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OHC Spring Series #5: Year-Long Cattail Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Spring Series #5

Spring Cattail Observations

“It is an interesting process to take apart a cattail plant; the lower, shorter leaves surround the base of the plant, giving it size and strength. All the leaves have the same general shape, but vary in length. Each leaf consists of two parts; the free portion, which is long and narrow and flat toward its tapering tip but is bent into a trough as it nears the plant, and the lower portion, which clasps the plant entirely or partially, depending upon whether it is an outer or inner leaf.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 500

Inside Preparation Work:
Read pages 500-502 in the Handbook of Nature Study if you have not done so before. 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. We will be focusing this season on where the cattail grows and what the leaves look like as they grow up from the plant. Prepare yourself for this week’s outdoor time by reading #1, #2, #4, and #5 suggestions for study on page 502.

Note: If you are using the free version of the Handbook of Nature Study, the cattail section starts on page 551. If you are using the free version from HomeschoolFreebies, you need to look in Plants and Trees, page 65. (Thanks Angie.)

Cronan Ranch 2 Cattails
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.

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.

Some Suggestions for a Spring Cattail Study
  • How wide a strip of land do the cattails cover?
  • Are they near a stream, brook, or pond?
  • Observe the kind of soil where your cattails grow.
  • How are the leaves arranged-growing opposite or alternating?
  • Describe the leaves’ texture, color, shape.
  • Have your child make as many observations as they can during your outdoor time of the cattail. (Keep it fun.)


Cattails with Mr A

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 created for the Spring Series ebook, the notebook page from Autumn, a blank page.

Make sure to encourage your child to sketch the cattail leaves. Also try to include a little of the habitat that your cattails are growing in during this season. Include in your sketch any insects, birds, or animals that you observed near your cattails during your outdoor time.

If you would like all the Spring Series Challenges in one book, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. The ebook also contains art and music appreciation plans for the winter months as well. Please see this entry for more details:
Spring Series Cover
Spring Nature Study with Art and Music Appreciation

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Winter Cattails-Surprised Again!

We started our cattail study last fall with this entry: Cattails in Autumn.

We had two locations to visit for this study….one within walking distance and another up on our regular walking trail on the other side of town.

Here are the cattails near our house.
Cattail 12 09
Our cattails are starting to look a little ragged. The water that was there in the fall has now completely dried up. The stalks of the cattails are dry, stiff, and hard. The leaves are stiff as well.

Cattail winter 2
Here is our cattail area that is along our walking trail. I think that someone came and cut a lot of the actual cattails. Even thought they are still growing in water, the leaves and stems are all brown and stiff.

Cattail winter 1
There is still a little water in this area that flows down to a creek. We all noticed that the water was a little smelly this time of year….hmmmm. We enjoyed having a purpose to our walk today and it was nice to focus on something other than the cold air. 🙂

The other interesting thing that we noted on this walk was that there were lots of mushrooms growing. Here are three different kinds that we stopped and looked at.

Mushroom 4 Jan 10
There were lots of this kind pushing up through the leaves.

Mushroom 2 Jan 10
There were some that were really white.

Mushroom 1 Jan 10
Then we saw this cute little yellow mushroom.

We are off to another hike today but this time down to the river. We will keep our eyes out for anything interesting.

Hope you get a chance to look for your cattails.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge-Winter Series: Cattails in Winter

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Winter Series Ebook

Cattail Study-Winter

Inside Preparation Work:
Read the section on cattails in the Handbook of Nature Study on pages 500-503. Pay close attention to suggestion #7 on page 502. If you completed an autumn cattail study, you may wish to pull out your nature journal page and refresh your memory with how your cattail looked a few months ago.

Outdoor Hour Time:
Take your Outdoor Hour Time and visit your cattail location if possible. Many of us were surprised that we actually had cattails close to our homes and it will be fun to revisit the area now that winter is upon us. (If you do not have cattails in your neighborhood, see the alternate activity below.)

cattails in winter 12 09

You may wish to take along your nature journal or your camera to record how your cattails look during the winter. Use your best observation skills and observe as much about your cattail as possible.

