Thursday, September 19, 2013

Highlights from our Nature Walk

Yesterday we did our first weekly Outdoor Hour Challenge of the quarter. As part of the challenge, I read pages 1-8 in the Handbook of Nature Study. I learned quite a bit about what I need to do and be as a teacher in order to cultivate an interest in nature study in my children:

- I need to cultivate my own interest in nature. My love for it will influence theirs.

- I don't need to know everything, or even very much. Nature study can be a joint exploration with my children as we search after truth and beauty in the outdoors.

- My job is not to tell them all the facts. Rather, it is to gently lead them to observe things carefully for themselves.

- I should begin with their interests, not (necessarily) mine. If they want to find out about snakes and snails, I shouldn't be forcing them to find out all about the pretty wildflowers.

- I need to remember the object of nature study:

"...more than all, nature-study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out-of-doors and an abiding love of nature."

Our nature walk was at White's Pond, which is only about three minutes by car from our house. It was a gorgeous day - probably about 20 degrees and sunny. The dragonflies were out, and we had a moment of drama when a huge one landed on JJ's arm. It even stopped long enough for me to take a picture, despite all the excited shouting that was going on. It's a challenge these days to take a steady picture with MM kicking and waving on my back, but you may be able to see that its wingspan was almost as wide as the length of JJ's forearm.

We walked to the pond and looked at the water for a while. SA asked about the water striders, and I was able to identify them for him. A startled frog jumped into the water right in front of us and swam quickly away. Then we took a short walk in the woods. The boys' attention was caught by the many, many varieties and sizes of mushrooms, some no bigger than a pinhead, and some larger than my hand.

When we came back home, SA asked me to write in our nature journal (a notebook with space on the top for pictures and on the bottom for writing.). I told him I would write if he would tell me what to write. Here's what he dictated: "We saw mushrooms on our nature walk. There were paths on our nature walk. We saw teeny-weeny mushrooms and huge mushrooms."

I took the time to look up mushrooms in the Handbook of Nature Study today. He looked over my shoulder and asked about the names of the parts of the mushroom written there. I told him. Maybe next time we see a mushroom, we can pick one and do a spore print. I didn't have much luck identifying the mushrooms, though there are guides online. It seems that there are such a terrific number of varieties out there that it's incredibly difficult to narrow it down. I know now that the yellow mushrooms are chanterelles. I was very curious about the large brown ones. Their caps seemed to have a bit of a greasy shine. I couldn't find them online.

I also looked up dragonflies for him in the Handbook, and it was neat to hear him spontaneously telling his Papa later that dragonflies eat insects and mosquitos.

I tried to interest them in leaf-rubbing, but while they were interested in watching me do it, they didn't care to try it out themselves. Some other day...

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  1. Great post!
    I find mushrooms fascinating. There are so many varieties! Maybe that slimy mushroom is a "slippery jack"? It is so hard to tell without seeing the bottom part.
    I love seeing your photos and the cute one at the bottom is great!

  2. Thanks for that ID! I think you're right. I picked a couple smaller ones and did a spore print. It was dark brown, which would be right if it is indeed a slippery jack. The pores were yellow, and the stem below the ring was dark brown.

  3. "My job is not to tell them all the facts. Rather, it is to gently lead them to observe things carefully for themselves." <--- love that!

    Great post Nelleke

    1. Thanks Renee. We love nature study over here!

    2. I thought that was super too. Takes a lot of pressure off. :)

    3. It's true in many areas, I think. If I can just somehow pass on the excitement and interest and love, they'll be learning on their own, making their own connections, hopefully for the rest of their lives.

  4. I really enjoyed reading about this Nature Walk. :) I think what you said about not 'telling all the facts" has been something I've had to learn. Sometimes it's difficult for me to remember to keep my mouth shut and let them discover. :)

    1. I do understand that. It's something I struggle with more in math...telling him rather than letting him take time to figure things out.

  5. beautiful! LOVE the pictures! also, those points that you mentioned at the start are such great reminders.
    we did several spore prints! SUPER cool! i was slightly neurotic about handwashing afterwards, but i think my kids will recover. ;)

    1. Thanks for commenting. I did end up doing some spore prints, but one of the mushrooms released a LOT of water on the page and ruined it for a blog post. :) I will do it again, though.