Last Friday, Pamela became interested in lichen, but she did not know what it was. During the week, she googled "green bark tree trunk" for images and found out its name. We looked up information on lichen, and she typed the following narration for her science notebook:
I saw green stuff on the brown bark. It was lichens. It was a fungus with blue-green bacteria. It grew outside on bark, tree trunks, wooden fences, and even rocks. It will not hurt the tree.
On Tuesday, we combined Lesson 5, Day 1 of Writing Strands Level 2 with Outdoor Hour Challenge #2, which focused on using words. This series guides parents in guiding their children in nature study. Challenge 2 asked us to read The Field Excursion and How to Use This Book from Handbook of Nature Study. I loved the idea of taking a well-planned, efficient field trip of only fifteen minutes, which my busy schedule demands. The suggestion to preview the outing by talking about what you expect to study dovetails nicely with how we homeschool anyway. I learned to "make the lesson an investigation and make the pupils feel that they are the investigators." How? Keep the information shared in the book's studies to myself just like I avoid giving away spoilers in a novel. Likewise, imperative language (direct questions) kills a nature study in the same way it douses conversation. "If the questions do not inspire the child to investigate, they are useless"--perfect advice for an RDI parent.
For this challenge, Pamela and I sat on the steps of our back porch with lined notebook paper. I explained that we were going to practice sequencing in a story with nature study. She would find words to describe what she saw, heard, and felt and use sequencing words like first, second, third, etc. Since we have been making nature journal entries regularly, I skipped that part of the challenge. Unlike me, Pamela remembered that Tuesday was the first day of fall and I loved what she wrote:
Summer is over. First, I saw the green-and-brown tree with green-and-brown leaves. Second, I heard the wind, and it was blowing. Third, the yellow leaves were falling, and I felt cool. Fourth, the birds were whistling. The season is fall.
Autumn Challenge #1: Cattail
Before heading out, I reviewed the challenge and skimmed (busy schedule, remember?) the part about spring, summer, and flowers in the study on cattails and focused on what to expect in the fall. I even printed out the notebook page and packed some markers.
I called my friend Brenda because I figured she would know where to find cattails. She went above and beyond the call of duty (it fits--she's a veteran of the Coast Guard and I'm a Navy veteran). Brenda gave us a ride on her golf cart up and down several hills until we reached a beautiful fishing pond with plenty of cattails.
Pamela and I orally observed the setting first: weather, date, season, location, etc. We noticed how cattails grow along the edge of the pond. She touched the cattail and said it was soft. I added that it felt like a sponge. She drew a detail of one cattail and then drew a bunch of them, very neatly and abstractly. During the week, she will write her observations for science class. The book asked if the cattail would float and Pamela guessed that it would. I snapped off a cattail and handed to her to throw. Impulsively, she ripped off some of the seeds and said, "Dandelion seeds." They are so soft, white, and downy. We talked about the wind blowing the seeds away.
Pamela went to the edge of the pond and threw the cattail. She was right! Before we left I snapped some pictures for our follow-up study next week.
The sweetest moment was when a mother showed up with her little girl, probably no more than two years old. Pamela asked for her name and repeated it when she heard it. Pamela looked at me and said, "New friend?"
"She who opens her eyes and her heart nature-ward even once a week finds nature-study in the schoolroom a delight and an abiding joy." Anna Comstock