Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nature Study Resources

I recently read a discussion about Amateur Naturalist: A Practical Guide to the Natural World. The book came highly recommended so I was thrilled to find it on the shelf of my favorite used book store last weekend. I am not disappointed; this book is a great nature study reference.

Just the last section alone, At Home, is great to have.  It gives lots of details about the tools and techniques for collecting, inspecting, and preserving plants, insects, and animals, as well as keeping a good nature journal.  As you can see by the cover, a loupe is recommended.

Most of the book contains extensive descriptions of the flora and fauna of various environment.  While the Handbook of Nature Study is great for those of us living in the Northeast where it was written, Amateur Naturalist contains sections on sixteen different habitats like grasslands, deserts, mountains, and oceans.  It also crosses that bridge from nature to science with directions for microscopes, dissections, and anatomical displays.  This is an invaluable resource. (Caution: a new book from National Geographic has the same name but is not the same book.  Be sure to look for Durrell as the author.)

While I was looking through the Nature section, I came across two other stunning out-of-print books for intermediate to advanced nature studies.  The first is TRAVELS, a collection of journal entries from the Father of Classification, Carl Linneus, during his travels through his native Sweden.  It is edited by David Black with some nice illustrations by Stephen Lee.  It is 108 pages. (I find it interesting that Amazon and Library Thing list this book under David Black Linnaeus Carl, Ed.)

I also found another intriguing book, Nature Through the Seasons.  It was written by Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down and also has beautiful illustrations by David A. Goddard along with separate science text written by Max Hooper.  Literary writing, lovely illustrations, extensive scientific information...seems like the perfect mix for a Living Book.  I can't wait to read all 108 pages of it (interesting coincidence), particularly the section about winter since we are always looking for novel ways to study nature in the snow.  The loupe alone promises to add another dimension!

By the way, in that same section I also found a 1927 ex-library hardcover of CURIOSITIES OF SCIENCE. Edited, annotated & translated by Percy F. Bicknell by Jean Henri Fabre.  It was a very good trip!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flower Study

We've embarked on a flower study now that all those buds have bloomed!  Here is our first session.  I read through the parts of a flower from the Hand book of Nature Study and sent the kids out to get a specimen of their choice. They each came in with a different flower and I helped them identify the parts. They then went to work looking and drawing and writing.


Ds#1 had the Violet and wrote the following analogies:  a purple cosmos (as in astronomy and not flower); a string bean (the stem); the optic nerve and the orbit; colored fire. He has not gone back to do any writing for this session.

Ds #2 wrote these analogies for the beautiful pink azalea: erupting volcano (my kids are so stuck on volcanoes); a group of worms; gold on a red pillow; a king with his guards; a grabber; a group of tornadoes (another fascination); ice cream sundae; a group of people; people crowding around a famous guy; lightning.

The gold on the pillow was ultimately his inspiration for writing:

I started as a bud.  The I bloomed and rain fell on my white leaves and reacted with my argouth acid* in my pedals.  Then I turned pink.  Then, in between my pedals, little, thin sticks grew.  But one stick was special to me.  It had a pink stem, and had gold glitter on it.

He stopped there because it was the bottom of the page.   *He made up argouth acid for his story.

Ds#3 chose one of the many dandelions growing in our back yard.  He told me the following analogies: the sun; a tornado (yet another!); a duster (as in feather duster); a head of frizzy hair.  He did a wonderful job drawing the details in his flower.

There's plenty of more flowers to examine for comparison and review. Their vibrant colors and interesting structures make them a natural for this process. There'll be more to come for this topic!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finishing Up Signs of Spring

We are wrapping up our Signs of Spring study.  Besides looking at a variety of buds (that have now become blooms) we also went back to check on some plants we had first examined.  Ds#2 checked out the Mountain Laurel at the edge of our yard.

We looked again and noticed that the laurel had two distinctly different buds on them.  Flowers are modified leaves so it was interesting to see some buds that would become leaves and others that would become
flowers.

Ds#2 didn't write any poetry for this second examination, but here are the analogies he wrote:
  • A star
  • A palm tree
  • A spider
  • A flower
  • Sea weed

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Binder ideas

I went looking for a binder today in which to collect our Private Eye sheets, so it needed to fit a half page, 5.5 x 8.5 in.  Staples does have a "memo binder" that is the right size with a 1" ring.  They carry a $3.79 version and a clear-view $5.99 version.

Red/Leather Classic 7 Ring Management Binder, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" (FDP32679)After I went to Walmart, and they happened to have the Franklin Covey planners on clearance, and probably because it is the end of the school year other retailers may have similar clearances. I was able to get a zipper-close leather binder for under $6, and it included a ruler and two pouches, as well as various dividers and pages, most of which I will discard. The significant down-side to this great bargain is the need for a 7-hole punch compatible with the planner system.  Franklin-Covey sells a metal one for over $20 that I was not about to buy, especially when I would be punching at most 3 pages at a time!  I searched Amazon and found one through a third party vendor that was slim and would fit into the binder itself.  I kept one of the sheets to use as a template that I place over our nature sheets and then trace the seven holes with a pencil.  I can use a standard hole punch for three folded 28# sheets together by lining up the punch with the drawn circles.  A bit labor-intensive but it works.

Amazon has a wide variety of binders including great faux leather journals if you are so inspired. Many of these are 6 ring binders, meaning an investment in hole punch.  I could not find any mini 3-hole punches on Amazon but I did find one for around $9 at Staples.