winter nature study

February 9, 2012

No Toy Cure post because we’ve had a busy school day. I’ll catch up with that tomorrow while she’s with her dad. I do want to post about what we’ve been up to with our nature study, though.

She hasn’t journaled in a while because I almost always manage to forget to bring her book and pencils along and by the time we are back at the house she’s moved on to other things. Mostly we just go on walks at home and at the park.

winter nature study

If she sees something that interests her we stop to enjoy it and if she has questions we try to remember to look it up at home (I suppose the journal would be helpful here).

Recently we’ve picked back up our study of birds. I found a coloring book from Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, and every day I have her fill out one sheet using our field guide.

I try to stick to birds she’s recognized on our walks or that I know live in our area. I hope it will help for when we participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, our first Citizen Scientist project. The GBBC takes place nation-wide, February 17-20–next weekend! We are also going to start going to a local bird club (which just so happens to be meeting next week during the GBBC, fancy that).

For fun, yesterday we made little bird feeders that she put out on our walk today. The birds not only have a tasty treat but also some green yarn to add to their pretty little nests : )

seed flower

hanging her seed flowers


outdoor hour challenge #6

September 30, 2011

Carols of gladness ring from every tree.
~Frances Anne Kemble

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge from the Handbook of Nature Study blog is, “Starting a Collection.”

L already has a fine little collection growing–of shells, rocks, acorns, and feathers.

But this week we started a new kind of collection.

For this challenge, we incorporated what L learned yesterday in her Growing Up Wild class at the local nature center.

They read When Agnes Caws by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Giselle Potter. (I love Giselle Potter’s work–we’ve also read and love Kate and the Beanstalk, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, and The Boy Who Loved Words.)

Then they learned the calls of a few birds that live in our area and that are easily recognizable with mnemonics (here is a comprehensive list). After being introduced to these little rhymes, each child was assigned a specific one and then the group was directed to sing their birdsongs, all together, all at once. It was a loud but beautiful little carol, with my great-horned owl singing, “Who’s awake? Me, Too.”

She was very much infatuated with the idea that she could talk to the owls and whooo-whoot-ed for the rest of the day. Even my insistence that the owls were asleep wouldn’t stop her, in part, because a helpful teacher, who overheard me reminding L about owls being nocturnal, informed us that barn owls are awake during the day and even told us where we could find them in the park. But then again she is willful enough that she would talk at the owls anways, whether or not they’re asleep : )  

I look forward to helping her build this new collection so we can get to know who is singing which song. (And the library of birdsongs at Cornell’s website should help us along with the list of mnemonics.)

outdoor challenge #5

September 17, 2011

Those old days when the balancing of a
yellow butterfly o’er a thistle bloom
Was spiritual food and lodging for the
whole afternoon. ~ James Russell Lowell

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge from the Handbook of Nature Study blog is, “Keeping a List.”

After her Growing Up Wild class at the local nature center, I thought it would be a perfect time for nature study. I had all the tools–Handbook of Nature Study, a field guide of birds, her nature journal and pencils, my camera, and my list of birds based on those we see around home and the park–the downy woodpecker, screech owl, hummingbird, cardinal, and turkey. We could sit on the porch at the center and watch the hummingbirds at their feeders.

But then…

Even though I had good intentions and even though I know she is a great observer and loves being outside she was just not having it. She had no interest in studying anything. She wated to go out and play.

After feeling some grief about missing out on nature study this week and thinking that I wouldn’t have anything to blog about ; ) I realized that she is outside nearly everyday. And even if we don’t sit down and talk about her experience every time, I know she is soaking up all kinds of goodness and that it’s also alright to just let her be.

outdoor hour challenge #4

September 9, 2011

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge from the Handbook of Nature Study blog is, “It Is Coming Into Focus.”

Yesterday we stopped at our local children’s museum that skirts a natural spring and wetlands. The wetlands is made accessible by a boardwalk trail.

Moments after I reminded her to be aware of her surroundings (and that it would help if she would quiet down) we heard a loud quack. We peered over the edge of the boardwalk and saw a female swimming in the water. A few steps further and Bug spied this scene (she has the best little eagle eyes).

I assume that the call we had heard was a warning to the others resting. While it didn’t seem to phase her, I am curious enough about this encounter to do some research into duck behavior.

I have to add a little confession to this. Until I sat down to write this post, I did not know what we were going to go into for focused study. But considering this OHC and #3 I think studying birds is something that will work well–seems to be the right season (especially since we’ll get to see the birds migrating) and both of us seem inclined to notice them on our walks.  So here we go, to the birds.

outdoor hour challenge #3

August 24, 2011

“Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to draw if it pleases him to do so.”~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature StudyThis week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge from the Handbook of Nature Study blog is, “Now is the Time to Draw.”   

This week’s OHC has made me stop to think about the power drawing holds.  L draws everything, and in these drawings I can see her feelings, her attention to detail, her colorful imagination–they show how she takes in her world.

This week our OHC took place while we were away on vacation near a lake nestled in among lush forests and rolling hills. We were in the really big woods.

One morning we went fishing with my dad. Actually, he did most of fishing–I took pictures, and she hunted for shells and rocks.

Becasue of the quietness and beauty of the lake at that early hour, I told L it would be her nature study time and asked her  to take the time to check out her surrondings. While we were each doing our own thing, a great blue heron swept into view and landed nearby.  The moment inspired us both.

I am thankful for our time outdoors–it is a time for us to be still and to really look at, listen to, and feel our surroundings. Not only do I see how she is benefiting from this time–I see it sharpening her sense of observation and self-expression–but I have also had a chance to take in little moments and details that I normally pass by. 




outdoor hour challenge #2

August 18, 2011

“No two animals or plants are just alike, and no two people see things exactly the same way.”~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challengefrom the Handbook of Nature Study blog is about “Using Your Words.” We went for a walk in our own backyard, and as usual our main stop was the creek.

I heard lots of splashing and giggling, saw crawdads and tadpoles flitting around in the water, and felt the cool water, a welcome respite that warm summer evening. After our walk, I asked her what she heard, saw, and felt.

Her words–


swimming tadpoles

warm, soggy moss

 She chose to make her journal entry about the moss (a topic we just briefly covered in our study of plants for science earlier this week).

Our topic to study–

  • river moss

outdoor hour challenge #1

August 11, 2011

“She should say frankly, ‘I do not know; let us see if we cannot together find out this mysterious thing. Maybe no one knows it as yet, and I wonder if you will discover it before I do.'” ~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

I have held onto the idea of nature study and now, hope to finally make it a regular part of our little school, thanks to Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nautre Study and the Outdoor Hour Challenges from the Handbook of Nature Study blog. For our first official nature study under the Outdoor Hour Challenge, we went on a hike at our favorite nature park. We had a lovely quite walk through the woods. While we rested, I asked her what caught her interest, and she made this journal entry of a snag.

On our hike back to the car she seemed to notice much more, inlcuding lots of little lizards warming themselves on sun-splashed rocks.

Our topics to study–

  • spiny lizards
  • snags