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Outdoor Hour Challenge #33 Tree Focus: Oaks

“Nature study is, despite all discussions and perversions, a study of nature; it consists of simple, truthful observations that may, like beads on a string, finally be threaded upon the understanding and thus held together as a logical and harmonious whole.
Handbook of Nature Study, page 1

Outdoor Hour Challenge #33  
Trees-Oaks

1. This week read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 639-642 to learn more about oak trees. Even if you don’t think you have any oaks in your area, it is still interesting to read the information for future reference. Make sure to note the ideas suggested for studying oaks in the lesson at the end of the section-Lesson 176.

2. Spend 15 to 20 minutes outdoors this week with your children in your own yard or on your own street. The weather should be getting cooler for most of us and it is a very enjoyable time to be outdoors. Take advantage of this time before the cold and wet weather sets in. This week you will have two suggested activities. In addition, how about taking a photo of your child with a tree in your yard? This is a great way to document growth of both the tree and your child over time.

*If you have an oak tree of any variety in your yard or on your street, use the ideas from the lesson on page 641 and 642 to guide your observation of the oak tree. Take along your magnifying lens if you want to get a closer look at the bark or leaves of your tree as you spend time outdoors. Don’t forget to look for acorns. If you have an oak tree to observe, it would be fun to share a photo of your acorn. There are many types of acorn shapes and sizes and it would be great to see what your particular acorn looks like.

*If you do not have a oak tree to observe or you have an additional time period for nature study, choose another variety of tree to observe. Study the leaves on your tree and then describe the shape of the leaf, the edges, the color on top and below, count its ribs and veins, and then describe how it feels and how it smells. Encourage your children to observe quietly for a few minutes of each outdoor time period.

3. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes discussing any trees you saw. Talk about anything that interested your child. Ask them to give you a brief description of something they saw while on their nature walk. Refer back to challenge number two for more ideas on how to encourage oral narration of your nature time. This would also be a good time to look up any oak trees you observed in your field guide and see if you can learn more about your particular oak tree. If your child found something else of interest, look it up in the index of the Handbook of Nature Study. Read over the pages before your next nature study time so you will be ready to share the information with your child.

4. Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry. There is a suggestion in the Handbook of Nature Study to draw your oak in the fall and then again in the winter. Also, the Handbook suggests finding three leaves from your oak that differ in form, and then sketch them in your notebook. If you would like to complete a notebook page, see the link below to choose one for your child’s journal. A nature journal entry can be as simple as a sketch, a label, and a date. See challenges two and three for alternatives to drawing in your nature journal.

5. If you identified a tree this week, add it to your list of trees in the front or back of your nature journal.

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

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #30 Weeds and Seeds

I don’t know about you but my garden has lots of weeds right now. It is going to take some serious effort to clean it up since I guess I have neglected it lately. This brought to mind a great idea for a challenge this week. Hopefully you have some weed in your yard….or am I the only one?


I had already decided to introduce the idea of seed saving and then with all the weeds, I came up with a sort of combination challenge.

1. Weed study using the Handbook of Nature Study
2. Observing and collecting seeds.

As the flowers start to fade and dry, I try to gather a few of the heads to collect the seeds from. There are some flowers that are easier to get the seeds from and some that seem to not make it through the winter. I have saved a few seeds in the past by collecting the seeds and then pouring them all into a paper bag to sow in the spring. We will consider this a challenge-wide experiment to see what we can collect, save, and then what eventually grows.

Marigolds are an easy first flower to save the seeds from and I collect lots of the seeds and put them into an envelope for sprouting next spring. This pile is about six marigold blooms. They actually need to be a bit drier before I collect them but you get the idea how many seeds there are potentially in a small number of flower heads from the size of this pile.

Holly hocks work well too but you have to remember they don’t bloom their first year so they are a long term plant in your garden.

I have never tried Morning glories but I am going to give it a shot this year and see how it goes.

If you want more information on saving seeds, there is a link below in the challenge that you can read.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #30
Weeds and Seeds  

1. This week we are going to have a two part assignment.
Part 1: Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 512-513 on beginning a weed study. This is a terrific section to read aloud before your outdoor time this week. [Note: If it offends your family to say that “nature is the great farmer”, please feel free to insert God’s name in place of the word nature.] Skim down the table of contents in the weed section and see if you recognize any weeds from your area and read at least the introduction material to yourself before your outdoor time.

“A weed is a plant growing where we wish something else to grow, and a plant may, therefore, be a weed in some locations and not in others.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 512

Part 2: Spend your 15-20 minutes of outdoor time with your children in your own yard or on your own street. Pay attention for two opportunities this week. First, look for some weeds growing in your own garden, yard, or along your street. Remind your children of the definition of a weed and see if they can apply it to your local plants. Secondly, see if you can find any seeds to collect and to observe and possibly save to grow next year.

Here is a website for more information on collecting and saving seeds from your garden.
Saving Seeds

Possible seeds to look for that are easy to find and grow:

  • Sunflowers
  • Dandelions
  • Marigolds
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnias

Optional Activity:
If you want to really find some seeds and you have access to a little open ground like a pasture, meadow, or field, try this activity.

Sock Seeds
They say this activity works best in late summer or early fall.

2. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes discussing anything you found of interest. Topics might include the weeds you observed, the beginnings of the change in the plants and trees in your neighborhood for the autumn season, or the change in weather if you have any. If you are completing the Sock Seed project, spend some time examining your socks before you plant them in the soil. Use a magnifying lens to get a closer look.

4. Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you are completing the Sock Seed project, draw some of the seeds you observed with the magnifying glass. Remember that simple journal entries are best: sketch, label, date. You can also choose to use one of the notebooking pages designed for the Outdoor Hour Challenges.
https://handbookofnaturestudy.com/2009/07/new-outdoor-hour-challenge-ebook-garden_27.html

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

Year Long Tree Study-Our Oak

Children should also become familiar with trees at an early age. They should pick about six in the winter when the leaves are gone, perhaps an elm, a maple, a beech, etc, and watch them during the year.”
Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1, page 52

Way back last August of 2007 we started our first tree study out in the woods. We took a piece of yarn and staked out a big square around the tree and did observations within that square and then also about the tree. The oak is really big and has lots of interesting things about it.

Here are a couple of the older entries to compare with this entry.
August Tree Study
Our Tree In The Woods: October

Here is our yarned off square. You can barely see the purple yarn unless you click and enlarge the photo.

Not much there except a few new little baby oak trees.

And near-by there was this poison oak turning red…..watch out for that stuff.

Then we noticed that as we walked we were being stuck by this plant….star thistle. I would consider this a WEED! Our backyard had this plant growing all over the backside when we moved in twenty years ago and my husband has very lovingly removed it all one plant at a time. We found you have to pull it up roots and all in order to get rid of it. It is an invasive weed in our area.

After we got back to the car, we realized our shoelaces and socks were covered with stickers of all kinds. They stick like velcro.

Well that wraps up our year-long tree study for now. We will probably keep our yarn up and continue through another year to see if we see any more changes.

https://handbookofnaturestudy.com/2010/06/outdoor-hour-challenge-summer-nature.html