December is such a busy time for most families as we wind down before a winter break. Why not take a few minutes to enjoy this month’s natural beauty as a refreshing change and reminder that this is a beautiful time of year?
Try to use as many of your senses as you can during your outdoor time.
Outdoor Hour Challenge: Bat Study
You will find loads of ideas and resources for a summer bat study using the challenge from the Summer Series 2010: Summer Bats and the Sense of Hearing.
Printable Notebook Page My Mammal List: You can use this printable page instead of the running list notebook page if you wish to keep your mammal list by season. Reprint this page for every season and then compare your lists. Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #2. Try to take your fifteen minute nature walk at sunset or just when it turns dark. You can walk or sit quietly in a familiar place, using your senses to really get to know this time of day. After you go inside, make sure to help your child record a few words in their nature journal or use the notebook page that is provided in the ebook.
Make sure to note that in the Follow-Up section of the challenge on the blog there is a link to a set of mosquito themed notebooking pages that you can download and print from the NotebookingFairy.com. (Thanks Jimmie!)
Print out this mosquito coloring page for your nature journal. Or you can use this line drawing as a model for your own nature journal drawing.
Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #8.Take a few minutes to go through this challenge and then take a close look at any insect (dead or alive) that you have on hand using a magnifying lens. Make sure to record your observations using the notebook provided in the ebook.
We often take quiet walks together but when it is an intentional thing it seems to heighten the senses. I found today that stopping and being still is even better than just walking quietly.
When you stop and are still it gives time for the birds and little animals to come out from hiding and perhaps let you glimpse them. In my case, I was able to see some woodpeckers chasing each other from tree to tree. I heard the squirrels chattering in the trees alongside the trail that I hadn’t heard before.
I stood silently for perhaps five minutes, looking out over a little meadow area where the trees have lost all their leaves and the snow is still a bit patchy. I could feel the warm air in the sunshine as it blew just ever so slightly on my face.
I heard lots of different birds: nuthatches, jays, a flicker in the distance. I also hear the wings of a bird flutter in the bushes.
The walking trail was still covered mostly in snow and ice except where the sun had melted it away. We were alone on the trail all the way out to the road landmark where we usually turn around. I noticed the edges of the trail had lots and lots of freshly fallen acorns. I thought about how the animals in the forest seem to always have a food supply even if the weather is freezing cold.
We smelled the air several times…dampness, creosote from the old train tracks, oak leaves.
The trees made long shadows in the afternoon sun…the shadow of a bird flying overhead caught my eye as we stood along the trail.
This kind of walk refreshes like no other. I know that if you have little ones along on your walk it is a bit challenging to have quiet but it is worth a try. Challenge yourself to experience the quiet of the outdoors. You don’t have to go far or be gone for long periods of time. If your children are not accustomed to being outside, you will need to gradually earn their trust about how much fun it can be.
Most children today are not comfortable just getting outside and walking…they get bored easily. All the more reason to not procrastinate getting outside as a family to learn the benefits of just how much it can heal your spirit and body.
You will not regret it.
I also wanted to share a book with you in this entry. I mentioned it in the newsletter but it is worth sharing again with you.
We pulled out all our national park literature and this one is our favorite. I love the park choices, the art work, and concise park descriptions. Try to find it at your public library or the next time you are at a national park gift shop. I love picking up books as souvenirs and this one is a good for inspiring future travel and sharing a love of the beautiful world we live in.
I’m an Amazon Affiliate and only recommend products that I personally own (or wish I owned) and think my readers will love as well! This post may contain some links that will take you to these products on Amazon where I receive a small referral fee. I greatly appreciate your support!
Outdoor Hour Challenge Using Your Senses – December Walk
There have been several challenges here on the blog during different seasons that feature using your senses or being quiet during a nature walk. Prepare your children ahead of time by explaining that spending some of your Outdoor Hour Challenge time should be time spent quietly observing. Use the ideas in the links below and the Listening Game in the additional activities below to incorporate some “using your senses” time into your OHC this week. Don’t be discouraged if your children can only manage a minute or two of quiet…it is something they can grow into when they learn the advantages of careful observation.
Don’t forget you can use this month’s (December 2013) Study Grid from the newsletter as part of this challenge.
Additional Activity: Outdoor Listening Game
Go outside with your children and let each one find a place to sit quietly, choosing a comfortable spot where there are few distractions. Show them how to make cups with their hands and then hold them behind their ears like big deer or rabbit ears. Sit with your “deer” ears on and discover the sounds of your neighborhood or a near-by park.
This is a great training activity for sitting and listening quietly during your nature adventures.
Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #10. Try having a snack or picnic lunch even if it is super cold outside. Our family even found driving to a favorite spot, parking with a view to something natural, and eating in the car is a fantastic way to make a memory. Keep it simple and then come home and record your experience on the accompanying notebook page in the ebook.
“The only right way to begin plant study with young children is through awakening their interest in and love for flowers.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 453
Outdoor Hour Challenge: Use the grids in the May newsletter to get started with your Garden Flowers and Crop Plants study this month. There are lots of simple ideas for observation that all ages can use to start this month’s focus on garden flowers and crop plants. If you have the newsletter, make sure to see the garden journal ideas on page 14. There is also a flower notebooking page included in the newsletter for you to use with any garden flower you study this month.
Special Activity: Using Your Senses in the Garden
Use your senses during your Grid Study this week and record your observations on this Garden Senses Notebook Page. Use you sense of touch, smell, sight, and even taste and hearing (be careful with the tasting!) to take your Outdoor Time to the next level. Garden Senses Notebooking Page
Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #8.Just remember to take a magnifying lens with you during your outdoor time this week and encourage your children to look closely at some plants or flowers in your yard. Record you observations on the notebook page in the ebook.
Outdoor Hour Challenge: This week your outdoor time should be all about the things you hear during your winter weather walk. Take along your Weather Grid (from the December Newsletter) and see if you can find your three weather related words for your nature journal. Observe the wind and which direction it is coming from.Listen for the sounds of weather. If you are currently in your summer season, you may be interested in the Summer Weather-Using Your Senses challenge from the Summer 2010 ebook.
Printable Notebook Page Free printable this week: Weather Sounds: Use this notebook page to record your weather related sounds. You can use this as an on-going nature study project and add to your list as you listen throughout the year.
Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #2. This Weather Grid and Weather Sounds challenge will go perfectly with this Using Your Words Challenge! After your outdoor time, try to complete the assignment with weather related words and then record them in your nature journal. Complete the accompanying notebook page if your child has interest.
More Nature Study Book #3 Spring Tree Study – Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms
This challenge is aimed at getting you outdoors and looking at trees early in the spring. What should you be looking for? Try looking for buds, catkins, or blossoms. The challenge is not specifically about willow trees but the willow is covered in-depth in the Handbook of Nature Study and contains information you can apply to other trees. Since everyone has varying conditions, adapt this study to your local trees and their current stage of growth.
In the winter we looked at twigs. If you have a twig you have been watching, make sure to wrap up your study this week with a journal entry and final drawing.
Inside Preparation Work:
Read pages 651-654 of the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 179 on the Willow) and pages 648-650 (Lesson 178 on the Horse Chestnut). Read for information about the twigs, buds, and pussies.
View this page on catkins and note what to look for during your outdoor time. Explain that the “tassels” of the oak and “pussies” of the pussy willow are really flowers. Catkins appear before the leaves. There can be male and female catkins. Ebook users: Use the illustrations in the ebook to learn about the different ways buds can look and be arranged on the twig.
Go outside and look at the buds, catkins, or blossoms on trees in your yard or neighborhood. Ebook Users: See chart in the ebook for blooming times for common trees.
Gather some twigs with buds, catkins, and/or blossoms to bring inside for observation. Place each twig in a jar with water and label with the tree name if possible. Note: Catkins and blossoms contain pollen.
Advanced Study: Watercolor a spring blossom if you have one to observe in person.
Use your senses to observe your buds, catkins, and/or blossoms. (touch, sight, smell). Make a record in your nature journal including a sketch. Make sure to record the length of your bud and as many details as possible including color. Ebook Users: Optional coloring pages: Horse Chestnut and Pussy Willow.
Watch your buds over time and see what happens. Record how long it takes for the buds to open. Place a piece of white paper under the jars with catkins and observe what happens over the next few days. Record your observations in your nature journal or on a notebook page.
Extend your study to include information about the tree your bud came from using a field guide or the internet.
If you haven’t dissected a bud yet, use a bud you collected as part of this challenge. Each bud is different so take your time to remove the scales and layers as you go. View this image to see how you can record your work in your nature journal.
Sketch your catkin and research how the catkin functions as part of tree reproduction. Use this link to learn more about classifying buds: Buds. This one is an excellent visual guide: okPlantid.
After all the rain we received in the last five days, it was nice to have a dry day today. It would be stretching it to say it was warm and sunny but it was pretty close. We were able to all get outside this afternoon to enjoy a look around the garden. The boys were on their scooters, the Kona dog was rolling in the grass, and I had my camera and nature journal.
