Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Choosing our Summer Nature Study Focus

I didn't have a choice, really. I may have had visions of documenting our local wildflowers in our nature journals this summer, but matters have been taken out of my hands.

I picked up a book called Bug Wise a couple of years ago, and SA(6) has been reading it voraciously this last month. He has also been spontaneously narrating every detail. He is particularly interested in spiders and their webs right now. I had a brief moment when I considered formalizing this amazing learning. "Let's make this a school book!" I thought. "Let's start at the beginning and narrate all of it!" (I know! Sometimes I can be crazy like that.) Thankfully I stopped myself. As it is, I think I've heard the whole book anyway, and the spider parts several times.

After a rainy day yesterday, the boys were especially eager to get outside today. I took their watermelon snack outside to them, and they pointed out three tiny yellow spiders to me. They were almost too small to see, though they had each spun a web.  I suggested the boys get a magnifying glass. We watched them for a while, and then I looked them up. They turned out to be baby European garden spiders (araneaus diadematus), a very common orb weaver.

Armed with the magnifying glass, the boys were soon looking at every insect they could find. SA(6) trapped an ant under the magnifying glass. JJ(4) also checked out the ants on the peonies (They are always abundant there.)
"In elementary grades, nature-study deals with objects which the children can see with the naked eye. However, a lens is a help in almost all of this work because it is such a joy to the child to gaze at the wonders it reveals." -Handbook of Nature Study, p.9

Then someone saw a ladybug, and there was a scrambling to find out how many spots this one had. It was on a hand and an arm for a while, but they figured it was looking for aphids. Since there were none on their arms, they decided to put the ladybug back on the plant.

Meanwhile, MM(2) was interested in the blackflies flocking to our watermelon rinds. Sadly, they all flew away when I was trying to take their picture. AJ was well-protected in his chair, but still managed to get two blackfly bites on his face. :(

I went to work doing some outdoor chores and noticed some spiderwebs in the grass. I called SA to give me his expert opinion, and he came, spouting information about different forms of spiderwebs all the way.

And that, friends, is how I chose our summer nature study focus. Sometimes I have to think and decide purposefully, but sometimes it just happens and we run with it.