Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberries - Outdoor Hour Challenge - Crop Plant #5

This week we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge Crop Plants #5 - Strawberries that is at the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
- Bold - are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
- Italics - are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
- Regular - are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work

1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 608-611.

Here are the parts that I found interesting that I shared with Sophia and Olivia:

- The strawberry's five petals are little cups of white held up protectingly around anthers and pistils.

The five cup-like petals of a strawberry plant.
This one is growing in our garden.
You can see the many pistils that are each lifting up a stigma.

- At the every center of the flower is a little, greenish-yellow cone, which, if we examine with a lens, we can see is made up of many pistils set together, each lifting up a little circular stigma.

- The strawberry leaf is beautiful; each of its three leaftlets is oval, deeply toothed, and has strong reular veins extending from the midrib to the tip of each tooth.  In color it is rich, dark green and turns to wine color in autumn.

Strawberry leaf with its three leaflets.

- As the strawberry ripens, the petals and stamens wither and fall away.

Strawberries in various stages of ripeness.
By this stage, the petals and stamens
have withered and fallen away.

- The strawberry is not a berry, that definition being limited to fruits having a juicy pulp and containing many seeds, like the currant or grape.

- The strawberry is a fleshy fruit bearing its akenes, the hard parts which we have always called seeds, in shallow pits on its surface.

Holding some strawberries that were just picked.
The akenes (what we call seeds) are easily seen
in shallow pits on the surface of the strawberries.

- The root of the strawberry is fibrous and threadlike.

- The runners begin to grow after the fruiting season has closed.  Each runner may start one or more new strawberry plants.

Sophia holding a runner from a strawberry plant.

- After the young plant has considerable root growth, the runner ceases to carry sap from the main stem and withers to a mere dry fiber.  The parent plant continues to live and bear fruit...but the later crops are of less value.

2. The lesson suggests that each child have a strawberry plant with roots and runners attached to observe in person. This may not be possible but perhaps you can find a plant that you can observe with its leaves and a green or ripe strawberry.

The girls each went to the garden to take a look at the strawberries as well as went to the berry patch to pick strawberries.  They found some runners in the garden.

Olivia found a runner on one of the strawberry plants.

Outdoor Time

3. For this challenge, spend 10-15 minutes outdoors. This would be a great time to check up on any crop plants that you have been growing in the garden. If you don’t have any crop plants growing, spend your time observing in your own backyard looking for a subject that interests your children. Perhaps you could bring along your magnifying glass and inspect leaves or flowers or insects. Enjoy this time together.

We split the outdoor time into two different parts - one was at the strawberry patch where we picked two flats of strawberries with my sister, Mary (the girls' aunt); and the other was taking a look at the vegetable and herb garden and seeing how everything is doing.

The girls with their aunt picking strawberries
at the berry patch.

We enjoyed picking strawberries and came home with two flats of berries. 

Sophia with some of the berries she picked.

The girls were so excited when they found large ones or unusually-shaped ones.  Sophia found a heart-shaped strawberry which was neat to see. We have found heart-shaped rocks before...but never a heart-shaped strawberry.

After picking the strawberries, we came back home and showed Mary the vegetable and herb garden.  Things that can be harvested include: a few small strawberries, lettuce, rhubarb, and herbs.

A cucumber starting to grow
with the blossom still attached.

Things that are growing, but not yet ready to harvest are: a variety of  small tomatoes, a zucchini, some tiny cucumbers, onions, beets, raspberries (black and red), onions, leeks, and peas.

The tomatoes are starting to grow.

Things that haven't yet shown any blossoms or small vegetables include: beets, carrots, peppers, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Follow-Up Activity

4. Allow time for discussion and a nature journal entry after your outdoor time. Follow up any interest in any subjects you observed during your outdoor time either in the Handbook of Nature Study or in a field guide.

We talked about picking strawberries and how there seemed to be fewer berries than in past years.  The strawberry season is very late this year due to unseasonably cold temperatures and lots of rain.  When we started picking strawberries, there were very few.  However, as we spent more time and went further down the row, we found larger berries. 

The girls have been finding lots of tiny toads in the garden area this year.  When the 4-H club visited on Monday night, a few people were talking about them and saying that due to the amount of rain we received this year so far, there have been more frogs and toads than in past years. 

Tiny toad that Olivia found in the garden.
The girls collected more than 80 of these the other day.
After observing them, they released them back into the garden.

5. Have some fresh strawberries on hand for observation and then eating.

We will be taking a closer look at the strawberries and observing them tomorrow.  We have several recipes that we will be trying over the next few days. 
Here are some ideas for careful observation:
  1. Notice the strawberry's color, shape, size, seeds, hull, and stem.
  2. Smell the strawberry.
  3. Take the stem in your right hand and the berry in your left hand and pull. What happens?
  4. Look at the seeds on the outside of the berry. What are their size and shape? (use a magnifying glass)
  5. Cut the berry vertically and notice the colored layers. (some red, pink, white, or green)
  6. Are there seeds on the inside of the berry?
  7. Cut a cross section and describe the inside of the berry.
  8. Eat the strawberry and describe its taste.
6. Your journal entry could include:
  • Drawing of the whole berry, showing the shape, stem, and the pattern of seeds.
  • Drawing of a vertical section, showing the shape, stem, and the seeds on the outside. (cut the berry in half lengthwise)
  • Drawing of the horizontal section, showing the seeds, and the colored ring. (cut the berry in half crosswise)
  • Drawing of a strawberry leaf if possible showing the distinct shape.


OurWanderingAdventures said...

What beautiful photos!!!

Barb said...

I know this entry is about strawberries but I am amazed about the 80 frogs! Wow! That is amazing and crazy!

I also enjoyed reading your info about strawberries and seeing your beautiful photos.

Thanks as always for your very well written posts. :)

Zonnah said...

I want some of your toads!

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

What a beautiful and YUMMY science lesson!
My girls would be over the moon if they found a little toad like that!

Thanks for sharing on the Smart Summer Challenge!

pink and green mama

The Adventurer said...

those strawberries look fab:) Ours didn't do very well this year:( I think I need to replace the plants as they are over 3 years old. I am now following you thanks for following me:)

Suzanne said...

Your strawberries look beautiful and that toad is amazing!! Like you, I think strawberry plants are so pretty -- love their bright green foliage. (visiting from An Oregon Cottage)

Shirley @ The Gardening LIfe said...

My mother once had an enormous strawberry patch which we loved to raid! I've grown them in the past but now like to go to a local U-pick as I don't have the room for a truly productive crop.

debbie said...

fun nature study!

Beloved's Redheaded Bride said...

I enjoyed reading your field trip experience and all the other beautiful nature pictures.

THere is a lot of learning going on and lots of wonderful memories being made.

Nature Notes said...

Oh goodness, that tiny toad is so cute!!! Sounds like a wonderful nature study!


Jami @ An Oregon Cottage said...

Ah, I sure know that the strawberries aren't so good in the years after runners are sent out- it's the hardest part about growing strawberries: keeping the bed producing! I usually try to cut them off the first few years and let them root in the third year to "refresh" the bed. Thanks for sharing!