Apr 3, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge #1

I've found a lovely resource for Charlotte Mason-style nature studies.

The Handbook of Nature Study blogsite has got over 50 once-a-week Nature Studies, each lasting about 20minutes, based on Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature. (available free online here).

Each of these studies is called an Outdoor Hour Challenge, despite them not lasting for an hour. So this is our new regular posting - our participation in the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

The site creators recommend doing the first 5 studies, then joining in with the current challenges, so at this stage that is the plan.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #1

First, I ascertained that the reference book for these studies is not available at our local library. Then I checked its availability for purchase. My oh my the current exchange rates have put a damper on my 'just buy it from Amazon' plans. 6 months ago the NZ dollar was buying 80cUS, it's now buying about 48cUS. Not pretty. So despite my distinct preference for paper books over electronic books, I pursued the electronic option. If, after a few weeks, I decide that we'll continue with these studies, I may seriously consider buying it then.

I dutifully did my reading from the book, and was so taken with her viewpoint and opinions that I bored Merl silly by continuing to read bits out to him while he was trying to read a book :)

On Tuesday the kids and I went for a walk to the local park/playground. This is a fairly utilitarian green space with some swings and a see-saw and three young trees. All the way there I was gently calling attention to things in the gardens we walked past, to the complete lack of interest of my children.

When at the park, I decided to pick up a few of the autumn leaves that had fallen from the young trees, thinking that if Miss5 didn't get interested in anything then at least I would have something to investigate.

Happily, on the way home, she collected a rock off the road, so that was brilliant.

At home, we sat around the table and looked at the things we'd collected, and generally just chatted about our walk.

That night I found a couple of online field-guides to identify rocks and trees, and the next day we investigated the rock. Miss5 had recently read the Magic School Bus Rocky Road Trip, so we had a look at their discussion of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, then used the Rock Key to id the rock - Basalt!

Cleaning the rock from surface dust etc

Some of our tools

The next evening I identified the leaf as coming from a maple tree, using this guide, and passed the information on to Miss5 (which failed to rock her world, given that she had never been interested in the leaves to start with).

In all, a successful wee study. Miss5 was quite interested in investigating the rock (her favourite bit was using the magnifier that Grandma had given her for Christmas), and we've begun a 'rock collection' in an egg tray, as recommended in the Magic School Bus book. She has always come home with pockets full of rocks and gravel whenever we go anywhere, and now we can at least see something to do with those stones (other than sneak them out to the garden, or getting annoyed when a pocket full of gravel ends up in the bottom of the washing machine!). Perhaps it will encourage a level of discernment about what stones actually get brought home... but that might be too much to hope for.


Barb said...

Welcome to the OH challenges-another NZer! I had to think a minute when you were talking about your "autumn leaf". You almost had me and then I remembered you are "upside down from us" and our spring is your autumn.

Rocks are always a hit around here too. It sounds like you just need to keep letting your kids find what interests them and you can do the same. I think after awhile they start to see more things when they go out if you do it regularly.

Thanks so much for sharing your link and I look forward to your next study.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Penny said...

Your post reminded me of our walks to primary school when we were five or six. Do you remember collecting little pieces of broken glass from the footpath? We were convinced they were diamonds, if I remember correctly, and it sometimes made us late to school.

It all sounds like you are having a very entertaining and educational time. Good luck!

home handymum said...

Yes I do remember that! Not TOO often late for school :)

Catherine (Alecat Music) said...

Well done on getting this formally up and going. I keep procrastinating and just doing it in our own time, in our own way, but you may just motivate me to formalise our Nature Studies too, now. :)
I think you had a very profitable trip to the playground!!

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