The first things we noticed were the colors.
After that we noticed the delicate scent of the alyssum flowers which are starting to fill in all under the rose bushes.
Next when we sat still in the chairs for a few minutes it was the bird song and the bees buzzing in the dandelions. A spider swung by on a web…not sure where he came from but he was swinging down and floating in the breeze. The border bugs were skittering across the river rocks in the sun.
The trees are coming alive too….maple keys, buds bursting. The garden is full of sprouting, unfurling, and greenness.
So much to be thankful for on this first day of Spring 2012.
Today’s bird list on this first day of spring:
House finches -singing sweetly in the plum tree.
Nuttall’s woodpecker in the suet feeder (looking out at one right now as I type this entry)
Mourning doves scratching around under the feeder.
Western scrub jays – back to their bullying role at the feeder
Dark eyed juncos (a dozen of them)
Anna’s hummingbirds (flew right by my ear when we were sitting outside)
So what did you see? How is spring shaping up in your part of the world?
I think I forgot the sounds that come in open windows in the mornings and evenings. Winter requires the house to be shut up too much but with open windows I woke this morning to a an owl hooting in the neighbor’s tree.
“I’m awake! You Too!” he was calling.
What a great sound and it makes me wonder what all I have been missing closed up in the house for the winter.
This evening I am hearing crickets for the first time and the call of the tree frogs from across the street. It makes me happy to think we have reached the point where we can have open windows and doors to bring a little of nature back into our house. The mosquitoes are buzzing tonight too….found one in my bedroom and had to give him a swat. Now that I could do without.
We are busy working on weeding the garden walkways and preparing beds for seeds. This is a joyful, hopeful time. Outdoor Hour Challenge #12 includes choosing and planting flower seeds and I thought our family might include that as part of our first challenge for the month of May. (If you purchased the Garden Flowers Ebook you will have that challenge and corresponding notebook pages to go along with it.) I will share our seeds in separate entry later this week.
In the meantime, I thought I could share a little of the edibles in our garden landscaping. We try to mix edible plants with our flowers so we can harvest a little homegrown yummy-ness when the time comes. It also is such a treat to have a little handful of something each afternoon when we are outside…a couple of blueberries, a strawberry, or a grape popped in the mouth make even the fussiest of kids happier when they are helping to work in the garden.(You can read more of my tips for nature study and gardening with very young children HERE.
The blueberry bushes really are not all that happy looking. They are all covered in fresh green leaves but I am needing to read up on what a blueberry needs to really get established. I seem to remember something about how they like a pine needle mulch.
Mr. A’s strawberries are looking incredible and there are dozens of blossoms and little baby strawberries filling the box. These are an easy crop to get started and we purchased ever-bearing and June bearing plants so we will have a longer harvest. (There is a challenge for strawberries if you are interested.)
We were very surprised to see so many blossoms on the pear tree this year. We had pruned it way back to keep it out of the neighbor’s yard and this seems to have been agreeable to the tree. We might get a dozen pears this year….well, we can hope for that.
Figs….does anyone really like figs? This tree was here when we moved in 25 years ago and we have tried to cut it down several times, just to have it grow back more lush than ever. We have finally come to grips with it and we share the fruits with those in our lives who enjoy them. The birds like them too so I guess it is worth the mess.
Tomato in a pot to cover the ugly stump….sounds like a good idea and if it doesn’t do well we can always move it. We also have seedless grapes planted there on the fence to shield the ugly propane tank from view when we are sitting on the back deck. They vines get so green and climb all over, producing little sweet bites to nibble when I am out in the back watering in the hot summer sun. (There is a challenge for tomatoes if you are interested.) Do you have a place for a tomato in a pot?
Another reminder to us: Keep the back door closed in the evenings. This bat made its way INTO the house last week. The cat may have brought it inside but we aren’t entirely sure. We had a comedy act going on trying to get it to fly back outside. My boys ran and got the butterfly net and we were able to get him in the corner and inside the net. He really calmed down and just hung in the net long enough for us to get a good look at him. We released him outside and he fly away so gracefully. (There is a challenge for bats if you are interested.)
We are ready to start doing some nature study and the boys have been discussing what subjects we will study for the month as part of the new format of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. Don’t forget you can pick from any of the topics: wildflowers, garden flowers, birds, and/or mammals. You can chose one from each category or stick with one topic and study four of them in a row. Please feel free to make the challenges work and build on interest you find with your children. Don’t forget to submit your blog entries that you complete to the OHC Blog Carnival.
Enjoy your week!
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