Tuesday, July 19, 2011

June Nature Study: Birds

We've finally made it back on the focused-nature-study bandwagon! Last month, we decided to head back over to one of our favorite homeschooling resources, the Handbook of Nature Study blog to check out the June Outdoor Hour Challenge. We decided to focus on our own backyard and, while we can boast of many bird visitors, we have one bird in abundance: chickens!

We started off by observing our girls while they scratched around in the run. We took our colored pencils and sketchbooks with us and focused on their heads, tails and feet:

In this one above, Syler was really intent on capturing all the intricate details of the comb, the waddle, the ears, and especially the four toes.

Violet sounded out the work "chicken" all on her own. I believe the second word is "beak."

 The next day, we collected feathers from the run and labeled them. Sy was able to make out the quill, the fluff and the barb of a tail feather (above).

Violet found a wing feather and was able to distinguish between the quill and the fluff.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everglades National Park

What an exciting spring break trip we've had. In addition to collecting shells and building sand castles at Fort Myers Beach, we took an amazing trip into the Everglades National Park. There, we took a ranger-led boat tour of the Ten-Thousand Islands, which was absolutely breathtaking. I, unfortunately, forgot my camera - big fail, since the kids were looking so adorable in their sunglasses and sunhats, writing furiously in their Junior Ranger Workbooks (so as to do enough prep work to be sworn in as Junior Rangers - more on that later!) We saw nesting terns, ospreys, gulls, pelicans, herons/egrets, ibis and, Syler's favorite by far, the infamous turkey vultures! We were even treated by three dolphins who decided to swim in front of, alongside and behind the boat - the kids were in absolute awe. Here's some great info on all the bird species that you can see in the Everglades.

After the tour, we drove about a mile away to the Big Cypress National Preserve where we were in for a real treat: big black alligators gliding (and hiding, rather well-camoflaged) in the swamp waters! We got out for a closer look but were warned by a ranger at one of our stops that we needed to carry the kids, since some of the alligators had been recently (illegally) fed: hence their tendency to glide toward us rather than away from us. Scary, but totally cool.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hey Ducka Ducka!

While my kids may be avid readers, they are obsessive artists, and they don't need any coaxing to whip out the paper and pencils. Observational drawing, interpretive drawing, representational drawing - you name it, they're doing it. Here are some of their recent works:

1. Rhyming and drawing: Violet is a huge fan of Jim Aylesworth, and we currently have his The Cat and the Fiddle and More checked out of the library. One afternoon while Sy and I were out and about, she wrote her own rhyme:

Hey Ducka Ducka
The rabbit drove a trucka,
The dog learned to jump real high,
The little pig laughed to see such sport
And the spider ran away with the fly.

Then she illustrated her rhyme:

2. Drawing what you hear: we always have music one for the kids (though you won't catch The Wiggles anywhere near our stereo) and one day Jason suggested to Sy that he draw everything he heard while listening to an album by Emeralds. After about 20 minutes, Sy showed him this:

Not only did he draw the drummer, keyboardist, violinist, guitarist and "the guy making that beeping sound," but he drew them from different positions (both side and front) - this was a first, and I was totally amazed!

3. Observational drawing: this is by far the hardest! How do you paint the "whippy parts of the wind" or the gases surrounding the planets? Here is Sy's pencil drawing of the Ring Nebula, which he drew while looking at a photo from one of his space books:

4. Creative/improvisational drawing: these are my favorites. While some of them are representational, they aren't your run of the mill representations. Sy's clown is probably the easiest to "read" for the viewer:

In case you didn't notice, his hands are behind his back.

Sy's most recent "mass product" is the laptop, complete with "an ocean of letters":

But then there is Violet's lion:

Sy's crying monster:

Violet's picture of "Mommy and Invisible Sy" (that's him on the right):

And finally, Violet's "faces":

I am pretty convinced at this point that she will either be a visual or a circus artist - this stuff really blows me away.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cookies and Math

Syler is multiplying and "squaring" (is this a verb?) It all started with addition a few months ago: 2 cookies and 2 more cookies are 4 cookies. Now he's multiplying by twos, threes, fours and fives: "Eight twos are 16, and two eights are 16!" he exclaims at lunch one day. I ask, "How much is six fours?" He counts fours with his hands (1, 2, 3,) "4," (5, 6, 7,) "8" . . . "24!" he says triumphantly. "And four sixes?" I ask with a raised eyebrow and cheshire grin. He tilts his head, raises both brows, reflecting my grin: "24! That's a fun trick!"

He has a plate of cookies in front of him (yes, he has already finished his vegetables!). I put them into a square. "Two cookies 'squared' is four. Three cookies 'squared' is nine. How many is four cookies 'squared'?" We pull out lots of cookies and make a nice 4x4 square. "16!" Two eights, eight twos, and four fours. Cool. Why bother with the times tables when you have a table full of cookies at your disposal? Math - yum!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Salamander Walk

Our friend, Brad, took a group of us to Devil's Bathtub at Mendon Pond for a salamander walk a couple of weeks ago. Now is the time when salamanders emerge from a pond or other small body of water and crawl underneath a rock or log to begin their terrestrial life ("because it's moist under there and they won't drown from too much water, but they also won't dry up, because they need to be moist or damp on their skin," Sy explained to me afterwards).

"Salamander" is actually the common name for over 500 species of amphibians. What we discovered the most of were efts, or immature/juvenile newts. A newt is an aquatic salamander (most salamanders are terrestrial.)

These efts will all become red-spotted newts upon maturity. The kids must have spent about 30 minutes splashing through a small pond just off of the trail, each time coming back with another eft. Some of them were quite protective of those they had found, insisting that they be put right back and not passed around too much, for fear they might not survive long away from the water.