Monday, December 31, 2007

Coyotes and Crows at Yosemite

(This photo is from a few years ago, taken by a friend on a trip that we took to Yosemite together.) Click on any of the images to make them larger.

We took our annual trip to Yosemite to go ice skating last week and on the trip into the valley we saw a coyote....just standing by the side of the road.

Here is some information on coyotes in Yosemite.

The Handbook of Nature Study does not have any listing for coyotes in their mammal section but it did have this to say in the general mammal introduction on page 214:
"Some of the so-called game animals have suffered wanton destruction at the hands of 'civilized man,' but in more recent years many laws and regulations have been passed to give these animals more chances to live. Even more stringent laws are needed and rigid enforcement must be exacted if wild animals in general are to be expected to increase in number."
(interesting to note is that she wrote this in 1911)

I found an interesting brochure on how to help keep coyotes wild and we will be covering it with our boys. Where we live there are wild coyotes and it is always good to be aware of how we can help keep them out of trouble. We live near the edge of town so we have frequent encounters with wildlife and it is a challenge to balance our needs with those of the animals around us.
We saw lots of crows on this trip. There is lots of information in the Handbook of Nature Study about crows. See pages 124-127.
Edit: I have since discovered that these are ravens and not crows.

Crows flying with Half Dome in the background.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Fascinating Millipedes (not a mammal)

(click to make the photos larger)

I know we are focusing on mammals this term but we had a visitor yesterday that is worth a post. We were cleaning up our snowy, wet things and found a millipede on the towel that we had under our gloves drying on a rack.

It was fascinating to watch him crawl around and his many legs were really interesting.

Here's some information from the Handbook of Nature Study, page 448 in the invertebrates section:
"Millipede, Spirobolus. These animals live in damp places and feed chiefly on decaying matter."

I have no idea how he got into the house but it was fun to learn about him. Here is a little video of him moving around.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, December 24, 2007

Handbook of Nature Study: The Basic Ideas

(a radish from our winter garden)
  • "Anna Botsford Comstock very appropriately took the view that we should know first and best the things closest to us. Only then, when we have an intimate knowledge of our neighbors, should we journey farther afield to learn about more distant things."
  • From the 1986 foreward to the book Handbook of Nature Study
  • "But it should not be thought that nature-study is not science. The promising science of ecology is merely formalized nature-study; indeed it might be said that nature-study is natural science from an ecological rather than an anatomical point of view. The truth is that nature-study is a science, and is more than a science; it is not merely a study of life, but an experience of life. One realizes as he reads these pages, that with Mrs. Comstock it even contributed to a philosophy of life."
  • From the 1939 Publisher's forward to the book Handbook of Nature Study
Nature study is real science. It encompasses so many important skills that are needed in upper level science. The skills of observation, documentation, research, and experimentation. It feeds the mind and the heart with a love of all that is around us. It enhances your life with simple pleasures and does become a way of life.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom
Check out my page on taking a winter hike

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Nature is Full of Genius"

"I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat. Nature is full of genius, full of divinity. Nothing is cheap and coarse, neither dewdrops nor snowflakes."

Thoreau's Journal-as quoted on page 814 of the Handbook of Nature Study

Handbook of Nature Study: Ice and Snow

Winter has hit most of the United States. I hear of the snowstorms, the ice, and the freezing rain and I am glad to be snug in my house. We have had lots of cold frosty weather and this week has brought in the rains but nothing like the rest of the country.

I wanted to bring to your attention the section near the back of the Handbook of Nature Study on climate and weather. Particularly interesting to some might be the section on water forms found starting on page 808.

From the Handbook of Nature Study on page 808:
"Water in its various changing forms, liquid, gas, and solid, is an example of another overlooked miracle- so common that we fail to see the miraculous in it. We cultivate the imagination of our children by tales of the prince who became invisible when he put on his cap of darkness, and who made far journeys through the air on his magic carpet. And yet no cap of darkness ever wrought more astonishing disappearances than occur when this most common of our earth's elements disappears from under our very eyes, dissolving into thin air."

Anna Comstock spends the next few pages discussing the miracle of the water cycle and the many faces of water. There are so many things described here on these pages and you could easily spend weeks going through each little paragraph.

