The other natural form of expressing ideas found in nature study is art. We usually try our hand at water colors, but the handbook encourages allowing students "to choose their own medium, pencil, crayon, or water color." For the tree study (this week's challenge), I brought all sorts of choices: markers, watercolors, pastels, and oil pastels. The most freeing statement in the book concerned my own issues with art because my family has many talented artists, and I am not one of them:
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. We might as well declare that a child should not speak unless he put his words into poetry, as to declare that he should not draw because his drawings are not artistic.The irony of it all is that usually children who draw what they see in nature study develop their own style and learn to draw very well!
We followed up the cattail study by painting water colors based on one of the pictures I took: mine, which is entitled "Cattail, or Corndog?" is on the left and Pamela's is at the top. Pamela wrote some notes about the cattails: "It felt like cotton. The seeds were like a dandelion seeds. It floated on the pond." Notice that Pamela made a tiny grammatical error, but I did not correct it.
Yesterday, Pamela selected a tree, well a sapling, from our backyard to do a year long study. Every season, she will record her observations to help her understand how trees grow and change throughout the year, so I printed out the tree study page for autumn.
Before we headed out, I read pages 622-624 of the handbook, focusing on autumn work. Pamela drew an incredibly geometric picture of her tree, while I snapped pictures that will help us study and classify the tree next week, focusing on the leaves, seeds, roots, trunk, bark, and crown.
How has my attitude about nature study changed since starting the challenges? I have longed to be more consistent but thought a weekly field excursion was too time-consuming and the handbook, too intimidating. Thanks to Barb's bite-sized plan to ease families into short but effective studies and her scaffolding of the handbook, I feel much more confident. I have kept my own nature journal, sporadically in fits and starts over the past three years, and seeing Pamela's art is inspiring me to do my own. The benefits of nature study are plentiful--exercise, fresh air, attention, science, language arts, topics for conversation, art, etc.
P.S. Pamela's tree is weeping mulberry (female cultivar), a variety of the white mulberry, so we will be doing a mulberry study for science next week. Since the handbook does not cover it, Barb's article on subjects not specifically covered will come in handy!