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OHC Summer Series #7 Summer Cattail Observations

Year Long Cattail Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Summer #7 Summer Cattail Observations

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Observe the cattail’s habitat. Look for birds, insects, and animals living or resting in or on the cattails. Look for nests. See if you can find the cattail flowers.
  • Smell: Sit or squat near your cattails and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and see if you smell anything.
  • Touch: Feel the leaves, edges, and spikes of the cattails.
  • Hearing: Take a minute to listen as you stand or sit near your cattails. Can you hear any birds or insects? Water running?

Inside Preparation Work:
Read pages 500-502 in the Handbook of Nature Study if you have not done so before (starting on page 551 if you have the free download version) . It might also be beneficial to read it again this season and highlight the parts that contain information about the leaves of the cattail plant.

Outdoor Hour Time:
Enjoy your outdoor time this week at your cattail spot. If you have been participating in the year-long cattail study since last autumn, you will know just where to look for cattails. Use the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study to talk a little about the habitat where your cattails are growing.

  • Is your cattail still growing in water or has it dried up?
  • What does the “cattail” parts of the plant look like now?
  • What color and shape are the leaves?
  • Do you see the cattails seeds or balloons?
  • Can you pull some of the fuzz from the cattail and observe it more closely?
  • How do you think the seeds spread, by wind or water?
  • How crowded are the cattails growing together?

Please note: If you do not have any cattails to observe in your area, you may wish to choose another local plant to observe in each season throughout the next year.

Cattail Seasonal Nature Study notebook page

Follow-Up Activity:
Make sure to allow some time after your outdoor hour to discuss any subjects that your child finds interesting. Encourage the completion of a nature journal entry recording your observation of your cattails. You can use the notebook page and coloring page created for the Summer Series ebook, the notebook page from Autumn, a blank page, or any other general notebook page listed on the sidebar of my blog. You may wish to pull out your other cattail entries and compare the year-long changes in your cattails.
If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Summer Weather-OHC #3 Sunrise/Sunset Observations

We have been working on this challenge for a couple of weeks. What an amazing way to learn more about the summer season! We have never taken the time to actually note where the sun sets at different times of the year. We are now more keenly aware of the direction and the making of a landmark to keep track from week to week.

We are not able to see the horizon in any direction from our house. We live on a hill, there are too many trees, and even though it is not a crowded neighborhood, we do have near-by houses that obstruct the view. We decided we could still pick a spot on the front deck to observe the sunrises and a different spot on the back deck to observe the sunsets.

Sunrise with clouds
This challenge made us more aware of the everyday event that happens outside our door…far too early at this time of the year. The sunrise is much more north than I thought it should be. We have all watched the spot and agree that it is not where we expected it to be. We had to get up rather early a few times to discover the landmark but now we have it fixed. This morning there were beautiful clouds that made the day a little cooler to start off with. There were actually a few light sprinkles of rain early in the morning. By noon though, it was hot and humid, granted not a Texas humid but a California humid.

Sunset July
The sunsets are so wonderful from our deck now that we have a few trees missing. Although we can not see the horizon from where we are located, we noted from a particular spot on the deck where the sun goes down. It sets just to the left of our back shop’s peak.

The other weather related “project” we have been working on this summer is to note the build up of thunderheads over the Sierra in the afternoons. Many times we can look out about noon and see the beginnings of a cloud bank and then by mid afternoon we notice the spectacular clouds in the distance. Most of the time we don’t experience anything from the clouds because they are so far away. We did have a little sheet lightning the other evening which is always interesting to watch.

Thunderheads at Sunset
I took this photo last night when we were out for a sunset drive. This is facing east so the pink sunset is reflecting in the thunderheads. Sure wish all those utility lines were not in the photo.

One last observation to share:
Sunrise: 64 degrees and 47% humidity.
Noon: 96 degrees and 46% humidity.
Sunset: 83 degrees and 38% humidity.

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Summer Tree-OHC #2 Our Summer Tulip Tree Study

Tulip Tree Bloom
Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar Tree

We have been observing the tulip tree very closely and I shared the blossoms a few weeks ago when we had the complete tree covered in blooms. Now it is mostly big yellow-green leaves that provide abundant shade on the front of our house.

There is a mockingbird that frequents the tree early in the morning to sing us a song. It is a nice way to wake up, with the leaves silhouetted on the window blinds and the sound of bird song in the air.