Ice on the surface of a pond (page 811)
Seeing one's breath (page 810)
Observing a boiling teakettle (page 810)
Geometry of a snowflake (page 809)

Then starting on page 812 she has listed 13 activities to complete your study of water forms.

If you own this book, I would encourage you to get it out and read these few pages for yourself and use them in your weekly nature study. These activities could easily be done during the cold winter days where you don't feel like venturing out of doors.

Leave me a comment if you have used these pages in your nature study. I would love to hear what you are doing at your house.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Mammals in Our Backyard

We have decided to work through our list of mammals that we have observed in our backyard and make journal entries for them in our nature journals. Often times we observe an animal and do not take the time to do the research or the entry into our journals. On these cold, rainy days of winter we will take the opportunity to read about each one in the Handbook of Nature Study if possible and then record our findings. Many of the animals we observe are not specifically covered in the HNS, so we will use the internet or our field guides to get the information.

Here is the list of animals we are going to study:
(also found as links on my sidebar)

Western grey squirrel
Striped skunk
Broad-footed mole
Long-tailed vole
House mouse
Norway rat
Mule deer
Common raccoon
Little brown bat

Covering one animal per week for the next term, I think that our goal is within reach. I will share our results as we go along.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cats: Up Close and Personal with Observations #1

The Handbook of Nature Study has lots of interesting things to do to observe your cat or kitten. Many of these activities I hadn't ever thought about before so I am grateful for the guidance of Anna Botsford Comstock.

On page 265 of
"This lesson may be used in primary grades by asking a few questions at a time and allowing the children to make their observations on their own kittens at home, or a kitten may be brought to school for this purpose. The upper grade work consists of reading and retelling or writing exciting stories of the great, wild, savage cats, like the tiger, lion, leopard, lynx, and panther."

Page 265 Observation #1:
"How much of Pussy's language do you understand? What does she say when she wishes you to open the door for her? How does she ask for something to eat? What does she say when she feels like conversing with you? How does she cry when hurt? When frightened? What noise does she make when fighting? When calling other cats? What are her feelings when she purrs? When she spits? How many things which you say does she understand?"

Our answers (given by my boys) Our cats give a soft meow when they want to go outside or they just sit by the door and wait. They sit in front of their empty dish and look at you when they wish for something to eat. They will rub up against you or jump up on our lap when they want a little "conversation". They hiss when they are hurt. The give a pitiful meow when they are frightened. When fighting, they hiss and put their ears down and chase each other through the house. They purr when they are enjoying a good pet and are relaxed. They will come when they are called "kitty". They come running when they hear the cupboard door open where their food is kept. They will jump down when you say sternly "down".

I think they did a good job answering the questions.

We will continue next week with our cat activities.

Harmony Art Mom

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Introduction to Mammals: Handbook of Nature Study

The weather is changing in our part of the world and so is our focus for nature study. We are going to be using the Handbook of Nature Study to learn more in depth about mammals. We have lots of regular visitors to our backyard that will lead us on our adventure into our study.

If you look on my sidebar, I have listed a fairly complete list of mammals we have observed already. We will be looking for information in the HNS and using online sources to help us learn more about their lives and habits.

Handbook of Nature Study
page 214:
"Mammals, in contrast to fishes, amphibians, and reptiles, are warm-blooded animals, as are birds. The skin of most mammals is more or less hairy, in contrast to the scale-covered fish and the feathered birds. The young of most mammals are born alive, whereas the young of birds, fish, amphibians, and some species of reptiles hatch from eggs. After birth young mammals breathe by lungs rather than by gills as do the fish; for a time they are nourished with milk produced by the mother."

We are going to start our study of mammals with one of our favorite subjects, our two pet cats, Cocoa and Espresso. There is a whole section in the HNS on cats starting on page 260. One section that particularly interests me is the subheading on page 264, "Cats Should Be Trained to Leave Birds Alone". (Don't tell Cocoa and Espresso that we are going to read that or they just may rip those pages out of the book.) There are many, many interesting points that Anna Botsford Comstock lists out to do in order to observe your cat.

Eager to get started, we will keep you updated with photos and observations.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wrapping up our Fall Term Study of Insects

We have had several insects that we have seen and identified but not taken great photos of for the blog. One was an earwig that I found in my kitchen. I hate earwigs.

