Now to Outdoor Hour Challenge #7.
What did our family do for nature study this week? Remember that my boys are 12 and 14 years old so they do most of the follow up activities on their own. I remind them to make a journal entry or to complete a new field guide card but for the most part….they have taken on responsibility for their own nature study. If your children are younger or less experienced with nature study, they are going to need more help and probably only one follow up activity.
Our focus is garden flowers and my son found a flower to press for his nature journal. You may be interested in reading this entry: How To Make A Flower Press.
Annual Honesty: Lunaria annua-we call it money plant We are busy trying to remember the official names of each part of a flower. We are going to draw and label a diagram each day this week so it will be set into our memory. (page 456 in the Handbook of Nature Study)
We saw a turkey vulture in our backyard yesterday so we really need to add a card to our bird field guide. If you have never seen a turkey vulture close up, you have no idea how BIG they are. The bird we saw yesterday swooped down through our backyard and we had a great view from our window.
The boys also spent quite a bit of time observing our cat hunting a mouse. They came in and told me all about it with great stories of how the cat would “play” with the mouse. The mouse ended up getting away….horrors. It made a great nature journal drawing though. 🙂
Here is a copy of the blank information form we use.
As you can see, we are not very structured in our nature study. I love the way it folds into our everyday life. Once a month we take our nature day and really focus on some aspect of study but mostly it is bit by bit, everyday awareness.
We have had a busy week and although we have been outside everyday, we haven’t really cracked the Handbook of Nature Study at all. Some weeks our nature study is like that but then we will make up for it other weeks.
The boys have been busy weeding the garden and my youngest even planted a few spinach seedlings hoping that they will make it through until the weather really warms up.
We have been busy birdwatching because our feeders are still full of birds. I think some of the birds are nesting and we will be putting out some things for them to nest with.
Our focus area is garden flowers so we took a trip to the Home Depot to see what we could add to the garden. Guess what they picked? Marigolds. Lots of marigolds.
We also picked up a few packets of seeds: Sunflower (Mammoth), Peas, and Green Beans (Kentucky Wonders). We are going to wait a bit before we put the seeds into the garden because we are still having a little frost each morning.
My son decided that for his collection he would like to press garden flowers.
We started with pansies and violets.
They are now slipped into a sheet protector and they will go into his binder. We are still working on a way of adhering them to the paper without damaging them. I will keep you posted. (in a future challenge we will be learning how to press flowers)
So that was our week, not as exciting as some but still VERY enjoyable.
Our focus is garden flowers and we marked our table of contents for flowers we think we will study over the next few weeks. Last week we did pansies and this week we are learning about daffodils. We read the section in the Handbook of Nature Study and then headed outdoors to our garden “laboratory”.
We had our 10-15 minutes outdoors today looking for daffodils or jonquils. We have several varieties blooming right now so it was perfect timing. Here are a few photos.
We read in the Handbook of Nature Study about the parts of the daffodil so when we went outside we made sure to look closely to see each part. Here is the sheath.
Here is the seedcase when we opened it up with a knife.
Okay, so now we were wondering why you grow daffodils from a bulb and not from seeds. We went to the internet and found the answer.
Here is what I found on the internet: The seeds are ripe when they literally rattle in the seedpod or the pod is about to burst open on its own. They should be black then. Hybridizers grow daffodils from seed to try to produce new varieties. The problem with it is it takes a really long time to get a blooming size bulb from seed. Typical is maybe five years! Most people buy and plant bulbs because they like results (flowers) sooner than that.
Here is the bouquet I was given at the end of our study today. It is in our special daffodil vase that my middle son gave to me as a gift many years ago. I love it.
So that was our very enjoyable Outdoor Hour challenge for this week. We learned more about a flower we have grown in our garden for decades. I love nature study and so does my son.
As part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge, our family will be focusing on garden plants for the next eight weeks. This does not mean that we won’t be looking at anything else interesting that comes up during our nature study but rather we will keep our minds set on learning more about the garden plants that we have in our backyard. I am sure we will also take in a field trip or two to the local nursery and to our favorite place at this time of year, the Amador Flower Farm.
We got out the Handbook of Nature Study and skimmed down the garden flower selections and my son decided that he wanted to learn about pansies since we have a pot of them on the back deck. We read the introductory information together. He really enjoyed hearing how the flowers looked like human faces so that is what we decided to observe this week.
My son took this one for his nature journal.
I took this one of the center of the flower using my macro setting.
For our 10-15 minutes outside we took some time to really look deeply at the pansy. He saw the face and then we looked deeper for the little man that the book talked about. Found it! We brought one flower inside for pressing and eventually to add to his nature notebook. He had taken some photos of the pansies and those will go in too. Later this week he will put it all together into a page in his notebook.
