Outdoor Hour Challenge #20 Summer Tree Study

“Besides appreciating the world, observing nature develops other mental powers-ability to focus, to tell things apart, to patiently seek answers. These things are useful in every facet of life.”
Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1 page 61

With each new season we learn more about the natural world and the wonderful cycles we find in it. The seasons are a way to measure time and to learn to understand the subtle changes we find in the plants and animals that live close to home. (Gen. 1:14) We started a year-long tree study nine challenges ago and it should be a good time to make our next seasonal observation.

“And what about those six trees that the children were watching since winter? Now children will see that they also flower, although those flowers may be as green as the leaves. …This is old news to grown-ups, but a good teacher will present all knowledge as new and exciting by imagining himself in the place of the child and being amazed with him.”
Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1 page 53

Your tree should have leaves for this season’s observation and if you were not able to identify your tree before, this should help you do so at this time. If you are just starting your year-long tree study, consult the Handbook of Nature Study’s table of contents for trees and see if you can find a tree that you have close by your home. Turn to the corresponding section and it will give you lots of ideas for learning about your tree. You are not limited to the trees covered in the Handbook of Nature Study but if you choose a tree not listed, you will need to find your information either at your local library or on the internet.

Outdoor Challenge #20 
Seasonal Tree Observation-Summer

1. We started a tree study project way back in Outdoor Hour Challenge #11 and made our first observations of our tree. If you would like to review this section in the Handbook of Nature Study, you will find it on pages 622-626. This week the challenge includes making the next seasonal observation of your tree. If your first observation was in spring, you are now into summer and your tree should look a little different. If you are just joining the challenges, pick a tree from your yard, your street, or a near-by park to observe over the course of the next year. Check in the Handbook of Nature Study to see if your tree is listed there and then do the reading about that particular tree. There should be some suggestions for observations that you can follow. You can use the prepared seasonal tree study page to record your observations.

2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. You can take photos of your tree to put in your nature journal or you can sketch the tree in your journal. If you need help with tree sketching you can use this resource.
Clare Walkers Leslie’s Guide to Sketching Trees

3. If you have additional time this week, you could complete another small square activity from Challenge #9.

4. After your outdoor time, complete your Seasonal Tree Study notebook page sheet or record your tree observations in your nature journal. Take a few minutes to talk about your time outdoors to see if there is anything that your child wants to learn more about. Follow up any interest shown.

Mini-Challenge #20 Year-Long Tree Study
This challenge can be done with or without the Seasonal Tree Study notebook page. If you have limited time or are trying to combine challenges, pick your tree and make a few short observations. Spend the balance of your time reading about your tree so that during the next season you can review what you have already learned and compare your observations from season to season.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge #19 Seeds and Germination

“Leigh Hunt said to imagine what if we had never seen flowers, and they were sent to us as a reward for our goodness. Imagine how carefully we’d watch the growth of the stem and every unfolding of each leaf in wonder. And then imagine our astonishment when a bud appeared, and began to unfold in all its delicate, colorful beauty. Well, we have been seeing flowers for years-but our children haven’t.”
Charlotte Mason volume 1, page 53

Before we finish up our eight week study of garden flowers, I wanted to do a little experiment that every child should do at least once their lifetime. Germinating seeds and watching the progress is something that will fascinate some children, not all but some. I encourage you to give it a try along with finishing up your garden flower journal entries with your lists of flowers observed, drawings of some garden flowers, and emptying out your flower press and putting them into your journal.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #19 
Seed Germination

1. This week take a few minutes to go over the mechanics of seed germination. On pages 458-459 of the Handbook of Nature Study you will find a short explanation of how a seed really just holds a little plant struggling to get out.

Try this activity in addition to your Outdoor Hour time this week:
The Germinator


2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time in your garden, yard, or a near-by park. Look to see if you can find any seeds. Remember that cones and acorns are seeds and that beans are actually seed pods. You can also look in any fruits that you eat this week for seeds like an apple, orange, grapes, or strawberries. Nuts are actually seeds too so if you eat almonds or walnuts or anything similar you can talk about seeds.

3. Add any new garden flowers to your list in your nature journal.

4. You can encourage your child to sketch some seeds in their nature journals. Or they can draw the progress of their seed germination experiment for their journals if they wish. Record your flower seeds’ growth (from challenge 12) and/or record your sunflower’s growth (challenge #16) for the week.

This challenge is part of my Garden Flowers ebook. This ebook has ten garden related challenges that will walk you through a study of garden flowers using the Handbook of Nature Study. In addition to the challenges already written, there will be more photos, nature journal examples, book lists, and totally new notebook pages designed to go with each of the Garden Flower Challenges.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

Learn What is Closest to Home

This post is long but very valuable. Please bear with me while I pull some loose threads together and try to express them to you.

In the book Last Child in the Woods, the author makes the point several times that today’s science textbooks and programs are missing the mark. Many, many young students know more about the tropical rainforests and volcanoes of the world than they know about their own backyards.
bulbs all in a row
Is there a better way to introduce our children to the world of science? Yes, but it may mean we have to get out and get dirty. We will need to spend time outdoors *with* our children and look at things through their eyes. It may mean that teaching science doesn’t follow a straight path or a certain scope and sequence. It changes science or nature study into more of a way of life rather than a school subject to be checked off your “to do” list each week.

Here’s a selection of quotes from one of my favorite sections in Last Child in the Woods:

“Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.”

“For some young people, nature is so abstract-the ozone layer, a faraway rain forest-that it exists beyond the senses.”

And the best of all from this section:
“For a whole generation of kids, direct experiences in the backyard, in the tool shed, in the fields and woods, has been replaced by indirect learning, through machines. These young people are smart, they grew up with computers, they were supposed to be superior-but now we know that something’s missing.”

If you have read any of Charlotte Mason’s writings, she tells us what is missing from most of our young people’s educations. Charlotte Mason advocated the sort of science learning that Richard Louv encourages in this book….an education where children are exposed to and encouraged to be out in nature. With her emphasis in the early years on nature study, Charlotte Mason is showing us how to make science meaningful to our children. It will not be some abstract idea or have a political agenda. Science really is as simple as the plan put before us by Charlotte Mason. We are the ones that make it complicated.

In studying nature close to home, our children will learn to observe, to write about their experiences, to draw their treasures, to be patient, to imagine, and to explore. You don’t need a special textbook or kit to get started.
A nature walk can stimulate our children’s senses and their inborn desire to ask questions. One bird, one tree, one wildflower or garden flower at a time, our children will learn about their own world and neighborhood. Whether your “outdoors” is a park, a few square feet of dirt, or an acre of forest, every child has the opportunity to be exposed to some kind of natural environment. If you live in a high-rise apartment or the weather is too bitter or too hot to be outside, bring nature to you in the form of a potted plant, a fish tank, or a collection of natural objects brought in from your time spent outdoors. (Check out my daughter’s table-top garden post on her blog at HeartsandTrees.)

Anna Botsford Comstock in her book Handbook of Nature Study puts her thoughts this way, “Nature study is for the comprehension of the individual life of the bird, insect, or plant that is nearest at hand.”

My eyes are wide open at all times to find ways to bring nature closer to our family. As Christians we want to appreciate the world that God made for us to live in. We want to be able to understand him better by learning about all that he created.

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