We had a chance today to enjoy the spring weather and complete our small square project. My son picked the spot and marked it out for us. Right away he picked the big objects out but I challenged him to list all the small items he found in his square. He used his magnifying glass and we used a small stick to dig around in the dirt a bit and we found a few things to be interested in.
We found quite a few of these clusters from the tree near the square. I suspect they are full of pollen since I noticed when they are on the tree that they send off little “puffs” of something every so often in the breeze.
Then we found some of these little plants that are not grass or dandelions.
A few misc. seeds were underneath the leaves in our square and we have no idea what kind they are.
We both enjoyed digging around in the soil and we did see one small ant.
Here is his journal entry for the day.
We are both interested to identify the tree that the clusters came from so that is our assignment for the next week. It is hard to identify since it currently has very small leaves and doesn’t look anything like the tree we see in the summer.
That was our Outdoor Hour assignment this week, nothing fancy right in our own yard but still very interesting.
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.
Outdoor Hour Challenge #5 Making a List 1. Have you decided on a focus area yet?
If you have a focus already, turn to the table of contents in the Handbook of Nature Study and skim down to your area of focus. Look down the list of subjects covered in your area. Highlight or underline those items listed that you think you will encounter during the next five to seven weeks. For example if your area of focus is garden flowers, skim down the list and see if you recognize any flower names that you have in your backyard or area. I actually see ten flowers that our family may come in contact with in our region. Pick one item in your focus area to study, turn to those pages, and read to your child about that subject. At the end of each section, there are observation ideas for each subject and these observation suggestions will be the parent’s reading assignment this week.(see below) As you find things in your focus area, keep a running list in the front or back of your nature journal of those items.
Reading Assignment for parents: Read the observation suggestions in the Handbook of Nature Study for the item you chose to read about with your child. Keep these ideas in mind as you have your outdoor time this week. For example, if you are focusing on garden flowers and you are going to read to your child about tulips, turn to the end of the section on tulips and read Lesson 151 which includes eight suggestions for observation. Keep these ideas in mind as you head out for your nature walk.
2. During your 10-15 minute walk, use your senses to not only observe but to hear the sounds of your surroundings.
“ …the mother must not miss this opportunity of being outdoors to train the children to have seeing eyes, hearing ears and seeds of truth deposited into their minds to grow and blossom on their own in the secret chambers of their imaginations” “No reading aloud or storytelling–in fact, there should be as little talking from her (mother) as possible, and what little there is should have a definite purpose.” Charlotte Mason volume one, page 45
3. Follow up with a discussion. Did you see anything new to add to your list of focus items? Did you complete any of the suggested observations? Do you need to do any further research to answer questions?
4. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Try to encourage a simple drawing, a label, and a date. Pull out the previous challenges and review the alternatives for younger children.
The main idea of this challenge is to start a list of things you find within your focus area. You can use paper clips to fasten a list into the front of your nature journal. The list can be removed when you change your focus and it can be taped or glued into your nature journal on any page you choose.
The list can be simply the names of the items or you can add the dates you observed them and the location if you want to be more thorough. Sometimes my whole nature journal entry is just a list of things that I see on a particular outing.
The beauty of a nature journal is that it is yours to do with as you want to. I hope to give you a lot of ideas that you can choose from over the coming challenges.
This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.
Blackberry vines grew all around my resting spot yesterday on my hike. I decided to really observe them and then draw them for my nature journal.
Here are some leaves that I chose to draw.
After I started drawing, I realized just how many thorns there are on a blackberry vine. There are thorns on the vine and on the back of the leaf.
Here is a close-up of the thorns on the back of the blackberry leaf. If you click on the photo and make it larger you will see something very interesting. Did you click? Did you see the little insects that I believe are aphids? How cool is that?
“The scientific names given to the parts of plants have been the stumbling block to many teachers, and yet this part of plant study should be easily accomplished. First of all, the teacher should have in mind clearly the names of the parts which she wishes to teach; the illustrations here given are for her convenience.” Handbook of Nature Study page 456
In the Handbook of Nature Study, you will find a nice diagram of the leaf parts on page 457. On the blackberry leaf it is easy to find all the parts and now I can name them with any leaf.
Here is my nature journal entry for this plant.
It was a great hike and I will be sharing more of what we saw as the days go by.
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.
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.
Last Friday we spent some time over at my parents’ house down the road from our place. They have a great pond and we took the opportunity to do our nature study time there this week. As the days get shorter and the leaves begin to turn colors, I feel the need to fit in some time outdoors before the season slips away.
So we made ourselves a little “jilly jar” pond scooper (Amateur Naturalist page 146) and we dipped in to find lots of interesting things to examine. We found three little fish, a pond snail, a whirlygig beetle, and another unknown insect. My son caught a Pacific Tree frog in a jar and we took some time to look at him and enjoy his sweet little face.
Here are some of our nature journal entries for the day. We used our field guides to identify the critters we found and we even used our pond guide to identify the duckweed floating on top of the pond. We each picked a tree to identify and realized that our tree identification book wasn’t as thorough as we would like so we made a note to pick up a new one the next time we were at the book store.
My son picked an oak to sketch and he also made a leaf rubbing.
Here are some more journal entries for the frog and the fish.
The boys also did some exploring in the woods and found a great spot to stake out a place to come back and observe each month. They chose a place that has a tree and some stacked wood because they thought it might include a place that a critter may live. We shall have to see and we will share our results.
If you look carefully you can see the purple yarn and tent stakes that we used to mark our square in the woods.
So that was some of our nature day from last week. I will list some of the books we used to get our ideas for the activities for the day so you can check your library for similar books. I absolutely adore the “One Small Square” series and this is the first time we used it for the pond study. I highly recommend this series to get you started with nature study.
You can click the graphic above to see all of the autumn related nature study challenges here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Make sure to pin this challenge and the Autumn Index!
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