, and chokecherry. (You can use this link to learn about host plants: Create a Butterfly Garden.)

We also noticed that quite a few of the butterflies that come to our yard have tattered wings. We did a little research and found that butterflies can still fly even with up to 70% of their wings missing. It is really a blessing that they are capable of flying even after a bird has taken a bite out of their wings. (See this webpage.) Did you know that some people actually repair a butterfly’s broken wings? Never knew that.

I forgot to mention here on the blog that my milkweed that I had been nurturing along for a few years in a pot on my deck was totally and completely destroyed by the roofers that came to roof our house back in June. They somehow managed to dump it to the ground and it was just smashed into a million pieces, beyond saving. I shed a few tears and promised myself that I would try again. Reminds me I need to order some more seeds and buy a new pot. I am determined to start a monarch habitat in my yard.

Butterfly garden June 2012 (14)
We didn’t see any monarchs this week but we did last month.

So to wrap up this post, I want to encourage you to try the simple process that Charles Scott outlined in the quote at the top of this post. It is an easy way to structure a nature journal entry….even young children could give a few words in response to the prompts.

 First. What I did.
Second. What I saw.
Third. What I thought.


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Monsoon Moisture – Our Summer Weather Study

Monsoon moisture July 2012
I captured this image of the clouds at sunset last night coming in off the lake. Gorgeous!

Summer in our part of Northern California is HOT and DRY!

But, occasionally we get the weather phenomenon called “monsoon moisture” which really means that the storms come from the Gulf of California and are tropical in nature, reaching up into the mountains of Northern California with moisture and thunderstorms. (That is my very non-technical explanation of monsoon moisture.) We are going to be using this topic as the advanced study portion of the Summer Weather Challenge.

Mr B with rock tufa at Mono Lake
Monsoon Moisture in the eastern Sierra Nevada at Mono Lake 2006

When this happens, we see quite an interesting buffet of weather activity:
1. Scattered afternoon thunderstorms
2. Down pours of rain
3. Gusty high winds
4. Beautiful clouds (especially at sunset)
5. Increased fire danger because of the chance of dry lightning (no rain)

After an monsoon weather event, the air is sticky with warm moist air. The plants and trees are refreshed, the dry leaves swept away, and the air just smells so nice and fresh.

Reflecting windows and blue sky Bodie
Monsoon Moisture – Bodie State Park,  Eastern Sierra Nevada 2006. We got very wet in the rainstorm that came shortly after taking this photo!

We had such an even last night which will give us an account to share as part of the Summer Weather Challenge in the More Nature Study series. It was really hot at bedtime so we decided to sleep out on the back deck under the stars. It started off fairly innocently with a few wisps of clouds slowly moving across the sky blocking out the stars. Then the wind started to gust and the first flashes of lightning came quickly one after the other. The rumble of the thunder was in the distance. No problem my husband said…he thought it was just going to be a dry lightning event where there is no rain associated with the storm.

Boy, was he wrong!

By 11 PM the lightning, thunder, wind, and rain hit with full force. The wind chimes were ringing constantly and we decided we better give up the idea of sleeping outside. This kind of weather is fairly normal for our area in the summer and we have a couple of these storms usually in July or August. What turned this into an unusual event was the length of the storm. We still were having lightning, thunder, wind, and rain until at least 4 AM. It was a restless night for all of us as we kept getting up to peer out the windows and doors at the awesome display of power in this storm.

July bouquet
The garden still had plenty of beautiful flowers for a bouquet this morning.

The power went out for a short time but all in all there was little other inconvenience from the storm. Today the sun rose and warmed the air and made us all feel welcome. The windows were opened and the fans turned on to drive away the humidity a bit.

Right on time for our Summer Weather Challenge!

Here are a few of our other summer weather entries:
Summer Weather 2011 – Can You Say HOT?
Summer Weather Sunrise/Sunset Observations 2010

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Summer Bird Study – Hummingbirds

Hummingbird Feeder and Potted Plants
This is our busiest hummingbird feeder. They also like the flowers in the pots.

We love hummingbirds. I think we pay more attention to the hummingbirds in our yard than any other bird. They are constantly at our feeders, in our garden flowers, and flying around…front yard and backyard.

There are at least three in our yard at all times, competing for the feeders and flying fast. They sit in the trees and chirp at us when we eat dinner on the back deck. They are not afraid of us when we are out in the backyard and frequently will fly right up by us as we work in the yard.

They are year round residents.

What aspect did we focus on this time in our hummingbird study as part of the More Nature Study Book #4 Hummingbird Challenge? We started off asking questions about their feathers and how in a certain light they are very green and in then in another light they are bright red. What makes them iridescent? But then we got side-tracked asking why the Anna’s hummingbird chases the Black Headed Grosbeaks out of the seed feeders. I mean they are aggressively chasing them far out of the yard. Our field guide says they defend a 1/4 acre territory. We haven’t found the concrete answer to our questions yet but we have some guesses.

Also, we were fascinated this week by one hummingbird in particular. We call him “Flutter”. He has a unusual sound to his flying. Most of the birds have the familiar “hum” to their wings and the Anna’s Hummingbird make a clicking sound as well. But Flutter sounds like he has a bum wing…like it is not beating like the other birds. It sounds like a fluttering instead of a humming, if that makes sense. We have yet to catch him with the camera because our thought is that if we can take a photo and take a look at his wing shape, maybe he has some sort of injury.

