Yesterday we did our first weekly Outdoor Hour Challenge of the quarter. As part of the challenge, I read pages 1-8 in the Handbook of Nature Study. I learned quite a bit about what I need to do and be as a teacher in order to cultivate an interest in nature study in my children:
- I need to cultivate my own interest in nature. My love for it will influence theirs.
- I don't need to know everything, or even very much. Nature study can be a joint exploration with my children as we search after truth and beauty in the outdoors.
- My job is not to tell them all the facts. Rather, it is to gently lead them to observe things carefully for themselves.
- I should begin with their interests, not (necessarily) mine. If they want to find out about snakes and snails, I shouldn't be forcing them to find out all about the pretty wildflowers.
- I need to remember the object of nature study:
"...more than all, nature-study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out-of-doors and an abiding love of nature."
Our nature walk was at White's Pond, which is only about three minutes by car from our house. It was a gorgeous day - probably about 20 degrees and sunny. The dragonflies were out, and we had a moment of drama when a huge one landed on JJ's arm. It even stopped long enough for me to take a picture, despite all the excited shouting that was going on. It's a challenge these days to take a steady picture with MM kicking and waving on my back, but you may be able to see that its wingspan was almost as wide as the length of JJ's forearm.
We walked to the pond and looked at the water for a while. SA asked about the water striders, and I was able to identify them for him. A startled frog jumped into the water right in front of us and swam quickly away. Then we took a short walk in the woods. The boys' attention was caught by the many, many varieties and sizes of mushrooms, some no bigger than a pinhead, and some larger than my hand.
When we came back home, SA asked me to write in our nature journal (a notebook with space on the top for pictures and on the bottom for writing.). I told him I would write if he would tell me what to write. Here's what he dictated: "We saw mushrooms on our nature walk. There were paths on our nature walk. We saw teeny-weeny mushrooms and huge mushrooms."
I took the time to look up mushrooms in the Handbook of Nature Study today. He looked over my shoulder and asked about the names of the parts of the mushroom written there. I told him. Maybe next time we see a mushroom, we can pick one and do a spore print. I didn't have much luck identifying the mushrooms, though there are guides online. It seems that there are such a terrific number of varieties out there that it's incredibly difficult to narrow it down. I know now that the yellow mushrooms are chanterelles. I was very curious about the large brown ones. Their caps seemed to have a bit of a greasy shine. I couldn't find them online.
I also looked up dragonflies for him in the Handbook, and it was neat to hear him spontaneously telling his Papa later that dragonflies eat insects and mosquitos.
I tried to interest them in leaf-rubbing, but while they were interested in watching me do it, they didn't care to try it out themselves. Some other day...
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