You might include:

  • 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?

Follow-Up Activity:
Follow up your outdoor time with a chance to draw the cattail in the nature journal. You can use the notebook page I created for the Winter Series (available only with the ebook or notebooking page purchase-see link below), the notebook page from Autumn, a blank page in your journal, or any other general notebook page listed on my sidebar of my blog.

Alternate Study:
If you don’t have a cattail study started or you do not have cattails in your area, you can choose another plant to observe over the course of a year if you would like. Just about any plant would make a great subject if you observe it closely. The idea is to start to see how the seasons and plants change around you.


Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Our Cattail Study: Autumn Series Challenge #1

We went on a search for cattails and we found that we have two different areas of cattails within walking distance of our house. We decided that we could cut one cattail to bring home to closely observe. I was surprised at how “into” finding the cattails the boys became once we got started.

Another place that we found cattails was along the walking trail we frequent every week. These were much taller than the others and I think this will be the spot we observe over the next year.

There was a little water in the ditch where we found our cattails but not much. It was more like a muddy puddle than anything else.

Here is a close-up of the flower spike and right now it feels like velvet. The boys were surprised at how soft and fuzzy it was to the touch. We talked about what we learned from our pre-study and how the cattail is edible. We all decided that we would like to try eating it someday……something to plan for the future.

My sons were content to complete the notebook page with photos but I was inspired as so many others are by the simple beauty of this plant that we so often don’t take the time to appreciate. I pulled out my watercolors and made a quick painting for my nature journal. I found a tutorial in a watercolor book that I have on the shelf that showed how to add stippling with a pen once the paints are dry. I love the way it adds a little detail to the cattail.

This was a perfect way to start off our Autumn Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Autumn Series-Cattails

Outdoor Hour Challenge-Autumn Series #1
Cattail Autumn Study

Cattails are the focus of this nature study and you will either be able to complete the challenge by observing cattails this week or sometime in the future. Look at the reading of the Handbook of Nature Study as a way to prepare you for a future nature study. Be on the look out for cattails as you drive around your local area and you may be surprised to find them in places you did not notice before.

Inside Preparation Work

  • Read pages 500-503 in the Handbook of Nature Study. View the images of cattails and talk about where you can find them in your local area. I asked my boys and they thought of three places near-by that they remember seeing them grow.
  • Print out the Cattail Seasonal Nature Study notebook page and go over the suggested activities so when you have your Outdoor Hour time your children will be prepared for what to look for.

Outdoor Time

Look for Cattails: Spend your outdoor time looking for cattails and then observing them to record their appearance at this time of the year. You will be revisiting this spot in every season to record your observations and to note the changes that take place from season to season. If your child does not want to sketch the cattail, bring along a camera to have them record the appearance with a photo. Remember the things you read about in the Handbook of Nature Study and see if you can complete the Cattails Seasonal Nature Study notebook page with lots of details. Also, look for other living creatures that might make their home in the cattails or that might visit there if you are still and quiet.

Alternate Idea: Use your fifteen minutes of outdoor time to explore your own backyard. Look for something ordinary that you can learn more about during the next week. The most important part of your Outdoor Hour time is to spend a few minutes with your children outdoors, slowing down enough to observe something closely in your own backyard or neighborhood. Keep the atmosphere relaxed and let your child’s interests guide you to find something to observe. Don’t forget to use all your senses and try to include a few minutes of quiet time to experience the sounds of your own backyard.


Follow-Up Activity

  • Allow your child a few minutes to tell you about their outdoor experience. Help them find a few words to record in their nature journal.
  • Give time for a nature journal entry and remember it can be as simple as a sketch, a label, and a date. Complete the Cattails Seasonal Nature Study notebook page for the Autumn season and file it in your nature journal to compare to future cattail studies. As always, remember that the nature journal entry is a great way to record your outdoor experiences but it is not necessary every time.

Additional Resource for the Cattail Seasonal Nature Study:
There is a great book to look for at your library, Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. This book has a whole section on studying cattails that I found very useful in preparing this challenge in addition to the Handbook of Nature Study.

Please note these are Amazon affiliate links to books I own and love.