Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Closer and Closer Macro Photography

A Private Eye Nature has a way of inspiring all sorts of creative endeavors.  Besides writing and drawing, it can also lead to very close up (macro) photography.  Here is a slide show from the Close and Closer Macro Photography group on Fickr.

CM Blog Carnival is up!

The latest edition is up at The One Thing.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pictures from a Pond Walk

We recently met up with some friends to walk down to the pond near their home to see the sights.  While we didn't bring our loupes with us this time, we did encourage the kids to make analogies (and to try to stay dry at the waters edge.)

The fish beds were a striking observation.  With the dark muck pushed aside, the beds gleamed below the surface.  We did see one fish lurking at the edge of a bed, though it quickly swam away as our gang all huddled around to try to see.  A half dozen beds were easily visible from the shore.

Water lilies spread their broad leaves and shot up their yellow blooms but they had yet to open their pedals.  A bee is crawling on this one frantically seeking nectar; neither will she enjoy the bloom today.

Dragonflies dominated the air above the pond, darting after smaller insects and resting on the lily pads.  The kids tried to catch them, but these are not as tame as the ones in our yard who seem to wait for my children to gently hold them by their tails.  And we mothers again warned them about falling into the pond.

Across the pond we could see the handiwork of beavers, though not the beavers themselves.  We found old gnawed remnants on our side, too, from years gone by.

What will the pond look like in summer?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

From Observe to Compare

Compare is the second step of A Private Eye Nature for good reason (see The Basic Steps.) So much of what is learned and then what is created comes from this step.

The comparisons are really two-fold.  First, specimens are compared to others we've looked at, or to other parts of the same larger specimen.  During our Signs of Spring project, Ds#3 looked at a rhododendron bud and an acorn on two separate occasions.  The differences are striking since one becomes a flower while the other is a seed.  However, Ds#3 did notice something they had in common: they both sprouted or opened at the narrow end.  Most of the projects are centered around comparisons of this sort.

The second kind of comparison is through analogy.  In this case, children are comparing their specimens to other objects they have encountered in their lives.  This is often harder for younger children because of their limited experiences in this world, or for those who have trouble turning on their imagination upon request.   Good analogies are those in which the two objects have two or more features in common, and the more common features the better the analogy.  Ds#3 thought the acorn looked like a brown cat with a long, curled tail.  I though a better analogy would be a brown mouse because it also adds in smallness, and because the overall shape was more like a mouse than a cat (though I didn't suggest that to him since they were his analogies and he is just starting out.)

By looking through the loupe, children are better able to focus on details.  Drawing and comparing gives two reasons to sharpen those observations skills.  Children improve analytical skills by comparing objects; by making analogies, they improve their descriptive skills.  Together they make for a better nature writing and scientific exploration, and for a better Habit of Attention overall.

Observations on Observation

The first step in A Private Eye Nature is Observe (see The Basic Steps) which is closely related to Attention, the first of Charlotte Mason's Habits of Mind.

It's hard to get my kids to stop and see the details.  We love looking at nature but I am usually the one pointing out the curious sights (though they did find the lovely pink lady slippers in the front yard.)

Using the loupe is a great tool to help train Attention.  Because you must look through such a small opening and focus on such a limited area you cannot help but pay attention to the details.  Vistas and landscapes are breathtakingly overwhelming especially for my attention-short boys; they are challenged even by a whole plant!

Looking is followed by drawing, both a part the Observe step.  Drawing demands attention if you are to end up creating something that looks anything like your specimen.  Looking and drawing are a natural pair of activities to fostering attention, and limiting the view increases your ability to be detailed.  I have been very pleased with how well my boys have improved in their nature drawing since we began this process.

I've included a macro-shot photo of a giant Cecropia silkworm wing my aunt found in her yard the other day.  The kids were excited to get their loupes out to look!