One last thing to relate about our hummingbirds this week. I was out in the yard using the hose to water a few of the bushes since it has been extremely hot and dry. I had the hose in a fine sort of mist and in the shape of an arc. Well, a hummingbird decided that it was the perfect place to fly in and out as he took a bath! It was amazing to watch and I am hoping I get to see it again some day. Our hummingbirds are quite comfortable with us right now and they will fly right up behind you and visit the feeder even if you are inches from them.

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Not Quite Sand Nature Study – Creek Gravel and Rocks

Creek with poppies and sweet peas

We have not made it to the ocean yet this summer. We have big plans to go later this month but we had the opportunity to do some dirt, gravel, and sand gathering this past weekend up in the Sierra Nevada. We took a day trip to Grover Hot Springs State Park which is a complete blog entry all on its own. I will save that for later in the week.

For this post I will share a little of our nature study using the Outdoor Hour Challenge for Sand and Soil from the Summer Sizzle ebook series. We used the creek running next to the picnic area to enjoy some rock, sand, and gravel observation time. This is an interesting geological area which we are planning on going back to explore some more.

July 2012 Grover Hot Spring
This was a creek that meanders a bit and we tried to find some animal prints but we had no luck. There wasn’t much sand on the banks but it was more like gravel or pebbles. There were little fish and lots of insect larvae in the small pools along the banks.
The creek was very shallow and perfect for sticking hot toes in while you explore the smooth rocks of varied colors.
We used an empty water bottle to collect a bit of “dirt” which is mostly decomposed granite gravel and a bit of the “soil”. My hubby found that doing this left his hands super dirty with a fine dusting of soil. He of course used this as an excuse to wash his hands in a waterfall.

I am going to wait until after our beach excursion to do the up close observation with the hand lens, having Mr. B compare the dirt we collected from the creek with the sand we collect from the ocean beach. I think this will make it a bit more interesting and give him something to record in his nature journal.

July 2012 Grover Hot Spring
Summer nature study is at its best when you can combine it with an outdoor family adventure. It becomes just an extension of what you do to make your time outdoors more enriching. We didn’t take nature journals or field guides this time but the atmosphere was one where we were always alert to find something interesting.

Like the rock in the photo above….just one of the many interesting rocks that we saw on the hiking part of our day. We also saw some wildflowers, a few butterflies, heard and observed quite a number of birds,  and ended up sitting in the natural hot springs. Yes, this was a great day….more soon!
Don’t forget the Summer Photo Challenge! Here are the details and here is the Pinterest Board.

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Summer Tree Study – Following Up on Cottonwoods

This week we were determined to complete our Cottonwood Tree Study as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. It is hard to get motivated when it is really hot outside but we persevered….most of our study was indoors anyway so we had no real excuse. Once we started it was very enjoyable, gleaning much from our reading in the Handbook of Nature Study and then direct observation.

Our neighbor had a cottonwood tree in their front yard until a few years ago when they cut it down to make room for some other landscaping. I remember there were certain times of years I did enjoy having that tree next door. It was MESSY. The “cotton” would cover our deck and yard as it blew over in our direction.

So without a specimen nearby, we had to travel across town to view another cottonwood tree that I noticed along the edge of a big field. It really is a very pretty tree with a nice shape and growing sort of tall. The trunk is easy to recognize once you know what to look for.

We had the chance to observe a cottonwood tree when we visited Anna Comstock’s cabin in New York last May. I gathered a bit of cotton to include in my nature journal. I wrapped it up in a paper towel and folded into the front of my journal for safe keeping. We took the opportunity with this challenge to examine the cotton closely.

cottonwood june 2012 (1)
We examined the seeds with our magnifying lens and it was truly amazing to see the structure of this catkin with its seeds.

“The little pointed pods open into two or more valves and set free the seeds, which are provided with a fluff of pappus to sail them off on the breeze; so many of the seeds develop that every object in the neighborhood is covered with their fuzz…” Handbook of Nature Study, page 656

Pappus was a new word to us so we looked it up. A pappus is the flower-like structure on the top of the akene. (Remember your dandelion study?) You can see a variety of kinds of pappus on this website: Who’s Your Pappus? I also found information at the bottom of this page on Backyard Nature. I need to add the word to my journal entry so I don’t forget it.
Cottonwood nature journal

So here is my journal after I finished with it. I found an envelope (glassine envelopes for scrapbooks) for the cottonwood seed fluff sample and the pressed flower that I had collected from the woods. I watercolored around the edges to give it some color and used my metallic gel pens to make a title. I printed a photo of the cottonwood cotton since it is a part of the memory of that early morning walk that I will treasure for a long time to come.

We are going to go back to our local cottonwood tree and take photos for the Summer Photo Challenge and as a guide for our watercolor project for the week.  Mr. B is working on his notebook page from the More Nature Study Book 4 challenge using his field guide for the cottonwood tree. We think ours is a Black Cottonwood so he is doing the research on that species for his challenge.

Another great tree challenge to add to our nature journals…hope to see some of your trees in the upcoming Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Remember that every entry into the June Newsletter carnival is an entry to win the Your Backyard Monarch Butterfly DVD and Study Guide. Last day to submit your entries is June 29, 2012.
OHC Blog Carnival
Don’t forget the Great American Backyard Campout!
And my Camping With Kids link-up from yesterday.