Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter Nature Study Y'all

Let's face it! When the temperatures are below freezing, it's hard to muster the mojo to walk. (For folks down south, hot, humid, mosquito-mired days in July are no picnic). Whatever your obstacle, it's worth keeping the habit of a long, weekly walk. Our sweet spot is Santee National Wildlife Refuge, and, while it's twenty minutes from my house and ten minutes from our school, I don't mind the drive once a week. Here are a few tips, one or two gleaned from the AO forum which I encourage you to join because of their collective wisdom.
  • Find a like-minded kindred spirit to walk with your family. Make a commitment with one another to walk the same place at the same time every week.
  • Bring and wear what you need to be comfortable: hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, layers, boots, raingear, sunscreen, insect repellant, etc.
  • Set a temperature limit (minimum and maximum) and use that to buck yourself up when it's cold but not too cold and hot but not too hot.
  • Practice the habit of cheerful resilience. We have sayings to go with the weather: "Harvest kids don't melt/ freeze to death/blubber." (The kids reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch coined that last one.)
  • Take pictures to help you research what is out there. Let older children take their own pictures if they use it for nature study.
  • Keep a family nature notebook for the little ones and scaffold them into doing their own when they are ready. Record common names and Latin names of what you see whenever possible.
  • Keep a list of what you find at the back of your notebook like the one Laurie Bestvator shared in her book The Living Page. It becomes a handy reference during notebooking time.
  • Let them develop their own names of places: we have the castles and moats, rock mountain, the frog pond, the boat ramp pond, the binocular boardwalk, the swamp boardwalk, etc.
Just over a week ago, we experienced a "long" period of freezing temperature. My friends from up North, please make sure you have no coffee or tea in your mouth. Thirty-six consecutive hours of temperatures well below freezing is long for us — especially when your house is not insulated!

We decided to make Friday's walk optional since it began just as the thermometer began passing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. My group headed straight to the water where the deer drink. Watching them play in the ice was like seeing Lucy explore Narnian snow for the first time. Ice is a rare treat for us. Seeing a section of our lake iced over is extremely rare. Rather than drag them out of the ice and walk the whole trail because that is what we do every week, I let them explore and play with ice. As you can see in the pictures, they had a BLAST.

It is especially rewarding when you get to see students making discoveries. They became mesmerized by chucking bits of ice and watching them skid across the ice. This video shows them cheering when the little chunks slid off into the water.

When this little boy ran through the cypress knees, he announced, "Hey, it's like a maze!"

Then, the kids had an idea just as we are driving away. They wondered if they could explore the ice at the little beach near the mound. They learned that the ice had already melted on the sunny side of the lake.

What was Pamela doing? Well, she and I had violated one of our tips. We had forgotten to wear boots so we did not have as much fun as the others!


Penny said...

Looks like fun - well, as much fun as one can have in the cold weather! I am not a fan of it! ;)

Carol said...

I really like your list of collective wisdom - very helpful. We have the opposite weather over here. Our summers can be quite oppressively hot. Ice sounds very enticing at the moment!