Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Outdoor Hour Challenge #1 - Woodpeckers, Squirrels, and Voles...Oh My!

This week we continued using the Handbook of Nature Study (HNS) as part of our homeschool science curriculum. 

I've been using Sonlight's science curriculum which the girls enjoy.  However, what I miss about Sonlight's science curriculum (which I've used now for two years) is exactly what the HNS website offers:  a connection with and exploration of the outdoors.  There are other families using the HNS and each one can post a link to their blog to show (and give ideas to) other families.  Such an inspiring idea!

So, we began with Outdoor Hour Challenge #5 last week (Pine Trees) - but are backing up a bit to start with Outdoor Hour Challenge #1 so we don't miss anything. 

On the HNS website, it suggests for Outdoor Hour Challenge #1 to:

1. Read pages 1-8 of the HNS. Highlight or underline anything that you (as the nature study teacher) find will help you in your guiding your children. If you read a sentence that you agree with, mark it so you will remember to come back to it when you need some encouragement.

I've noted in italics some of the things I underlined in the book.

Nature-study cultivates the child's imagination.

Building an "ice castle" from icicles found
during nature-study time.

Nature-study cultivates a love of the beautiful.

The girls began pulling the limbs of some of the tallest (and oldest) pine trees
that were buried under the snow and were pulling the limbs down.
They didn't want the limbs to break (as they had on some other trees).

What is the chief sign of growing old?  .... It is not years which make people old; it is ruts, and a limitation of interests.  When we no longer care about anything except our own interests, we are then old.

The girls are looking for the vole we saw yesterday under the bird feeder.
This morning, the girls and I looked at the
many holes and tunnels that the vole(s) had created. 
Around 5 p.m., the vole was on top of the snow eating seeds.
They rushed to the window and watched it with binoculars
(or opera glasses...which is what Olivia is holding).
They were so excited...it was like watching "Whack a Vole"
as the vole darted through tunnels and open passageways; and
popped up holes.

It is rejuvenation for the teacher...to stand ignorant as a child in the presence of one of the simplest of nature's miracles - the formation of a crystal, the evolution of the butterfly from the caterpillar, the exquisite adjustment of the silken lines in the spider's orb web.

Frost on the window.

2.a "In nature-study the work begins with any plant or creature which chances to interest the pupil." So here is your challenge this week. Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors with your children, even if it is really cold and yucky. Bundle up if you need to. Take a walk around your yard or down your own street. Enjoy being outdoors.

Today was zero degrees Fahrenheit.  With the wind, I'm sure it felt like it was at least ten degrees below zero. This was a stark contrast to our first Outdoor Hour Challenge last week.  It was warm (in the 30s), sunny, and there was little wind.  We spent close to an hour outside.  Today, we spent about 30 minutes.  It was just too cold to be outside longer than that. 

Bundled up at our first stop:  a dead tree with
multiple holes made by woodpeckers. 

2.b After you come inside, sit the children down and ask them one at a time to tell you something that they saw on their walk. Ask them what was interesting to them. Maybe they picked up a leaf or a stick and brought it back indoors and now they can really take a look at it. Make a big deal about whatever it is that they talk about.

The most interesting part of the nature walk was seeing the tree with the holes.  The girls measured the hole:  it was 2 4/5" deep (about 7 cm). 

Sophia measuring the hole made by a woodpecker.

This is what the inside of the hole looked like.

After spending some time looking at the holes in the tree, we walked up to the oak tree at the front of the farm right next to the driveway since there are some rather large holes in that tree as well (made and/or used by a different animal or bird). 

At the base of the tree, there was a "skirt" of pinecone "bits" (as Olivia called them).  Amongst the bits were pinecone cores (kind of like apple cores).  Apparently they eat the majority of the pinecones, but don't like the center.  At first the girls didn't know what all the brown pieces of wood were, but upon closer examination they figured it out.  Both added some of the "bits" in their nature journal.  Sophia also traced an outline of one of the pinecone cores to show its size.

Bits of pinecones and pinecone cores at the base of the oak tree.

The girls then visited the oldest pine tree on the property and climbed and played it in for a little while.  They checked on the hanging corn feeder (not touched yet).  We made our way to the corn feeder to fill it up since the squirrels and rabbits enjoy eating the corn kernels. 

