Thursday, September 17, 2009

Green Hour Challenge #1

We have exercised every school day this year, logging in 18 30-minute walks so far! One of the benefits of walking is getting to know the neighborhood better. This week was full of interesting nature finds: a bird nest on the ground, a lizard in a tree just at our eye-level, a dead baby snake (and, YES, I squealed when I saw it), and a chicken trying to cross the road. We think it fell off a chicken truck bound for the poultry plant thirty minutes away. I nearly always carry the camera to give Pamela a chance to practice her photography skills. The interesting things we see offer many opportunities to reinforce declarative communication, thinking and wondering, writing, Spanish (yo veo la gallina blanca), and nature study.

Walking outdoors dovetails very nicely with nature study. Every year, I have had good intentions but only managed to hit it sporadically. Our schooling must be going well this year because we have managed to do a nature walk, complete with watercolor painting four weeks in a row--how many weeks does it take to build a habit? Pamela does not paint complicated, detailed pictures. She probably spends less than five minutes on her subject.

Before I head out, I pack the following supplies in a hip-pack:
  • a well-sealed container of water, bagged in a ziploc,
  • a few paper towels
  • different sized paintbrushes
  • watercolor paints
  • the camera
  • crayons (if we do a bark rubbing of last week's tree)

You can do nature study almost anywhere, even the backyard. Since I am trying to combine exercise with nature study every Friday, we walk to a little park next to City Hall and walk around until Pamela finds something interesting. The first two weeks she painted leaves from trees. Actually, I am not sure they were true trees because they have multiple trunks and that usually means glorified shrubbery. Instead of getting wrapped around the axle because I could not figure out what they were, I used the opportunity to work on classification skills. I took pictures of key features of the tree and brought a leaf home. During the week, we spent about five minutes a day analyzing and recording characteristics like the kind of bark; leaf margin, shape, and veins; fall leaf color; leaf arrangement (simple versus composite or alternate versus simple); buds; etc.

Thankfully, last week I recognized the tree trunk full of holes that caught Pamela's attention! The clusters of bright, red berries, leaf color and shape, and alligator-skin bark told me it was a flowering dogwood tree. I resisted the temptation to steal an opportunity for Pamela to discover the identity of the tree. Pamela painted a small detail of the holey trunk in her nature journal, and we spent all week studying the characteristics of the mystery tree. Today, we entered data in an interactive tree identification program for Piedmont Carolina and only required three characteristics to zero-in on the dogwood.

During today's walk, Pamela painted some lichen from another dogwood tree and I plan to let her investigate lichen next week. Last year, I wrote two lengthy posts about the value of nature study and how-to-do nature study. For more details than you can ever imagine, try Harmony Art Mom's awesome blog and her Green Hour Challenge series on how to apply Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study is simply inspiring. I gleaned the following ideas from the first eight pages, which Harmony Art Mom assigned for the first challenge:

The Benefits of Nature Study
  • Cultivates the habits of accurate observation, discernment, curiosity, and declarative communication.
  • Provides understanding of things close to home, opportunities for exploration of the land of the undiscovered, practical and helpful knowledge, wise respect for what happens when some break natural law, and new interests.
  • Develops an appreciation for nature, beauty, color, form, music, and how creatures live.
  • Nourishes the soul, mind, and body.
  • Releases children from too much instruction and repetitive lessons that dull the mind.
  • Permits the teacher to feel young again by not knowing, to let students pursue their interests, and to take a break when nerves are raw.
Caution: "If nature-study as taught does not make the child love nature and the out-of-doors, then it should cease."

Prescription for Teachers:
Spend Saturday morning either outdoors or napping in bed . . . z z z z . . . you can guess where I will be . . .


Julee Huy said...

I'm eating these posts up by the way. I liked the part about getting out before nerves get raw. I missed the boat the other day and since nerves were already raw my sugggestion that we go outside for a walk sent my 10 year old into a crying hysteria! :) Next time I will have to monitor him more closely and make sure I catch him before he's been pushed too far.

Upon further investigation I found out his stress and anxiety was because he knew that later he was assigned to read a chapter of Railway Children and it was way too long for him. I don't know how I was supposed to know that! :)

Thanks for the indepth posts, they help me a lot!

Barb said...

What a wonderful entry! I love everything about it. You are using so many of the great ideas from the HNS and making them fit your family.

I think the watercolor journals are outstanding and they are perfect to remember the day by.

Thank you so much for sharing everything about your nature study this week.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Barb said...

Can I use the photo of your daughter watercoloring for the OH Challenge Photo of the Week? Let me know.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Cindi said...

We just started using CM this year and we love it. I am do add other homeschooling study units outside of CM.

I want to thank you for the Outdoor Hour Challenge. I was having a hard time figuring out how to do the nature portion of the program. This is great and I thank you! We will be here for each and every one. We won't have the book just yet, but I plan on getting it in the next week or so.

We moved and I took down my website (Oh For Corn Sakes), but I am getting it back up over the next couple of days and the Overfield family will be posting links.

Thanks Tammy and Barb

walking said...

Barb is the REAL genius at this . . . I'm just a padawan learner . . .

argsmommy said...

We started the challenges this year too. I really appreciate having specific goals and suggestions to get us started. We finished challenge 4 last week. We've been using colored pencils, but I'd like to try the watercolors. Oh, and I just laughed about the chicken crossing the road -- so glad you got a picture of that!

BTW, I sent you a lengthy reply to your question on my blog, but now I'm not sure it went through. If you didn't get it, let me know and I'll resend. : )