Desert Study: Outdoor Hour Challenge #8

Here is our family’s Outdoor Hour Challenge #8. 

We just returned from our week long adventure in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. It was so surprising to find so much life and color and activity in this part of our world. If anyone says there is nothing to do for nature study in the desert, I can now whole-heartedly disagree. We spent every waking minute in the great outdoors exploring the fascinating world of the desert, even in a sudden desert rainstorm and at sunrise. We were hiking in Saguaro National Park just about everyday and found that we grew to love this place.

If you have been reading my blog this week, you will have seen some of the more interesting plants and birds that we have encountered. I will be posting more over there in the weeks to come.

Before we left for our adventure, the boys and I read several books to prepare us for what we would be seeing up close and personal. The most interesting and recognizable plant in the Sonoran Desert is the saguaro cactus. (pronounced sa wah ro) This cactus is a whole ecosystem in itself and we were able to observe the many phases of its growth while on our trip.

 

Here is a landscape with the saguaro sticking up prominently.
The saguaro grows very tall and provides shade for itself with its spines and grooves.

tall saguaro
It also provides homes for birds like the cactus wren and the gila woodpecker. They make their nests inside the saguaro. Here is a photo where you can see the nest holes.


saguaro with bird nest holes
Here is a gila woodpecker sitting on the saguaro and if you look closely, you will see a sparrow in a nest hole near the top of the saguaro.


saguaro and woodpecker
Here is a close up of the cactus itself.


close up saguaro
We enjoyed a sunrise walk in the desert and the colors and sounds are not soon to be forgotten.


saguaro at sunrise
There are so many things to tell you about from this trip but I will narrow this entry down to the saguaro cactus. Maybe later this week I will share all the many other birds that we encountered. I have some awesome hummingbird photos to share and some others that will surprise you that we found in our desert wanderings.

We did some close up work last week at home for this challenge with our hand lens. The most interesting thing we found was looking at the bark of our cedar tree…..there is so many interesting things in there like spider webs and egg sacs. If you didn’t get a chance to use your hand lens last week, I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to give it a try.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #9 One Small Square

“Children should be encouraged to quietly and patiently watch the bee, spider, ant, caterpillar or other wildlife that crosses their path. If this seems dull to them, they just need to watch more closely, because their alert eyes can catch the smallest ways of insects in ways that grown-ups can’t without magnifiers.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, Outdoor Life, page 57

one small square
Outdoor Hour Challenge #9
One Small Square

1. Let’s give ourselves a challenge.
Gather yarn, scissors, ruler, and four rocks. (optional: small garden trowel and magnifying lens)

Measure off one square somewhere out in your yard or near-by park. (I prefer to do this somewhere I can dig up a few inches of soil and not get into trouble.) Use your ruler to place rocks in a one foot square plot. Use the yarn to mark off the edges of your square. If you are completing this challenge with younger children, you might consider making a two foot square plot to investigate to make it easier. Each child could have their own square if you wish.

Now the challenge comes in. See how many different things you can find in your square. If there are leaves, lift them up and see what is underneath. If there are rocks or gravel, scrape them aside and see what is underneath. If there is grass or weeds and you have permission, use your trowel to dig up a few inches under the grass, moving it carefully to the side to replace when you are done observing. Use your hand lens if you have one along with you on your challenge.

2. Add any new items to your focus list
that you are keeping in your nature journal. Add any items to your collection that you found during this week’s challenge time. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you used your hand lens during this week’s challenge, encourage your child to draw something they saw that you would not normally see like a small insect, worm, or seed.

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.

Reptiles for Nature Study: Mustering Up My Enthusiasm

Sometimes I feel very inadequate to teach about something my boys are interested in studying. Reptiles are one subject that I would put in that category. I have a huge aversion to the sight of reptiles, but on closer acquaintance I am not so put off and can see the beauty in their creation and how they fit into the web of life.

The process of going from feeling totally disgusted by these sorts of creatures to admiration is by getting to know them better. Here is what the Handbook of Nature Study says about reptiles and nature study.

“But she(the teacher) was equal to the occasion, and surprised them by declaring that there were many interesting things to be studied about snakes, and forthwith sent to the library for books which discussed these reptiles; and this was the beginning of a nature study club of rare efficiency and enterprise.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 193

What better way to follow your child’s interest than to learn right alongside them? I can’t always start off as excited about things as my children are but I can muster up enthusiasm at learning about it as part of God’s creation. Each animal and plant has a place in the intertwined web of life we have all around us. Snakes, lizards, spiders, rodents, and everything else each are dependent on each other and in the long run so are we. Each creature has a job to do and when I think about that in relation to snakes and reptiles, it encourages me to dig a little deeper with my children.

I know my boys always learn more if they are interested in a topic so we are off to the library and internet to study reptiles.

https://handbookofnaturestudy.com/2009/02/announcing-outdoor-hour-challenge-ebook.html