nature study: a year in review

May 16, 2014

Nature study is something we picked up several years ago

kindy nature study











and which Bug continually asks for, though it has taken on a different shape this year. This year we have raised tadpoles and butterflies, put her green thumb to use, taken an Audubon Adventures class, learned with our co-op, explored the woods and creek by our home in more depth, and continued to take inspiration from the  Handbook of Nature Study Blog.



Last summer we had tadpoles to observe their metamorphosis.We had six that kept growing and getting bigger, until one day we noticed there was one missing and another day, then two. Bug was disgusted to learn that some species can be carnivorous; she had no interest in caring for the remaining monsters. Lucky me. I also found out that if you feed them too much their cycle of metamorphosis can be slowed. I was hoping to get the last tadpole out of the house before winter but it seemed like it would never grow. Finally, mid winter it started to sprout legs.

All together it was a failed experiment survival-wise, but we did have a chance to learn more about frogs during the process. When we raised caterpillars Bug was much more interested and was able to release five butterflies into the spring sun. Our next project of this sort will probably be vermiculture, which I have already made a bin for.

While I have good intentions as far as gardening goes it is something that I really have to work at and usually ends with dry wisps of plants. The little miss though seems to have a green thumb. She has managed to keep alive  a geranium for nearly three years.

photo by Mandy Jones

photo by Mandy Jones












She is always starting seeds from our kitchen and those she finds outside. I decided to play on her interest in plants and gardening this year. We have explored a bit more with garden related experiments and projects before the weather was right for planting,

testing soil pH

testing soil pH











and now she has started some marigold, cantaloupe, and cucumber for her own little garden. Maybe she can help me keep my garden alive this summer, too.

dreaming of radishes













I have written about the classes at our local nature study before but it has been awhile since we have participated in one. She is at an in-between age–too old for classes she has taken in the past and not quite old enough for the homeschool class they offer. A few months ago though we found out that she could take a new class they were offering–an Audubon Adventures class. The classes took place over a course of several weeks, each focusing on a different bird. With this class, Bug had an opportunity to read  non-ficiton, research, birdwatch, and do various kinds of projects. It was also a great chance to be with homeschool and nature center friends.

This year is the first that we have been part of a homeschool co-op, and we love it. Last semester there was a class about trees, where the kids learned how to identify trees by leaves and other fun. This semester there is a bird class where they read a story and then do a craft about birds, which has paired well with our other birding ventures.

Each Wednesday, like clockwork, she asks to go on a nature walk. These are usually informal; we go wherever she leads. Her favorite spot continues to be the creek, the same creek I loved to explore as a girl.

exploring the creek last fall











I am really enjoying discovering it all over again with her. We usually keep to one section that is easy to traverse without having to wade through the thicket of brush the grows all along the banks of the creek.

The blooming of the daffodils draws us into the woods that are momentarily free of the dense brush, which usually deters us from entering. At our house the daffodils usually bloom in the woods near the creek so when she wanted to pick flowers this spring she also noticed other little things. She found a natural seat in a tree.

her seat by the daffodils













She also found a new place to enter the creek and since the woods were not as thick with brush we decided to follow it and found some new favorite spots in the creek. Now if only we could figure out how to develop a few trails so we don’t have to fight the thicket.

Another thing we revisited several times for our nature walks was a deer skeleton in the woods. I found it last summer in an area where the creek had flooded. The dry bones were covered with some soil, and grass had started to grow over it. At first we only moved the skull so that we could observe it more closely.

adding bones to the nature collection











Somehow though we ended up leaving the woods and ending our nature walk one day with a bag of bones. Suddenly this nature study thing seems very intense. Bug has decided to add some vertebrate, ribs, and the entire skull to her nature collection. Now to clean them.  Luckily I had heard of Jake’s Bones through my museums classes; he offers some very helpful guidance for cleaning bones.

Bug’s  favorite nature study from Barb at the Handbook of Nature Study Blog has been the Cat Nature Study. The morning we were going to start the nature study I was scolded for spooking one of our indoor kitties, Lucy.  I thought the girl had been eating her breakfast, but she was actually spying on the cat. We decided to observe our outside cat, Sirius, up close because he is the only one that would be tolerant of that. Bug had her magnifying glass and was checking out Sirius’s paws and face while I read selections from the Handbook of Nature Study about cats. After this we tried to observe his behavior but mostly, he just wanted some love.

Sirius wants some attention

Sirius wants some attention











Even though this was months ago she is still fascinated with the cats.



All together I think our nature study has been well rounded this year, and I look forward to seeing how we continue to grow with it.



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