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Archive for the ‘nature walk’ Category

This week, as part of our nature study, we focused on bats. We’re using the Handbook of Nature Study website which features different Outdoor Hour Challenges based on the book with the same name.  I used two different challenges on the website: Outdoor Hour Challenge #49 Bats and Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Series #4 – Bats and the Sense of Hearing since each has different activities.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

1. Read pages 241-245 in the Handbook of Nature Study. Although the lesson for bats states that it should not be given unless you can directly observe bats in person, I think this interesting creature deserves his own Outdoor Hour Challenge.

These are some points that were made in the book that I shared with the girls:

[The] wing [is a] thin membrane…equipped with sensitive nerves which inform the flier of the objects in his path, so that he darts among the branches of trees at terrific speed and never touches a twig.

Bat wings have raised domes which act as touch receptors.

The flight of the bat consists of darting hither and thither with incredible swiftness, and making sharp turns with no apparent effort.

[Bats]…catch insects on the wing for food. He makes a collecting net of the wing membrane stretched between the hind legs and tail, doubling it up like an apron on the unfortunate insects, and then reaching down and gobbling them up; and thus he is always doing good service to us on summer evenings by swallowing a multitude of insects.

The short fur of the bat is as soft as silk, and covers the body but not the wings.

The plan of the wing is something like that of the duck’s foot; it consists of a web stretched between very much elongated fingers.

If a boy’s fingers were as long in proportion as a bat’s, they would measure four feet.

Since fingers make the framework, it is the thumb that projects from the front angle of the wing, in the form of a very serviceable hook.

\
Bat wing bone structure.

These hooks the bat uses in many ways. He drags himself along the floor…or he scratches the back of his head with them.

He is essentially a creature of the air and is not at all fitted for walking; his knees bend backward in an opposite direction from ours. This renders him unable to walk, and when attempting to do so, he has the appearance of “scrabbling” along on his feet and elbows

Bat walking using its wings/elbows to help move it along.

He uses his teeth to aid in climbing.

The little brown bat’s wings often meausre nine inches from tip to tip.

Brown bat flying with wings outstretched.

He does not fold [his wings] like a fan, but rather, like a pocket knife.

The tiny foot…is armed with five wirelike toes, tipped with sharp hooked claws. It is by these claws that he hangs when resting during the day, for he is upside-down in his sleeping habits, slumbering during the daytime.

The bat is very particualr about his personal cleanliness. 

He washes his face with the front part of his wing, and then licks his washcloth clean; he scratches the back of his head with his hind food and then licks the foot.  [To] clean his wings, he seizes the edges in his mouth and stretches and licks the membrane.

The bat has a voice which sounds like squeak of a toy wheelbarrow, and yet it is expressive of emotions.

He squeaks in one tone when holding conversation with other bats, and squeaks quite differently when seized by the enemy.

Little brown bat.

The mother bat…takes [her babies] with her when she goes out for insects in the evenings; they cling to her neck during these exciting rides; but when she wishes to work unencumbered, she hangs her tiny youngsters on some twig and goes back for them later.

The little ones are born in July and usually occur as twins.

During the winter, some bats hibernate like woodchucks or chipmunks. They select for winter quarters some hollow tree or cave. They do not awake until the insects are flying. Others migrate to the south with the advent of cold weather.

Hibernating bats.

2. Supplemental reading in The Burgess Animal Book for Children: Read Story 21. Use the illustration on page 128 to prompt a narration after reading the story about the Little Brown Bat.

The girls both enjoyed the story. There was one section about where bats will rest, and barns were mentioned. This, of course, made them think about how fun it would be to take flashlights and go the hayloft in the barn and see if they could spot any bats.

“Should we go at night? Like around 10 p.m.?” Olivia asked.

“No, they’d be outside eating bugs,” said Sophia. “Let’s go up during the day when they’d be hanging there.”

We went to the barn loft and I gave each of the girls a flashlight. They were so eager to shine their flashlights on the inside of the barn roof and find bats. 

Climbing on top of some old hay bales to find bats.

They walked the entire loft and then Olivia suggested they climb on top of some hay bales. Although they wanted to see bats, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what would happen if bats flew out from behind the wood pieces in front of them.

Looking for bats in the barn loft.

Since we didn’t see any bats in the barn, we headed to the pine trees in the front yard since I’ve seen bats flying around the trees at night. Again, we didn’t see any bats from the ground.

The girls even climbed one of the tallest pine trees to see if they could spot any bats.

Sophia enjoys climbing trees.
She said the pine tree had a lot of sap where she was standing.
She even spotted raccoon scat on one of the limbs.

If there are any bats in the front yard pine trees, they must be up near the top of them.

