California Poppies and John Muir

Time for poppies. I love it when I see these golden orange flowers along the road and on the hillsides because I know that spring has arrived in our part of the world.

Isn’t this a happy flower? No wonder it is our state wildflower.

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 565:
“The California poppy is native of California; there it blossoms during the months of February, March, and April in greatest abundance. It is found in the desert as well as among the foothills.”

Pages 563 to 565 in the Handbook of Nature Study are devoted exclusively to the California poppy. The HNS also has a lesson on poppies in general starting on page 560.

Now this little beauty was starting to bloom on the same hillside but I don’t know what it is.

This I do know and it is purple vetch….anything purple is okay in my book.

Quote from Muir Among the Animals:
“When California was wild, it was one sweet bee-garden throughout its entire length, north and south, and all the way across from the snowy sierra to the ocean…..Descending the eastern slopes of the coast range, through beds of gilias and lupines, and around many a breezy hillock and bush-crowned headland, I at length waded out into the midst of the glorious field of gold. All the ground was covered, not with grass and green leaves, but with radiant corollas, about ankle-deep next the foothills, knee-deep or more five or six miles out….Sauntering in any direction, hundreds of these happy sun-plants brushed against my feet at every step, and closed over them as if I were wading in liquid gold.”

I can close my eyes and imagine how beautiful a place John Muir found in the early days of California’s history. If you are a fan of John Muir’s, this is a must read book.

Spring Wildflower Study Button

Outdoor Hour Challenge #4: It Is Coming Into Focus


Outdoor Hour Challenge #4
It’s Coming Into Focus

1. In the Handbook of Nature Study,
read “The Uses of Scientific Names” on pages 10 and 11. Also read “The Field Notebook” on pages 13-15. Highlight or underline the points that you would like to remember.

2. I am going to suggest that you pick a focus area for your nature study. Taking into account what you have close at hand, what season it is, and your child’s interest, look through the table of contents in the Handbook of Nature Study and pick one section that you will focus on for the next six to eight weeks. It might be a good time to study garden flowers (bulbs), wildflowers, birds, or trees if it is already warm in your area. If you still have lots of snow, you could focus on mammals, birds, or water forms. (For suggested nature study rotations using the Handbook of Nature Study, see the Ambleside Online’s nature study page for ideas. http://amblesideonline.org/NatureSch.shtml) If you have chosen a focus area, turn to the introductory page for that section and take the time to read just that page in the Handbook of Nature Study.

3. Take your 10-15 minute walk outdoors. Encourage your children to observe quietly for some of that time, helping to train them to be aware of the sounds as well as the sights of their own backyard. If you have chosen a focus, spend a few minutes looking for an object to study. Be alert to ideas for further research in your focus area. For example, if you have chosen birds as your focus area, you can look for feathers or nests as well as the birds themselves.

4. Follow up with discussion and research in your focus area if you have chosen one. If you have chosen a focus, begin a list of items that you have observed that fall within that subject. For example, if you have chosen birds as your focus, try to identify a bird you saw today, look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study, and read more about that particular bird if possible. Add the bird’s name to your list of birds seen for the term. Please Note: If your child found something to research other than an object from your focus area, be flexible and go with their interest.

5. Give the opportunity for a nature journal entry.

“The book should be considered the personal property of the child and should never be criticized by the teacher except as a matter of encouragement; for the spirit in which the notes are made is more important than the information they cover.”

“The making of drawings to illustrate what is observed should be encouraged.”

Last week I suggested a journal page after observation and discussion. Offer the opportunity once again for your child to draw and write a page to add to their notebook. I have found that if I pull out my nature journal and draw, the children usually want to join me. Model a simple journal entry if you need to. Remember it can be as easy as a quick drawing, a label, and the date. The whole idea is to start a new habit. Modeling the behavior, setting a good example with our attitude, and giving our children plenty of subjects to draw will all encourage them to give nature journaling a try. 

For younger students, outlining the object in the nature journal and then having them color it in is a perfectly acceptable alternative to drawing the object. You can also do a rubbing by placing the object under the paper and then rubbing it with the side of a crayon.

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

Learning the Parts of a Leaf with the Handbook of Nature Study

Blackberry vines grew all around my resting spot yesterday on my hike. I decided to really observe them and then draw them for my nature journal.

Here are some leaves that I chose to draw.

After I started drawing, I realized just how many thorns there are on a blackberry vine. There are thorns on the vine and on the back of the leaf.

Here is a close-up of the thorns on the back of the blackberry leaf. If you click on the photo and make it larger you will see something very interesting. Did you click? Did you see the little insects that I believe are aphids? How cool is that?

“The scientific names given to the parts of plants have been the stumbling block to many teachers, and yet this part of plant study should be easily accomplished. First of all, the teacher should have in mind clearly the names of the parts which she wishes to teach; the illustrations here given are for her convenience.”
Handbook of Nature Study page 456

In the Handbook of Nature Study, you will find a nice diagram of the leaf parts on page 457. On the blackberry leaf it is easy to find all the parts and now I can name them with any leaf.

Here is my nature journal entry for this plant.

It was a great hike and I will be sharing more of what we saw as the days go by.