The Handbook of Nature Study does not have any information on the earwig but it is a great insect to identify the parts of an insect with. I knew what kind of insect it was so we did a quick internet search and found loads of information about it.

We also found a millipede which we quickly discovered was *not* an insect. It is an invertebrate. You can find an illustration of a millipede and a caption about it on pages 448-449 of HNS.

We also found a tarantula in our garage, dead and stiff. This made for some interesting observations. At first I was horrified by its appearance but then, after I knew it was dead, I was able to observe its parts and really see it up close. I don't care to do that too much but it was interesting this one time. :) So even though it technically isn't an insect, we did learn something about tarantulas.

Here's what the Handbook of Nature Study says on page 435-436:
"There is an impression abroad that all spiders are dangerous to handle. This is a mistake; the bite of any of our common spiders in not nearly so dangerous as the bite of a malaria-laden mosquito. Although there is a little venom injected into the wound by the bite of any spider, yet there are few species found in the United States whose bite is sufficiently venomous to be feared. With the exception of the tarantulas of the Southwest, and the hourglass or black widow, which seems now to be extending its range from the South, the spiders of the United States are really as harmless to handle as are most of our common insects."

Believe me, I will not be handling any tarantulas in the near future. :)

We are wrapping up the focus on insects and we will be moving on to mammals for now. I am sort of excited to start since I know we are going to learn so much about what has been under our very noses and we have missed it.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, November 26, 2007

Paper Wasps-A Work of Art

You need to click on the photos to enlarge the photos and really see the wasp nest.

My dad found this paper wasp nest for us to look at in the tree behind his house. It is sooooo big I can hardly believe it. It does look like something has pulled it down and you can see the actual honeycomb cells that are exposed. Here is a better shot.

The texture of the nest itself is truly amazing. I found a resource online that says that they make the nest from a papery pulp of chewed up wood fibers mixed with saliva.

Page 378 of the Handbook of Nature Study has a lot of very interesting information about wasps in general.

Another great day out.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Crickets in the House

I have been busy trying to wrap up our fall study of insects. I never imagined we would enjoy finding and viewing insects as much as we did and I am sure part of it was the information provided in the Handbook of Nature Study. Anna Comstock provides such great investigations into the individual insects and we learned so much just by taking a few minutes each time we found a new insect to stop and really look at it. I think everyone in our family has gained a new appreciation for the little creatures we pass by so often.

Speaking of that topic, I had completely forgotten that we had our own personal laboratory in our house for studying a particular insect. Our Fire-Bellied toad eats crickets every morning and we keep a ready supply on hand but I had never thought to investigate them in the HNS. Sure enough, there on page 344 there is the start of a whole section on crickets. On page 346 there are instructions for making a "cricket cage". Pages 347 and 348 have observations questions for you to use with your cricket.

Here's something interesting from page 346:
"There would be no use of the cricket's playing his mandolin if there were not an appreciative ear to listen to his music. This ear is placed most conveniently in the tibia of the front leg, so that the crickets literally hear with their elbows, as do the katydids and the meadow grasshoppers. The ear is easily seen with the naked eye as a little white, disclike spot."

Our crickets don't make any noise so I don't know what that means. They are rather small and we purchase them at the feed store, 40 crickets for $2.00. They are much smaller than the local crickets we find in our yard. They are golden in color. I am going to ask at the feed store the next time we get crickets and see if they know what variety of crickets they are. Even though our particular cricket is not listed in the HNS, we can still read through the sections on black crickets and snowy tree crickets and apply the information to our crickets. See, I am learning to not use this big book as a field guide but as a way to familiarize us with general information about something we find in our nature study. :)

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nature Walk in the Big Trees

Big Trees.......Sequoiadendron giganteum

It is really hard to get a good photo of the big trees and all your kids at the same time. It is rather dark underneath this forest canopy .

Fallen trees are great for walking on, or falling off of in my case. I was so busy trying too look at some cool fungus that I slipped totally off and fell down. Okay, everyone laughed but it wasn't too funny for me. :)

Seed cones from the sequoia tree are rather small.

Baby sequoias

A variety of fungus was all around at this time of year....too bad I didn't have a field guide. Oh well, next time.