Olivia was determined to find at least one bat.

3. This week during your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time, look for any mammals in your neighborhood or in a near-by park. Many of us will not find any mammals to observe or signs of mammals like scat or tracks. This should not discourage us from taking the time to be outdoors with our children.

When the girls were climbing the front pine tree, Sophia spotted some raccoon scat. Near the base of the tree, there were parts of pine cones that the raccoon (s) didn’t want to eat.

Parts of pinecones that the raccoon didn’t want to eat.

Both of the girls were excited to have spotted evidence that there are other wild animals here that we don’t see during the day.

4. After your walk, discuss any interesting things that you observed. Help your child to find words for their experience. Record their words on paper and have them sketch a simple drawing for their nature journal.

Use some of the ideas that worked in the past like a rubbing of a leaf or feather. Take photos for your nature journals. Research and record what you learned about the bat this week from reading in the Handbook of Nature Study. One idea would be to sketch and record how a bat’s wings are different from a bird’s wings.

You could discuss why a bat is considered a mammal and how it differs from other mammals that we have studied. Keep it simple but make some connections this week.

The girls will be working on their nature journals and doing an entry about bats now that they saw the bats flying at night (see more information below).

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Summer Series #4
Bats and Sense of Hearing – Train Your Senses

Sight: Observe the sky at sundown, look for the silhouettes of birds, bats, or insects in the air.

Hearing: Observe the sounds of the night starting at sundown: bats, crickets, frogs, bark of a dog, hoot of an owl, birds, rustling in the leaves, wind, etc. Can you hear more sounds on a damp night? Can you hear more sounds at night when your sense of sight is not as keen?

Inside Preparation Work – The reading from the Handbook of Nature Study is the same as above. There was another book reference “Discover Nature at Sundown,” but I didn’t have this book.

Outdoor Hour Time:

1. Things That Go Bump in the Night: Spend 15 minutes outdoors at sundown, observing some of the sounds suggested in the book. The book suggests observing sounds on a damp night and a dry night and comparing your results. Something else to listen for is “sudden silence” where the night noises completely stop and then start up again after a period of time.

Since we didn’t spot any bats during the day, we agreed that we would go out again when it was starting to get dark. So, around 8:45 p.m., we walked to the front yard.

The girls both heard frogs in the pond and pasture and birds in the trees. They said they felt a few rain drops and the wind.

We looked at the pine trees and walked up and down the driveway where the bats are often seen, but there wasn’t a single bat out at that time. I suggested that we come out again when it’s a bit darker…in about 15 minutes.

So, around 9:00 p.m. we went out again when it was much darker. It took a moment for our eyes to adjust from being in the light indoors to the dark outdoors. Yet, we could easily see everything outside after a few minutes. 

Again, Sophia and Olivia heard frogs calling to one another, but the birds had now quieted down. A new sound was apparent: mosquitos buzzing around our ears. 

Then…the first sighting!  “Bats!” the yelled enthusiastically and pointed up. 

Sure enough, the bats were flying within 3-4 feet of our heads. It was a great opportunity to see the bats up close and in flight.

Olivia and Sophia looking at the pine trees
where the bats were flying to and from around 9:00 p.m.

We walked to the pine trees again and saw that they were heading in and out of one of the trees more so than the others. Olivia began counting the number of bats she saw and got to 14.

As we walked back to the house, I saw a firefly near the pasture gate. We walked over to where I saw it, and then the golden glow happened again, but closer to the girls this time.  Needless to say, they were thrilled!  They had never seen a firefly up close.

Firefly.

The more we looked, the more fireflies we saw around us. It was a wonderful time outside – seeing both bats and fireflies!

2. World of Bats:


“Although an occasional bat can be found flying about during the day, most bats take to the sky during the twilight hours. On a summer evening you can observe them in a dance of twists, spirals, and loops that is choreographed by the insects they pursue.” Discover Nature at Sundown, page 148

If you have the opportunity to observe some bats up close, make sure to use some of the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study and/or the Discover Nature at Sundown.

The girls were able to see quite a few bats fly and the variety within the flight pattern. Both were amazed at how quickly they flew.

Although some bats did fly relatively low (about 8-9 feet from the ground), the majority flew much higher (about 20-40 feet high).
Follow-Up Activity:

Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry.

Sophia and Olivia will work on their nature journal entry in the morning and recall their experience of seeing the bats flying around them.

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I was looking at the Handbook of Nature Study website, and came across Summer Tree Observation – Outdoor Challenge #20 and OHC Summer Series #2: Summer Tree Observations. I’m combining these into one nature study.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Indoor Preparation


If your first observation was in spring, you are now into summer and your tree should look a little different. Check in the Handbook of Nature Study to see if your tree is listed there and then do the reading about that particular tree. There should be some suggestions for observations that you can follow.

