Outdoor Hour Challenge #9- One Small Square

A small square of space in our backyard

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge is to mark off a small square and carefully examine it and write a list of everything we find.  We had a little rain in the morning and it was still gray and cloudy in the afternoon, but while the Toddler Tornado was asleep, we headed out to our backyard armed with yarn, a notepad, a pencil, a magnifying glass, and a camera.  We found rocks and digging sticks and trowels when we got out there.

Our tools

We marked off about 2 square feet of space with the yarn and rocks and started inspecting the space to see what was there.  We found lots of dirt, a plant with a little hole in the leaf (an insect has probably been there!), a little bit of grass, some things that looked a little like nut shells, and plenty of rocks and sticks.  The kids then had a lot of fun digging in the square (and the yarn marking the square got pushed aside a bit) and we uncovered roots and tiny worms.

Little plants, shells, rocks, dirt

The most fascinating thing we found was three holes and lots of tiny black ants crawling around these holes.  We watched them for a long while.  Some of them had what looked like dark amber and yellow striped abdomens that looked a little swollen.  The others just looked black.  I tried to find out about that on google, but while I did see that some ants have clear abdomens so you can see what they’ve eaten, I’m not sure if that is what I saw.

They look like shells from nuts

When we got back inside, we read a little bit about ants from the Handbook of Nature Study.  We decided to draw the ants in our nature notebook (X-man decided to include Darth Vader in his drawing, so we had to review the rule that he is totally allowed to draw Darth Vader- on another piece of paper– the Nature Journal is for recording what we actually saw outside).  I helped them label the parts of the ant and make a list of all the things we found in a small square of our backyard.

Today’s challenge was beautiful in its quiet simplicity.

If you look closely right in the center of the photo, you can see the strange colored abdomen of an ant

She loves to dig in the dirt

Hands got dirty!

The yarn got a little lost in the digging

Drawing in her nature journal

Our nature journals


5 thoughts on “Outdoor Hour Challenge #9- One Small Square

    • The ants were so interesting- I really want to know more (I’m definitely more interested than the kids- here again, the change this year is in me- probably the enthusiasm is a good thing, I learn this year so I can direct their research when they do get more interested). And I too giggled reading this again with my son drawing Darth Vader. This time around, I also notice that he is in his Link Halloween costume. 🙂

  1. Isn’t it amazing to see what lives in one small square? We have been doing nature study for a few years now but only tackled the small square study a few weeks ago. Each child found something different in his/her little patch. Thanks for sharing you study ;o)

  2. I think the small square study is a great idea. We found some interesting ants this year, too. Citronella ants. Might have to do a broader study of ants next summer. We certainly have plenty around.

    And what is it about boys and Darth Vader? Gotta love ’em.


    • Boys and Darth Vader, yes! My 2 year old loves him too- calls him “Biggest star wars guy, EVER!” The small square worked a lot better than I expected it to. And those ants truly were fascinating.

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