Monday, May 16, 2011

Nature Study- Apple Tree Blossoms

We have been waiting with great anticipation to complete this part of the spring nature study.  Our old apple tree in the backyard is the perfect tree to observe as it serves as a backdrop for most of our time outside.  We are now in the full swing of spring, and the tree is abloom.  It is absolutely spectacular this year.  I am always impressed by the display the good Lord creates for us in this vernal season.

We began our study by reading a Stopwatch book entitled Apple Tree by Barrie Watts.
Apple Tree (Stop-Watch Series)

The book does an excellent job with the text and photographs in teaching young children (or anyone) the process by which an apple tree produces fruit and grows throughout the four seasons.  

We bundled up to go out in the rain to make our observations and collect apple blossoms.  

First we looked at the general characteristics of the tree.  
We used a measuring tape to estimate the height.  The tree is about 40 feet high.  We used a flexible measuring tape to measure the circumference of the trunk.  It is 120 inches around.  We looked up into the leaves and blossoms which are beginning to fall. We observed the bark which is dark brown, green, and black.    

Each child carried a bucket to collect some blossoms.  

We counted five petals on each bloom and examined the pollen.  The boys immediately remembered that bees get the pollen on their legs and bring it from flower to flower.   (Thank you Barrie Watts!)  They each brought their collection into the house for closer observation and journaling.  

We smelled the blossoms sweet aroma.  We observed the white and subtle pink color.  Each boy drew a tree with blossoms and a close up including five petals with pollen.  They dictated their observations to me which I recorded.  
We concluded today's study by having an apple for snack. Later in the week we will read The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons and completing other apple theme related work.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nature Study- Wildflowers

We did not have to go far to find nice specimens for this study.  Simple lawn wildflowers are a source for all kinds of questions and answers.  We began with Dandelions.  It was cloudy today, so the flowers were closed up to some degree.  We measured several batches in our yard ranging from one inch to eight and a half.  We could not find any that were going to seed.

Yes, Dandelions are pesky.... but they are also a great source of beauty.

 They have such sunny, happy faces.   
 These purple gems I have known as Creeping Thyme.  My lawn is full of it.  When we mow the field the air is permeated with its sweet smell.  The boys were quick to snatch up samples of these tiny purple beauties.
 We also have many patches of wild Violets.  Both purple ...
 and white.
Here is a mystery flower we are yet to name.  It is quite small growing only about two inches high.

 This is a small patch near the fence.  If you know the name... please let us know.
 We collected samples to draw in our nature journals.  Today we used water color pencils to create our sketches.
 "T" chose Violets for his journal entry.  
"I" went with the Dandelion.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nature Study- Spring Bird Song

Outdoor Hour button

Last week we took a bit of a vacation and drove to Boston.  We braved both the Boston Children's Museum and Sturbridge Village during the school vacation week.  We had a great time and the boys learned all kinds of new things ranging from touring a turn of the century Japanese house to hammering pegs in to make a shoe sole circa 1840.  I was very glad to get back to our routine this morning.  We jumped right into the spring bird study.

The plan was to drive down to the Hudson River to the bird sanctuary.  As soon as we were headed down the road the April showers kicked in.  We turned around and decided to make our observations from our backyard.
Our focus this week is on identifying birds by their call or song.  We climbed up the "fort"  in our yard to get still and listen to the woods.  While we were sitting quietly the children used their spy glasses to see if they could spot any birds.

We could find nothing in the rain with our eyes, but our ears were given a workout.  Most of what we heard we could not identify.

We headed inside to the computer to learn some more of the calls of what we have observed in the past on our yard.  We went to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to listen to the songs and calls.  We started with the Black -Capped Chickadee, because we actually knew that one.  Here is the rest of the list of the birds we researched. I will put a star next to the birds that we recognized the call or song.  See how many you know. (You have to scroll down to the audio)

1. Bluejay*

We were very surprised at how many we knew the sound, but not the name.  I would like to set up a listening activity that matches the call to the bird.... that is one to work on.  

The boys each picked a bird to complete their notebook page.  "I" picked the Eastern Bluebird and "T" picked the Pileated Woodpecker, both of which we have observed in our yard the past few weeks.