I read the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study that talk about using scientific names and about the field notebook. We have kept nature notebooks for many years and have found them to be something we enjoy reading over many times. We use spiral notebooks with heavy paper and they have held up very well over the years, even with little hands.
Pretty yellow forsythia.
We were overwhelmed with all the garden flowers already blooming in our yard once we started looking closely.
This is our favorite and soon it will fill in a whole flower bed on the side of the house.
Violets, mmmm. Can you smell them?
Oh, and there was a little tree climbing during our nature time.
Another successful Outdoor Hour Challenge…..done in 30 minutes.
March 1, 2008
Dear Nature Friends,
Today we took our Outdoor Hour Challenge on the road, or should I say trail? The last Friday of every month we take the day off from our regular schooling to have a Nature Day. This is something I have been doing all year with my 12 and 14 year old sons. We take the day and focus on some aspect of nature that fits in with our science lessons or our interests.
Please remember when you read my post and view my photos (and a short video) that we have been doing nature study in our family since these two boys were able to walk….a long time. We also live in a moderate climate and have limitless access to wilderness. This hike is literally out our door and a few miles away. On a scale of one to ten, this day was a perfect ten. I hope that puts our experience in perspective for you beginners. This is what your nature study can look like in a few years if you keep at it, little by little.
In challenge number 1 I shared our hike on a new trail…the one with the ferns and the unusual bud. We wanted to take the hike all the way to the river this time so after a short stop at our tree in the woods, we headed over to the trail head. We set off at a quick pace but soon we found wildflowers blooming and of course I had to stop to take a few photos.
I wasn’t able to identify this one yet, need to see it flowering.
We saw our first butterflies of the season, big brown ones and little blue ones. The sun was actually hot and we shed a layer of sweaters and sweatshirts…good thing I had my backpack on this hike. 🙂 We had good conversation as we hiked along. Oh, we saw what the “unusual looking bloom” was from our last trip. It is actually just the way the leaves pop out on this particular plant.
It was a long downhill hike to get to the river, I think about a mile and a half but the hard part is that it was a really steep downhill grade. I kept thinking about the hike back up with great dread. Would the hike be worth it we kept asking?
The minute we hit the edge of the river and I was shedding my pack, the boys excitedly called to me to come over and look at something. I could tell it was something good by the tone in their voices. Wow! A whole pool of California newts!
We spent quite a bit of time watching them in their courtship dance in the crystal clear water. Fascinating and we felt so grateful to have seen it. My youngest slipped into the water with one foot and had a soaking shoe, sock, and pant leg for the rest of the hike. After a few photos and a video, we all sat at the edge of the river and rested and listened and just soaked it all in.
Yes, you can train your children to sit quietly and listen.
The boys were soon doing their usual river thing…throwing in rocks. I sat and worked in my nature journal drawing the blackberry leaves and vine next to me. The boys found a little gold flake in the gravel at the edge of the river. We actually live near where the California Gold Rush started on this very river.
I need to make a note to put a little vial for collecting things in my backpack. This flake was dropped into the rocks and was never seen again. He wants to go back and try again some time.
But the highlight of the day happened right when we were packing up to go back up the trail…..yes, you haven’t seen the highlight yet. The boys spotted a frog that had just jumped out of the water onto a rock. Back out comes the camera to try to get a photo for their nature journals.
While getting a few good photos, two of the frogs started croaking. Their throats blew up like balloons and the sound of it was awesome. Would you like to hear? [If you are on email subscription you will need to come over the the blog to see the video..I think.]There are actually two frogs croaking in the video and they croak at about 25 seconds and 50 seconds into the video. When we got home we pulled out our field guide and identified this as a Pacific Treefrog.
Both boys wanted to do their journals on the newt.
I got a new scanner but I have not learned how to operate it very well yet…maybe next scan will be better.
Thanks for sharing our very exciting “day out” with us. Hope it inspired and encouraged you in to have some of your own adventures with nature study. Our family looks forward to each time we have to share time out of doors. The answer to the question earlier about whether the hike would be worth the effort? Yes, totally and completely. I would go again right now….sore muscles and all.
One last photo of my son and I kneeling over the water trying to see the frogs.
This morning we had our official Outdoor Hour Challenge #2 time outside in the sunshine…we had a whole weekend of rain and wind making the sunshine all the more inviting.
My son found a “huge, ugly, insect” on the pavement and he wanted me to come and share in the ugliness. I am not a bug person. I am an outdoor nature-loving person, but definitely not a bug person. I am learning to not be so disgusted by insects and usually make friends with whatever we find after learning about it. If you are squeamish, close your eyes to the photos below.
