Outdoor Hour Challenge #35: Tree Focus -Apple

What a perfect time of year to be completing a study of apple trees! The apple tree was the fourth most popular tree in the tree poll that I took before we started our tree study and that surprised me for some reason. We do not have an apple tree in our yard…we did in the past but the deer really got most of the apples and it was shading our garden so we took it out a number of years ago.

We are going to take a trip to a nearby apple orchard and complete our challenge there and I encourage you to seek out an opportunity to observe an apple tree up close for this study. Maybe your neighbor has a tree that you can look at or you have an orchard near your home that you could take few minutes to drive by and enjoy.

Even if you just purchase some apples and enjoy that experience you will have been successful in completing this challenge.

Just a word of caution: Let this study of apple trees unfold during your nature study time. Resist the urge to turn this into a huge unit study on apples. The most important thing to keep in mind if you are trying to stay with the spirit of the Handbook of Nature Study is to have a short period of outdoor time with a few ideas for observation in mind.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #35
Focus on Trees-Apple

(You also may be interested in Autumn 2010 #4 Apples.)

1. Read pages 661-670 in the Handbook of Nature Study to learn about the apple tree and apples. Pay special attention to page 664 where Lesson 182 outlines the study of an apple tree.

“A visit to a large, well-grown orchard in spring or autumn will aid in making this work interesting. Any apple tree near at hand may be used for the lesson.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 664

If you do not have access to an apple tree, you can use your nature study time this week to study apples using the suggestions on pages 667-670. These pages give lots of great information about apples and how to observe them in your nature study.

2. Spend 15 to 20 minutes outdoors this week with your children in your own yard or on your own street. This week you will have two suggested activities.

*If you have an apple tree of any variety in your yard or on your street, use the ideas from the lesson on page 664 to guide your observation of the apple tree.

*If you do not have an apple tree to observe or you have an additional time period for nature study, choose another variety of tree to observe. Pay special attention to the leaves and collect a few to observe indoors after your outdoor time.

3. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes talking with your child about any trees you observed. Complete any of the suggested activities from the Handbook of Nature Study if you observed an apple tree. Ask if your child has any questions that they would like to research over the next week. Make note of anything they are interested in learning more about and then look it up in the index of the Handbook of Nature Study. Read more about it if it is covered in the book or check your local library if you need additional information.

4. Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry. You could use the suggested activity and sketch an apple from your tree, making special observation of the shape of your apple. You also could cut your apple in half and sketch what it looks like inside. A nature journal entry can be as simple as a sketch, a label, and a date. See challenge 2 and challenge 3 for alternatives to drawing in your nature journal. Press any leaves you collected this week and add them to your nature journal later on.

5. If you identified a tree this week, add it to your list of trees in the front or back of your nature journal. You can also use theRunning List notebook page. Make a note indicating whether it is an evergreen or a deciduous tree.

You can purchase all of the first ten challenges in a convenient ebook along with custom notebook pages.

Coastal Marine Biology: Family Style at the Tidepools

We were able to fit in some time at the tide pools along the Oregon Coast. We have started a study of marine biology this year and it was a perfect time to investigate up close the life in these pockets of water and at the rocky shore line.

The first thing we learned was that we needed to know the high and low tides for each day. It made a big difference in what we would see. One day we timed it just right and we found ourselves all alone at a great area of tide pools.

There had been a storm during the night before and the area was covered in seaweed. The whole beach area was filled in with piles of kelp….mostly bullwhip kelp.

The boys quickly learned how to look carefully in and around the crevices of the rocks for interesting things to view.

We saw anemones.

Hermit Crabs


Sea Stars


Someone in our family got wet because he was not paying attention to the waves coming in. I thought he was going to be stranded out on the rocks but he made it in safely……a little wet though. If you look closely in the photo above, you can see him way out on the rocks.

We all learned so much from this experience and now when we read in our textbook about marine life, we have a better understanding of just what they are talking about.

The Handbook of Nature Study has a few pages of information about marine invertebrates. Page 418 talks about shells of Florida and the East Coast and page 430 has a little information on seashore creatures.

After our tidepool adventure, the boys decided to build a structure with driftwood, rocks, and seaweed. This became a tradition on this trip and they came up with very elaborate ways to build on the beach.

Great memories and a lot of learning.

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Family Outdoor Hour: California and Oregon Coast

All photos from Patrick’s Point State Park, California

Patrick’s Point State Park

Some of our Outdoor time this week was spent at the ocean. We took a few days and drove along the California and Oregon coast enjoying the views and the outdoor life that early October allows. We were sprinkled on a few times but nothing that really dampened our spirits too much. We had anticipated the weather and came equipped.

Our first beachcombing adventure gave us some things to be excited about. We saw three sea otters in the surf playing and diving as we watched. Then out past the waves, we saw another creature pop up….a sea lion. He didn’t come too close but we had a clear view of him from the shore.

We hiked around the cove a bit from where we were camping and found lots of interesting items. We saw several colors of sea stars, some brightly colored crabs, some bones, and lots of sea kelp.

The beach was covered in an area of rocks and this area is known for its agates. We joined in the hunt for our favorites and soon had a whole collection in dad’s sweatshirt pocket.

We also found this driftwood with barnacles on it which was interesting to me at the time but now that I zoom in on the photo, I realize there was a creature on the driftwood too….don’t know what it is.

On the hike back up the trail from the beach, I was able to spot two new plants to identify. One is twinberry

and the other is pearly everlasting.

We had a fantastic time on the beach and there were so many things to explore.