That is just a sample of our day out today.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Honeybee: Gardens that Help

In the latest issue of Organic Gardening, the cover article is all about bees. I had heard how honeybees had a bad winter last year and there are far fewer of them around but I hadn't taken the time to find out what it was all about. Interesting stuff. The article brings out that scientists estimate that "more than 30% of the nation's 2.4 million honeybee colonies died out over the fall and winter of 2006-2007" due to Colony Collapse Disorder. 35 states reported damage due to CCD. The damage was as high as 80-90 percent of their hives for some beekeepers.

What can we do to help the situation as home gardeners? The article brings out some easy steps that can make a difference. I always start planning my spring garden during the cold winter months so this article came at the right time and had lots of practical ways that I can plan my garden to benefit the local honeybee population.

Here are some ideas from Organic Gardening:
1. Plant flowers that are blue, purple, violet, white or yellow. The article suggests leaving the dandelions and Dutch clover in your lawn. Tip: Visit your local nursery and buy whatever you can find that has bees on it. My tip: Color and lots of it.

2. Skip flowers like marigolds and hollyhocks, impatiens, and salvia. The flowers are too dense for the bees to gather much nectar.

3. Try to plant for a three season bloom. The article says, "Spring is tough for bees. Common spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils aren't attractive to bees. It's good to have fruit trees or flowering shrubs to cover their early season needs." Some choices they list for spring are calendula and wild lilac. For fall they suggest sedum, asters, and goldenrod.

4. Bees stay longer in gardens at least 3 to 4 feet in diameter.

5. Bees need a water source.

The article was very enlightening and will help me plan my garden to include plants and flowers that can help my local honeybees. This is a great way to tie your study of insects into your gardening time. I am planning on keeping track of which plants have bees on them. I know they *love* my spanish lavender and I have it planted in two long rows along the edge of my garden. Even now in the middle of November it has many bees in it every afternoon. I have observed bees in my cosmos that are left in the back of the garden. The plant doesn't look as nice as it did in the middle of summer but the bees seem to enjoy it. My neighbor's rosemary plants are always full of bees so that might be a good plant to try too.

It may not seem like each individual garden can help but according to this article about bees, we can.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"Into The Dewy Clouds"

Before your sight,
Mounts on the breeze the butterfly, and soars,
Small creature as she is, from earth’s bright flowers
Into the dewy clouds.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home!

Photo from last spring in my garden

How many times have you seen a ladybug? Do they make you smile like they do me? I have lots of memories of lady bugs from my growing up years and now in my own garden, I love to find them crawling around on my plants.

The Handbook of Nature Study has information on the ladybird (lady bug) on pages 364-366. On page 364 there are illustrations of the larva, pupa, and adult of the lady bug.

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 366:
"The ladybird is a beetle. Its young are very different from the adult in appearance, and feed upon plant lice."

"These little beetles are very common in autumn and may be brought to the schoolroom and passed around in vials for the children to observe. Their larvae may be found on almost any plant infested with plant lice. Plant and all may be brought into the school room and the actions of the larvae noted by the pupils during recess."

Page 366 also has ten observations you can perform on either the adult or the larvae of the lady bug.

From page 365:
"From our standpoint the ladybird is of great value, for during the larval as well as adult stages, all species except one feed upon those insects which we are glad to be rid of."

"The ladybird is a clever little creature, even if it does look like a pill, and if you disturb it, it will fold up its legs and drop as if dead, playing possum in a most deceptive manner."

We enjoyed learning more about this common garden friend.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, November 12, 2007

Handbook of Nature Study: More than a Field Guide

This is probably the single most useful aspect of this book. In the beginning I was hung up on the fact that this giant book didn't have many of the creatures in it that I wanted to study. I was trying to use it as a field guide and then as an just isn't meant to be either of those things.

Handbook of Nature Study does have many specific creatures to study, broken down into categories. You can look them up either in the table of contents or in the index. If you find that the specific creature you are looking for is not listed, you can turn to the introductory pages for the category.

For example:
We have lots of Western Scrub Jays in our backyard. We had a nest in our magnolia tree last spring and we were able to watch the baby learn to fly.The Scrub jay is not listed in the index of the HNS but we could use the HNS to learn more about how birds fly or about how they use their beaks. If we wanted to know more about the Western Scrub Jay, we should look it up in our field guide for particular information. The HNS will not help you identify every bird but it will help you to learn more about a lot of common birds. It also has activities for observation that you can use with any bird.