It looked like a grasshopper to my son so we turned to the section for grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas. What do you know? It was the *first* insect in the section. Bingo! Then we turned to the page that gave the description of the Jerusalem cricket and we found that we are within the range and habitat for this insect. After reading the size and brief description, our identification was verified. This one was easy. Insects are not always that simple to put a name to. I must admit that my older son said that it looked like a potato bug. Guess what? He was right too, Jerusalem crickets are also known as potato bugs.
Here is his journal entry.
To make up for the really yucky bug photo, here is one of violets we saw growing in our lawn.
So I think we were successful this week in our assignment. I did all my reading and enjoyed it very much as expected. We actually had quite a bit of outdoor time this past week cutting a tree down in our backyard. We also identified two new birds this past week.
We successfully completed Outdoor Hour Challenge #1 yesterday. We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a nature hike. I had seen a sign a couple miles from our house that looked like it was the beginning of a trailhead. How could I have never put the effort into stopping and finding out before? It seems strange that such a gorgeous trail could be that close to my house and we had never walked it before. The Green Hour Challenge put it into my head to go ahead and give it a try. Here are a few photos of things we saw.
Delicate lavender flowers among miner’s lettuce.
Ferns lined the trail on the way down the canyon.
I have no idea what this bloom is but it was so unusual that I decided to try to identify it when we got home. Did you see the insect on it?
After we hiked this trail a bit we made our way back to the car and went down to the river to explore.
So here are some rocks along the river’s edge. We decided that this week we are going to try to identify the pink and the green rocks in this photo. I have an idea of what they are but we are going to do some research and find out for sure.
Here is another shot of the green rock.
Here is a photo of the American River where we spent some time on our Green Hour Challenge. Can you believe this river flows about 4 miles away from our front door?
Who can go to the river without throwing a few rocks in?
It was getting late but we were enjoying ourselves so much that we lost track of time. The dog in this photo just appeared at the river’s edge and convinced the boys to throw some sticks into the water so he could jump in and fetch them. My boys loved this added feature of our nature walk. 🙂
So that ends our first Outdoor Hour Challenge. I got my reading done (I’ve read it before but I took the time to reread it.) We spent our time walking outdoors together. We found two things to investigate further. We had a wonderful time.
I was sick with the flu this weekend so my boys decided yesterday afternoon to talk a walk without me….the afternoon was bright and sunny in between a cloudy morning and a snowy evening.
Here are some photos they took on their walk to share with me when they returned home.
Love the sky in this one!
Here is a view coming down the walking trail with a beautiful perspective of someone’s house with a horse in the yard. (click to make the photo larger and you will see the black horse by the house)
That fits our mammal study. We haven’t ever really learned about horses but we can now in the Handbook of Nature Study on pages 274-280.
Anna Botsford Comstock says:“Begin this study of the horse with stories of wild horses.”
I have the whole collection of Marguerite Henry books on my shelf and I don’t think my boys have ever read them. I know we read Brighty of the Grand Canyon on a road trip to the Grand Canyon but other than that, they have not tasted the delights of King of the Wind, Misty-Stormy’s Foal, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, or any of the other wonderful books about horses that I read as a child. I need to dust those off and encourage the boys to read them. You can see my sidebar to find some of these wonderful horse stories that you can use along with your nature study with your children. One last photo from their walk. Here is the llama that I have shared before but this time he was way down by the fence so the boys could take a photo of his head peeking out from the bushes.
Even though I didn’t get to go with boys on their walk, I did get to enjoy the stories and the photos.
Our square in the woods hasn’t changed much since last month. We did find some green acorns on the ground and there were quite a few more crunchy leaves on the ground.This trip we focused on trying to find some insects on our tree but we couldn’t find any at all. We did enjoy the variety of moss and lichen on the tree trunk.
Do you see the different kinds of lichen in the photo? Do you see the spider web?We also enjoyed drawing the tree on our notebook sheet that will include drawings of the tree in all four seasons.
Here are a couple notebook pages you can use for your study:
This system seems to work for us. We attach an empty ziploc bag to our clipboard and then use it to hold our little “treasures” that we find along the way. Until we devised this system, I always had my pockets filled with items the boys wanted to bring home. Now they can easily slip them into the baggie and hold it themselves.
We used our books to identify the tree as an interior live oak. We collected some leaves and acorns and then took a walk down the hill to see what we could find.
As we walked, we heard some sort of hawk above us screeching loudly. I could tell he was circling around us by the way the sound was carrying over the hill. Here are a few things we saw as we hiked back down the hill to the car.
Some sort of fungus.
Leaves from a California Buckeye tree
A beautiful sappy pine cone.
We had a great morning in the woods and will look forward to checking our square again next month.
That afternoon we ended our day with a bike ride with a friend on a local bike trail. The skies were grey but the boys had enjoyed their day outside.
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