Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spring Nature Study: Feathers

We have been enjoying taking a closer look at our garden, following Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock (follow the link to download the e-text) , and the curriculum designed by Barb ("Harmony Art Mom") in her blog, Handbook of Nature Study.  The time outside to just slow down and enjoy spring is a delightful way to enjoy one another's company at the end of the day (remember, I'm one of those homeschool parents who works outside the home during the day and completes lessons in the afternoon and evening).

Because I felt the need to slow down, we went back to the first Outdoor Hour Challenge, read pages 1-8 of the "Handbook," and went outside just to ... BE.  Outside, we found some bird feathers, which our little guy wanted to study more, and discovered a new flower in our garden. We used his "critter catcher" to hold the little wispy feathers, which wanted to blow away, and got our hand lenses ready. Then I took a photo of the wildflower, so we could look it up online later.

We supplemented the feathers we found outside with some from an old down coat, studying the parts of a feather and trying our best to figure out what part of the bird our feathers came from. We found a great section of the "Handbook" that we used for information, and watched our birdie friends at the feeder.

The story of the new wildflower is a nice one. Earlier this spring, our son was watching me working in my flower gardens, and he asked if he could have his own garden. I had cleaned a flower bed out last year, to make room for I-don't-know-what-yet, but had left behind little seedlings too small to relocate. So Malik took his trowel and moved the little seedlings carefully into his own garden.

Soon after moving them, they began to bud, and formed pretty, bright orange flowers -- nothing like anything that had been in that bed. I then recalled that I had scattered some old wildflower seeds (mixed) in the bed, and I truly forgot about them. We got on the computer, and searched and searched. We discovered that our new garden friend was a Siberian Wallflower.

I am buying my own copy of Handbook of Nature Study, as well as some wildflower seeds: Siberian Wallflower, Perennial Flax, Purple Coneflower. Malik and I will scatter them along our back fence, and observe some more!

We used notebooking pages from The Notebooking Treasury, plus free nature study notebooking pages that a homeschool mom developed to use with the Outdoor Challenges.

Here are other things we observed, but are awaiting deeper study...

 1. Ornithogallum  (Star of Bethlehem) -- a patch that dates back to my husband's childhood. Has sentimental value to us.

2. A cute little pink Heucherella that is sneaking a peek between a big patch of Bee-Balm and the creeping Phlox (background). I just moved it last summer, and forgot that I had moved it.

3. Here come the snap-peas! We are pea-staking this year (hence the branches in the bed). The birds ate some, but we planted extra so our birdie friends could share.

 4. An interesting "family" of mushrooms (right), growing on the woodchips next to 'Gold Dust" Sedum and a "toad house." No toads yet. (NOTE: if you have clay flower pots, they make good toad houses too -- bury one on its side, with half the pot above the surface.)

We have a lot of interesting mushrooms this year. We usually buy pine mulch, but last year I left the leaves down, as well, and I wonder if that's not the reason for the variety this year.

 5. One of our new "babies" -- a gold-leafed Heuchera (Coralbells) that I got for Mother's Day from my oldest son, who is a plantsman and naturalist. (NOTE: if you buy yellow-leafed or red-leafed plants, you might need to plant them in fuller sun, as many will lose their bright colors if they are in the shade (they will make more chlorophyll to compensate for the lower light level).

6. Remember the story in my last post about me falling in the roses while bird-watching? Well, the roses are none the worse for the squashing -- and they are covered with buds! Here is one that is just ready to bust loose! (As we looked it over, Malik quietly said, "And THIS time don't push me into the rose bush."). Where's the love, man?

As you can see, we are excited about our gardens. Except for the thorns.

The Notebooking Treasury has a set of pretty pages ("Wildflowers, Weeds and Garden Flowers") that we have all printed out, waiting for tomorrow, when we can get outside and do some more sketches of our new wildflower friend, the Siberian Wallflower.

Looking for math ideas?  Check out these two sites:

Homeschool Math has a free worksheet generator that you can use to create a variety of math worksheets for independent practice.

Adapted Mind also has free worksheets for printing -- like other sites, if you want nice, clean worksheets without ads and other "stuff," you have to have a paid subscription.


Like word puzzles and other brain-teasers? Check out Lumosity. There are a number of games that are guaranteed to put more wrinkles in your brain. Try the site out for free, then pay a subscription to keep those neurons pumping over the summer.