My son noticed that the bark has some moss on it still even in the heat. There were ants on the trunk as well. There were no bees visible, but we know when the tree is blooming it is alive with bees.

Here are our nature journals which this time we decided to use photos instead of drawing. It makes a quick and easy journal that looks really nice.

Spring Journal Tulip Tree
I opted to add a photo to my nature journal from last month when the tree was blooming.

Summer Tulip Tree Journal
My son’s journal has a photo of the tree as well. He made a list of his observations and then added a photo to make a very easy nature journal entry.

This entry completes our full circle for the year:

Autumn Entry

Winter Entry

Spring Entry

It hardly seems possible that we have gone all through the seasons with our tree already. This is such a great way to learn more about what is right in our own yard. We have started to think about what tree we will observe next….oh the possibilities!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #20 Our Summer Tree Study

We have had hot smoky weather for the past two weeks with all the fires burning in our area. It is very unusual for the wildfires to start so early but my husband says that the fuel in the forests is so dry that it doesn’t take much to get it going. We had several dry lightning storms and two weeks ago we had extremely high winds. All these factors together make for extreme fire danger.

We have been enjoying our outdoor time both in the garden and out on hikes in our local area. First of all though, here is my son’s summer tree study.His tree doesn’t look that much different from our last study. There are lots of green leaves which my son thinks are darker than they were in the spring but it is hard to tell.

Here is a close up of the leaves.This time he measured around the trunk and found it to be 28 inches in circumference.

This is what he noticed had changed the most about the tree. It had these sprouts coming up from the bottom of the trunk. We usually snap these off as they sprout but my son wants to leave them just to see how they grow.

We are anxious to compare our summer tree with our autumn tree!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #20 Summer Tree Study

“Besides appreciating the world, observing nature develops other mental powers-ability to focus, to tell things apart, to patiently seek answers. These things are useful in every facet of life.”
Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1 page 61

With each new season we learn more about the natural world and the wonderful cycles we find in it. The seasons are a way to measure time and to learn to understand the subtle changes we find in the plants and animals that live close to home. (Gen. 1:14) We started a year-long tree study nine challenges ago and it should be a good time to make our next seasonal observation.

“And what about those six trees that the children were watching since winter? Now children will see that they also flower, although those flowers may be as green as the leaves. …This is old news to grown-ups, but a good teacher will present all knowledge as new and exciting by imagining himself in the place of the child and being amazed with him.”
Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1 page 53

Your tree should have leaves for this season’s observation and if you were not able to identify your tree before, this should help you do so at this time. If you are just starting your year-long tree study, consult the Handbook of Nature Study’s table of contents for trees and see if you can find a tree that you have close by your home. Turn to the corresponding section and it will give you lots of ideas for learning about your tree. You are not limited to the trees covered in the Handbook of Nature Study but if you choose a tree not listed, you will need to find your information either at your local library or on the internet.

Outdoor Challenge #20 
Seasonal Tree Observation-Summer

1. We started a tree study project way back in Outdoor Hour Challenge #11 and made our first observations of our tree. If you would like to review this section in the Handbook of Nature Study, you will find it on pages 622-626. This week the challenge includes making the next seasonal observation of your tree. If your first observation was in spring, you are now into summer and your tree should look a little different. If you are just joining the challenges, pick a tree from your yard, your street, or a near-by park to observe over the course of the next year. Check in the Handbook of Nature Study to see if your tree is listed there and then do the reading about that particular tree. There should be some suggestions for observations that you can follow. You can use the prepared seasonal tree study page to record your observations.

2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. You can take photos of your tree to put in your nature journal or you can sketch the tree in your journal. If you need help with tree sketching you can use this resource.
Clare Walkers Leslie’s Guide to Sketching Trees

3. If you have additional time this week, you could complete another small square activity from Challenge #9.

4. After your outdoor time, complete your Seasonal Tree Study notebook page sheet or record your tree observations in your nature journal. Take a few minutes to talk about your time outdoors to see if there is anything that your child wants to learn more about. Follow up any interest shown.

Mini-Challenge #20 Year-Long Tree Study
This challenge can be done with or without the Seasonal Tree Study notebook page. If you have limited time or are trying to combine challenges, pick your tree and make a few short observations. Spend the balance of your time reading about your tree so that during the next season you can review what you have already learned and compare your observations from season to season.
Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy