Today we embarked on Outdoor Hour Challenge #2. We had a special visitor with us on our adventure: Auntie Suzie!
My first task was to read a few pages in the Handbook of Nature Study. The points that stood out to me were just what the author of the Outdoor Hour Challenge noted in her description of Challenge #2: You do not need several hours to accomplish a successful nature study. A short time will be effective if you properly prepare for it. Any questions asked to prepare the children must inspire investigation on the part of the child. So, in the car, before we arrived at the same park we went to last time, I told them to be listening and looking for interesting things to hear and see. I look forward to future outdoor hour challenges where I will have specific things for them to find.
The second task was to go on a walk outside and be sure to listen for interesting sounds while we walk. So we succeeded in going for a walk. However, keeping four children five and under quiet is nearly impossible. We did take a few moments of quietness from time to time to listen for interesting sounds.
At the beginning of the trail, X-man found a branch with many pine needles on it. We stood still for a few moments and heard the sound of rushing water. We walked down to the bank and noticed that one area of the creek was noisier than another area. It was X who observed that the creek was noisier where it was flowing over the rocks. Then he threw his branch into the water so that he could see it float.
We then walked by the black walnut tree we examined and drew last time. Both of the older children identified it! Wow! Then I saw an interesting tree with skinny leaves on drooping branches and lots and lots of tiny little green berries. Princess K and I thought that we would like to discover the name of this tree. We ended up researching this later and it is known as the Pepper Tree.
Then X-man found a really big leaf. We looked around and decided it came from the sycamore tree. After awhile, this leaf too ended up in the creek. We continued to slowly meander down the path. Auntie Suzie and the kids found a spider family on a web! As they peered closely and quietly, they spotted a big spider in the middle and two little spiders on the sides.
Next we found large logs arranged on the ground as if set up for a teacher to give a nature talk to students sitting on the logs. K found a dead, brown leaf and she and Auntie Suzie had a great conversation about the differences between green and brown leaves. The kids climbed on the logs and I spotted an interesting tree. It was mostly bare, only a few leaves- and most of them were red and crumpled up, just barely hanging on. It had plump green oval fruits at the end of a few branches. I looked it up when I got home and compared my photograph with the images I found. I’m pretty sure it is a Persian Walnut Tree. (This discovery stuff is very addicting! I never knew!)
We found another place where the trail led to the bank of the creek and we explored a little. We found all kinds of interesting things! We saw bugs skating across the water. X-man exclaimed, “How does he not go inside? Does he have Amazing-Shoes?” Z-urchin said loudly, “Hi bug!” K really wanted to see this Amazingly-Shoed bug, but alas, her brothers were too rowdy at the water’s edge. They skimmed quickly across the water’s surface and were not seen again. I knelt on the ground and picked up a rock that was half buried in water. We found a squiggly, squirmy worm underneath.
After our creekside exploration, we walked back down the trail to our car. X-man carried his sticks, I carried Shortstop, Auntie Suzie held Z-urchin’s hand. It was a very delightful hour in the outdoors.
My third task was to ask the children to use one word to describe something they heard, two words for something they saw, and three words for something they felt. Our conversation wasn’t quite so precise, but they were excited to tell me about what they heard, saw, and felt. Princess heard “birds singing” and “water flowing.” She saw a “squiggly worm” and “water flowing.” She felt a “rough log.” X-man heard “birds singing” and “water flowing” as well. He saw a leaf that was brown on one side and green on the other. He felt that the leaf was soft on one side and crunchy on the other.
I decided to look up the green berry tree (Pepper Tree) and the other strange tree (Persian Walnut Tree) and I found quite a treasure on the internet: iNaturalist.org. It has a checklist of plants that can be seen at this very park. I have found out on this website that a Scarlet Pimpernel can be seen at this park. I really, really want to find one on my next journey there. I’ll let you know if I’m successful. I plan to draw the Pepper Tree in my nature journal soon. We’ll see if the kids are interested in joining me. Perhaps Auntie Suzie, an extremely talented artist, can give us some drawing tips. Thank you, Auntie Suzie, for sharing this adventure with us!