Here is a picture I took with my phone of the Pileated Woodpecker we saw in our yard.

Overall a fun study.  I will be sure to share the bird call game when I get it completed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nature Study- Spring Weather

Spring is finally here!  We are so excited to be out in the warmer temperatures.  The grass is just starting to green up and the last of the snow is melting.  This week we are focusing on spring weather.  Before we ventured out to investigate we built upon our prior knowledge of weather.

First we read the book ...
What's the Weather Today? (Rookie Read-About Science)

We also discussed the water cycle through a slideshow called  "Drippy".   We completed a series of simple experiments to understand evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.  

We just used our tea kettle to boil some water and look for steam.  That was our example of evaporation.  Then we used a cold cookie sheet that we placed in front of steam to create condensation.  We collected the drips of water to discuss precipitation and condensation.  

We also used some cotton balls to demonstrate how clouds collect condensation and then precipitate.  The cotton balls were our "clouds."  We used a cookie sheet with water as our ocean.  The boys hovered the "clouds" over the ocean to allow the "condensation" to collect.  The boys enjoyed comparing the dry cotton ball to the heavy wet one.  Squeezing the water from the cotton ball to make rain was quite popular.  

We ventured outside just as it was beginning to rain.  The boys looked at the drops on the driveway and in our empty fountain.  They caught some in their hands.  
We felt the wind at our backs and recognized what direction it was coming from.  The thermometer showed us that it was 60 degrees.  

When it was time to record our findings the sun and a bit of blue sky showed its beautiful face.  

We ended up enjoying some time outside and skipped our notebook pages for today.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nature Study- Shapes in Nature

Spring still has not arrived for us in upstate New York.  As much as I would love to be following "The Outdoor Hour" spring series, we will have to wait for a few more weeks to catch up.  In the mean time we are getting out and exploring more of our yard as it is slowly being unearthed from snow and revealed by rain.  Our focus this week is on shapes in nature.

We used a worksheet to get our mind thinking about what we might see.  Securing the chart on a clipboard, we slipped our rubber boots on enjoyed a short break in the rain for our exploration.  Here are some photos of what we found.
hydrangea flower - example of veining and oval
Circular animal hole

Horse Nettle Berries - sphere shape (and poisonous)

Fungus - half circle shape

Hyacinth - scales 

bulbs sprouting - triangular shaped leaves

Heart shaped leaf

We collected each of the items we found and brought them into the house to create our journal entries.  We also realized that there were things in our refrigerator that were also examples of shapes in nature, such as eggs, strawberries, and spinach leaves.  Our science table is currently set up with a magnet exploration, but below it we have bins of our collected finds from our nature walks. We grabbed two of our bins and looked for more shapes in nature.

The boys each cut and pasted the worksheet labels on a piece of scrapbooking paper.  Then they selected one item from the table that represented each of the shapes to draw.  They connect a line from the label to the represented shape.

 We will be following up on this study by reading
A Star in My Orange: Looking for Nature's Shapes

We will also work on some printing with various fruits and veggies later in the week.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nature Study- Signs of Spring

Outdoor Hour button

It continues to feel like January here in upstate New York.  It has been a long time since I remember it being so cold so late.  All of our friends at the Outdoor Hour are moving on with the spring series and we seem to be stuck in winter.  We bundled up to brave the 31 degree weather and headed out this morning to search for any signs of spring.  Armed with our clipboard and scavenger hunt list we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.

"I" decided he needed his rake to unearth spring under the snow.  His brother and sister looked on to see if he was right.  We didn't need to do any digging to see bits of green.

moss and weed

tree lichen
We could hear the gurgling brook behind the barn overlaid with birds singing their sweet "phoebe...chicka dee dee dee."  The red-winged black birds chimed in with their trill.

our brook
We were thrilled to find some tree buds on our lilac.

Some of our other finds this morning included nests,  

and ferns from last year.  There are no signs of fiddlehead yet.

The boys found tracks from moles or voles.

When we sat down to record our findings the boys had a wealth of ideas for journaling.

Here are the final results.