I am learning the value of the HNS as a tool to observing and learning about the creation around us. It is not the sort of book that you pick up and read from cover to cover. Its value is in the way you can use it to guide you through a study of a specific type of nature. We are working our way through the insect section this term but we are also using it to find out about other things we find on our nature walks.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Swallowtail in the Garden

Western Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus
Handbook of Nature Study pages 301-304

This is an old photo of a Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly that we from time to time have in our garden. The size of this particular butterfly makes it an easy target to watch. We planted butterfly bush in our yard many years ago and have found that it attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds to our butterfly garden. We have a two purple ones and a white one.

Page 301
“This graceful butterfly is a very good friend to the flowers, being a most efficient pollen-carrier. It haunts the gardens and sips nectar from all the blossom cups held out for its refreshment; and it is found throughout almost all parts of the United States. The grace of its appearance ismuch enhanced by the “swallowtails,” two projections from the hind margins of the hind wings.”

Page 303
“The caterpillars of the swallowtail butterflies have scent organs near the head which they thrust forth when attacked, thus giving off a disagreeable odor which is nauseating to birds.”
I just remembered that I had these photos from a trip to Yosemite this past summer of a swallowtail that made friends with my son. He even let him hold him on his finger.
Look at those legs? Amazing!

What a beautiful creature. I am always humbled by the simplicity and perfect symmetry found in our natural surroundings. Our God is a master Designer.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Thursday, November 1, 2007

More aphids-green this time

This day was a day of amazing proportions. I realized just how "big" an ant is to an aphid. Can you see the ant on the left and the two aphids on the right?

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 353:
"Aphids have the mouth in the form of a sucking-tube which is thrust into the stems and leaves of plants; through it the plant juices are drawn for nourishment. Aphids are the source of honeydew of which ants are fond."

Page 353-354 also has eight activities to observe aphids in your nature study. Anna Botsford Comstock suggests observing a plant infested with aphids with a hand lens. We were delighted for a long time watching the ants and aphids on our rose bush.

You have to love this from the HNS, page 351.
"I know of no more diverting occupation than watching a colony of aphids through a lens. These insects are the most helpless and amiable little ninnies in the whole insect world; and they look the part, probably because their eyes, so large and wide apart, seem so innocent and wondering."

Here is an ant on the front of the rose leaf.....see the tiny little aphid on the leaf on the left? Amazing.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monarch Butterflies, Milkweed, and My Garden

Monarch on showy milkweed
Monarch Butterfly on Showy Milkweed-Yosemite National Park, Summer 2006

Last summer our family observed monarch butterflies among the milkweed at Yosemite National Park. There is a big meadow filled with milkweed within view of Half Dome. My interest in Monarch butterflies has grown from that experience and since we have a butterfly garden in our backyard, I began to think about adding some milkweed to the variety of plants we grow.

The Handbook of Nature Study talks about Monarch butterflies on pages 305-310 and page 309 has the observation questions for all three phases: butterfly, caterpillar, and chrysalis. I learned a lot from reading just those few pages and now I can refer back to them when we start to observe the life cycle of the Monarchs in our backyard habitat.

“This lesson may be given in September, while yet the caterpillars of the monarch may be found feeding upon milkweed, and while there are yet many specimens of this gorgeous butterfly to be seen. The caterpillars may be brought in on the food plant, and their habits and performances studied in the schoolroom; but care should be taken not to have the atmosphere too dry.”

Page 307
“The caterpillar will feed upon no plant except milkweed; it feeds both day and night, with intervals of rest and when resting hides beneath the leaf.”

“The monarch chrysalis is, I maintain, the most beautiful gem in Nature’s jewel casket; it is an oblong jewel of jade, darker at the upper end and shading to the most exquisite whitish green below; outlining this lower paler portion are shining flecks of gold. If we look at these gold flecks with a lens, we cannot but believe that they are bits of polished gold foil.”

I don’t have milkweed or monarch butterflies in my backyard. I did find a website that will send you milkweed plants to grow in your garden and in my ongoing development of a great butterfly garden, I am going to plant some milkweed. I am going to get some monarch caterpillars so we can start hatching them this spring and start an area that they will visit us in.

