So we've decided to participate in the "Outdoor Hour Challenge" posted weekly at the Handbook of Nature Study blog. A friend in our 0-5ish Playgroup, Del, put us on to the blog, and the amazing book it uses as its "textbook," the Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock. It's a wonderful way for us to be a bit more schematic with our nature study, even though we're outdoors almost every day and the kids seem to need little motivation. However, the first challenge asked us to read the first 8 pages of the Comstock text, go outside and explore, and then discuss what we observed. Here's what we did:
- While gardening/weeding, the kids discovered some snails, tent caterpillars and various bugs living in and around the rotting stump of a dead tree. We watched them, picked some up, and talked about what we saw.
- The next day, I made two terraria (glass jar, moist soil, leaves, cheesecloth and rubber band) and sent the kids out to find a garden snail; I had already found a tent caterpillar that morning while filling up the bird feeder.
- After the kids collected a snail, I we put the snail and caterpillar into two different terraria and started watching our new "pets."
- We watched the tent caterpillar explore the terrarium, climbing on leaves and wall; I pulled out the Comstock and read to them about the different body parts and Sy identified his head, thorax and abdomen, counted his legs (3 pairs of “true legs,” 4 pairs of “prolegs,” 1 “propleg,” called the "anal proleg" below), observed his head w/mouth, watched him eat some of the leaf, observed his movement, and identified his coloring (black with red spots) and his hair. We looked for his spiracles (holes on the side of the body for breathing), but we couldn't find them.
- The snail soon dove down into the soil and didn't emerge for a couple of days, despite the fact that we've given him a nice chunk of sweet apple to nosh on.
- After adding a bit more water to his terrarium, he resurfaced and we were able to check out his really long eye stalks, his feeler stalks, and look at his striped shell.