Speaking of rabbits...there were two tufts of rabbit fur that were close to the feeder.  No other evidence of a fight (or death), so I'm not quite sure why a couple sections of fur were on the snow.  Nonetheless, the girls enjoyed adding a bit of rabbit fur to their journals.

Rabbit fur.

The last interesting thing we explored were the tunnels made by the vole (or a family of voles...who knows).  The tunnels are under the bird feeder and there are multiple openings - some connected with an open passageway; others connected with in-snow/above-ground passageway.  We noticed that one of the holes seemed to have a stash of seeds while another hole seemed to be reserved for waste (body/animal waste). 

Vole peeking out hole.  The seed stash is to the far right.

Inside the seed stash hole.

At the end of the nature study, the girls asked me to help them take down icicles from the roofline so they could make an ice castle.  At 10:00 a.m. the ice castle was in the shade.  By noon, it was in full sun.  They plan on moving the ice castle so it stays in the shade and, hopefully, will last longer.

The start of the ice castle.

To help them recall at a later date their experiences outside, I had them write in their nature journals (or copy the words/sentences they spoke - I wrote them on a piece of paper while they talked).  They wrote down a few observations, did a pinecone core tracing, and included a baggie with some of the pinecones and rabbit fur.

3. After your discussion, come up with two things to investigate further. For instance, if they saw a bird on their walk and they came inside and talked about it, ask them if they want to know more about that bird. You have a whole week to spend some time looking it up. Maybe they found an acorn or a berry on a bush that they were interested in. That could be your focus for the week.

We had actually talked about some of things we wanted to explore a bit more after the last nature study.  The girls want to learn more about woodpeckers and animal tracks.  I ordered several books from the library, and three already arrived by Monday. 

One of the books from the library -
Woodpeckers of North America by Frances Backhouse.
Also have Woodpeckers by Mary Ann McDonald; and
Animal Tracks by Olaus Murie

We read some interesting facts about woodpeckers this morning (including the facts that woodpeckers have tongues that have a hook on the end that helps them capture insects; and that their tongues are sicky).

It will probably come up tomorrow morning, but voles might be something they want to learn more about during the upcoming week.  Already Olivia wanted to know if voles have different parts of their tunnels for different functions (e.g., bathroom, food storage area).

4. After your nature study time with the children, pull out your Handbook of Nature Study and see if the item the children are interested in is listed in the index. If it is, look up the information for yourself and then relate interesting facts to the children sometime during the next week.

Voles were not mentioned in the HNS.  However, woodpeckers werementioned in the book, and there was a picture on page 39 of holes made by a pileated woodpecker.  It's interesting, because the holes look almost rectangular in the book while the ones here are more circular or oval in shape.

Frost on the window.


Emily-Claire Ballou said...

Gosh, what a beautiful post! It seems like the girls are getting an excellent education! Some of my most enjoyable experiences as a child were spent exploring outside and interacting with nature.

Excellent blog! :)

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Loving your nature outings...so child driven and interesting. I love the first five challenges because they really do open you up to finding so much in your own yard.

This post is a perfect model for families starting out and I would love to feature it on the next blog carnival too so please make sure to submit it.

We have voles here too and our cats love to stalk them and sit at the hole openings and wait.

Thank you so much for sharing your entry with the OHC.

CIEL said...

Great photos. Love the frost on the window. It must be a blessing to live in such a place. Anyway, I thought I would share something with you, I've been following your blog, and I've chosen you for an award. To check out the award, go to:http://sincerelyciel.blogspot.com/2011/02/ive-been-given-award.html

-Trashy Betty- said...

Beautiful images!!!
*trashybetty from swapbot!!

TamTam said...

Beautiful Pictures

tamtamlee @ swap-bot

Shawna said...

Your pictures are exquisite! I especially love the one of the frost on the window!!!

Stephanie said...

I love, love, love icicles standing in snow. :) A lovely day!

Mimi said...

Oh my!!! Thats so beautiful!!! I love the winter! I love summer too, but winter is so pretty! All the glitter and white! It's so pure!!! Ichigoshortcake on sb x

Anonymous said...

your winter photographs are gorgeous. those icicles are insane!

arianne said...

That ice castle is so beautiful. We have to try this.

Kelly said...

What an incredible post. Really enjoyed it. THank you for sharing!