Here is the website:Live Monarch

I have been to Pacific Grove, CA and seen the monarchs in the monarch sanctuary where they winter up in the trees and it is quite a sight to see. The
Handbook of Nature Study has some great suggestions for studying these insects and I will keep you posted as our Monarch butterfly project progresses.

Barb -Harmony Art Mom

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ants, Ants, Ants

So often I overlook the ants in my life....they seem to be everywhere. These ants were busy inside the rotting pear under our tree.

From page 372 of the Handbook of Nature Study:
"However aimless to us may seem the course of the ant as we see her running about, undoubtedly if we understood her well enough, we should find that there is rational ant sense in her performances. Therefore, when ever we are walking and have time, let us make careful observations as to the actions of the ants which we may see."

Page 372-373 of the Handbook has 14 different activities to use when observing ants.

I think we will be studying ants again with our ant farm in the near future. I had not realized that the HNS had so much information about ants and their nests.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Little Off-Topic: Rock Climbing

View this slideshow created at One True Media
Rock Climbing 10/29/07

Click the photo for a video and short slideshow

We spent the afternoon at an indoor rock climbing facility. The boys have climbed on climbing walls before but the free climb area where they are not harnessed in was a new experience. I never knew they were such spiders when it came to climbing. They had a blast and this will be something we will do again and again.

How does this fit in with nature study? Well, it is preparing them for a little rock climbing that we will do next summer at Yosemite National Park. They have no fear of heights, unlike their mother.

Enjoy the video,
Barb-Harmony Fine Arts

Mosquito Eater, Or Is It?

Okay so we usually call these guys "mosquito eaters". It is actually a crane fly or scientific name: Tipula paludosa.

They look like giant mosquitoes and this one found its way into my son's workshop. He sat very still while I took a few photos and then with the magic of cropping, it really shows what he looks like.

This is from Wikipedia:
Numerous other common names have been applied to the crane fly, many of them more or less regional, including, mosquito hawks, mosquito eaters (or skeeter eaters), gallinippers, gollywhoppers, and jimmy spinners."

I was visiting my dad last week and we had a conversation that went something like this:
"Dad, you know those bugs we call mosquito eaters?"
"Well, I just learned that they are actually called crane flies."
"You know those big flying bugs we see in the house, they are really big flies and they don't eat mosquitoes at all."
"Mosquito eaters, they are mosquito eaters."

Oh well, he can call them mosquito eaters. :)

More information from UC Davis' website:
"Adult crane flies emerge from the soil beneath turfgrass, pastures and other grassy areas in late summer and fall. The adults have very long legs and resemble large mosquitoes. Females mate and lay eggs in grass within 24 hours of emerging. Eggs hatch into small, brown, wormlike larvae that have very tough skin and are commonly referred to as "leatherjackets". The leatherjackets feed on the roots and crowns of clover and grass plants during the fall. They spend the winter as larvae in the soil; when the weather warms in spring, they resume feeding. During the day larvae mostly stay underground, but on damp, warm nights they come to the surface to feed on the aboveground parts of many plants. When mature, the larvae are about 1 to 1-1/2 inch long. Around mid-May they enter a nonfeeding pupal stage and remain just below the soil surface. In late summer, pupae wriggle to the surface and the adults emerge. There is one generation a year."

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Katydid or Grasshopper?

This little critter has been hard for us to identify. We found him and put him in our magnifying jar so we could take a really good look at him. I have never paid much attention to the differences between katydids and grasshoppers but now after identifying this guy, I know so much more about it.

This is what is called a Chapparal Katydid.

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 343:
"I love to hear thine earnest voice
Wherever thou are hid,
Thou testy little dogmatist,
Thou pretty katydid,
Thou mindest me of gentle folks,
Old gentle folks are they,
Thou say'st an undisputed thing
In such a solemn way." -Holmes

From page 344:
"The katydids resemble the long-horned grasshoppers and the crickets. They live in trees, and the male sings "katy did" by means of a musical instrument similar to that of the cricket."

There is lots more information about katydids in the Handbook of Nature Study on pages 343-344.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Here is a little graphic my son made on the computer showing complete metamorphosis. Katydids go through incomplete metamorphosis. (see page 298 of the Handbook of Nature Study)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nature Study for Children: Part 1

When to Give the Lesson From page 6:
“It might be better to give it a regular period late in the day, for there is strength and sureness in regularity. The teacher is much more likely to prepare herself for the lesson, if she knows that it is required at a certain time."

The Length of the Lesson
From page 6-7
"The nature study lesson should be short and sharp and may vary from ten minutes to a half hour in length."

Nature Study as a Help in School Discipline
From page 4
"Much of the naughtiness in school is a result of the child's lack of interest in his work, augmented by the physical inaction that results from an attempt to sit quietly. .....Nature study is an aid in both respects, since it keeps the child interested and also gives him something to do."

More next time,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, October 22, 2007

Little Red Spider

I just love these photos of a little red spider in the middle of a dahlia blossom. It reminds me of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.

Although the Handbook did not help me identify the spider, I was able to skim down the table of contents to find the section on spiders in the book.

Here is from page 435:
"The spiders are the civil engineers among the small inhabitants of our fields and woods. They build strong suspension bridges, from which they hang nets made with exquisite precision; and they build airplanes and balloons, which are more efficient than any that we have yet constructed; for although they are not exactly dirigible, yet they carry the little balloonists where they wish to go, and there are few fatal accidents. Moreover, the spiders are of much economic importance, since they destroy countless millions of insects every year, most of which are noxious-like flies, mosquitoes, bugs, and grasshoppers."

I looked online and found out that it may be a spider called a "Flower Spider" or Misumenops but I have to do a little more research.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Friday, October 19, 2007

How to Use the Handbook of Nature Study

Here is what made me not use this book before:
1. Size-over 800 pages doesn't transport well in my backpack

2. Black and white photos

3. I was trying to use it as a field guide.
4. I wanted to just start at the front and work my way to the back like a "regular" book.

5. I thought it would take too much time to use this book in our nature study because of the size and the sheer volume of information.

Here are some thoughts that I have now that I took the plunge and started using this wonderful book:
1. Read the pages at the beginning of the book that talk generally about nature study.

2. Pick a topic to focus on and read the introductory pages for that section only. We are focusing on insects this term but you can pick anything that seems appropriate for your family. You could change your focus each season if you wanted to.
3. Take the time after your nature walk to look up things that you saw on that nature walk. I turn to the table of contents and just scan down the list and see if I can find what I want to research. For instance you might have seen a honeybee and it is very easy to skim down and find honeybee and turn right to those few pages.
4. Read the small section (usually 1 or 2 pages) that pertain to that object or creature.
5. Write in the book......gasp. Yes, write in the book as you go along to highlight the little bits of information that you want to share with your children.

6. If you don't have time after your nature walk to look something up and share it right then, research it in the Handbook before your next nature study session and then share it the next time.

7. Realize that nature study is a lifelong project, or at least I think it should be. You don't need to cover every aspect of everything you find.

Anna Botsford Comstock suggests that nature study be only 10 minutes to half an hour in length. (page 6) I am finding this is a wonderful way to spend a few minutes outside with my boys each day....yes we are committing to 10-60 minutes outside per day. We all feel so much more refreshed and it has actually helped us be more focused when we are doing our indoor work.

Sending lots of encouragement,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Daddy Longlegs Exoskeleton

Okay, so you *have* to click on the photo to make it larger but you can really see the exoskeleton of the daddy longlegs. I went hunting for one today and I found this one in the eaves of my house....I was trying to take a photo and it blew down onto the potted plant and I thought it made a pretty background.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Fall Color: Tahoe National Forest

Here are some photos from our nature walk last weekend that I haven't shared with you. The color of the aspens against the blue sky and greens of the evergreen forest make for a beautiful eyeful of complimentary color.

Would you ever get tired of seeing this view out your window? I would love to build a little cabin in the woods to retreat to when my life gets too stressful.

The Handbook of Nature Study has some wonderful ideas for tree study. From page 622:
"During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, 'This is a white oak leaf," the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades."

autumn leaves

Page 623-626 has activities to complete during each of the four seasons with your tree. I am anxious to apply these to the study of our tree that we are watching for a year. If you want to read about that study you can read these two blog entries on my main blog:
Tree study #1
Tree study #2

I am finding so much to learn about nature in my own area of the world.
Barb-Harmony Art Mom