Read pages 618-620 in the Handbook of Nature Study: The Parts of a Tree. For your summer tree study, make sure you read the information on these pages so you have in mind the parts of a tree: trunk or bole, head or crown, spray, and branch.

Also, make sure you have a general idea of how a tree makes its own food by reading in the section, How a Tree Grows, on pages 620-622. Your job will be to relate any of this information that you think might be of interest to your child as you study your tree.
“The leaf is a factory; the green pulp in the leaf cells is part of the machinery; the machinery is set in motion by sunshine power; the raw materials are taken from the air and from the sap containing food from the soil; the finished product is largely starch.

Thus, it is well when we begin a study of the tree to notice that the leaves are so arranged as to gain all the sunlight possible, for without sunlight the starch factories would be obliged to ‘shut down’ “.

~ Anna Botsford-Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study ~
Train Your Senses

Outdoor Hour Time

Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. You can take photos of your tree to put in your nature journal or you can sketch the tree in your journal.

I’m taking pictures of the girls standing next to their favorite tree so that they have an accurate representation of how their tree, the immediate environment, and they change over the course of a year.

Olivia is standing by her favorite tree:
a white pine in the backyard.

Olivia noticed as we were standing by the pine trees that the needles still had quite a bit of water on them from the rain that fell earlier in the day.  She shook some of the branches out which created a “shower” for the grass below.

The girls then had the idea of having one another stand under the branches while the other shook a taller branch. Each one had a refreshing “rain shower” which they said felt good given that it was in the 80s.

Sophia shaking a pine branch filled with water
onto Olivia. “That felt good!” she said.
We headed out to the nature trail and then into the back part of the property where Sophia’s tree is located. The last time we visited her tree was in the spring on a very chilly day.
Today, it was beautiful and sunny, the birds were flying overhead, and there was a nice breeze.
Sophia by her favorite tree: a maple tree.

Your tree should have its leaves now and we are going to spend 10-15 minutes of your outdoor time using the ideas from the Handbook of Nature Study to do some focused observations of your tree. Remember you may want to start using the proper vocabulary for the parts of a tree when you are completing your tree observations.

Sight: Look closely at the bark and/or leaves. Stand or lay under your tree and look up. Use a magnifying lens to look at the bark and leaves. Look for birds, animals, or insects in your tree. Look for all the parts of your tree: trunk, crown, branches, and spray.

Sophia brought in a trio of leaves from her maple tree. With a magnifying glass, she noticed “bumps, tiny cells, and a half-eaten leaf…like a bug ate it. One of the leaves is slightly lighter than the other.”

Tree galls on a maple leaf.

She said, “On the back side of one of the leaves where the bumps are there are brown stains and the remainder of an old web.”

I didn’t know what the bumps were, so we looked it up on the internet. We found out that they are tree galls.

Tree galls look like green or brown bumps, and may resemble a wart, blister or pouch. Galls are created when insects, mites, nematodes, or other organisms such as bacteria or fungi feed on a tree’s leaves.

Galls usually do not cause any serious damage to a healthy tree. However, large numbers of galls can affect the tree’s appearance and cause premature leaf drop.

There were no birds or animals in the maple tree. The tree galls indicate that there were insects at some time in Sophia’s favorite tree.

For Olivia’s favorite white pine tree, she said that she did not notice any birds, animals, or insects. 

Smell: Smell the bark. Rub a leaf and see what it smells like.

Sophia smelled the trio of leaves. “It smells like box elders. It doesn’t smell good,” she said.

Olivia rubbed her fingers over the pine needles. She said, “They don’t have much of a scent. There’s nothing” she said in terms of smell.

White pine needles.

Touch: Close your eyes and feel the bark. Feel the leaf or needle from your tree and describe its texture. A tree gall is an abnormal growth on a tree’s leaves and stems. The growth is the plant’s reaction to the feeding of insects or other organisms.

Sophia described her leaf as: “…kind of leathery.  Maybe kind of silky. You can kind of feel the veins. They feel like pieces of string on a piece of paper…but maybe not as pronounced.”

Olivia said the pine needles felt “soft and silky.”

Hearing: Quietly sit under your tree for one minute. Can you hear the leaves or branches moving? Can you hear a bird in the tree or insects buzzing near the tree?

After taking a look at her tree, Sophia said, “I’m going to lay down by it.” She found a nice area of tall grass and laid down. “It’s so soft…like a bed!”

We talked a bit about the deer who sleep in the grass at night and how soft the grass is for them.  As she was laying down said she could hear birds.  “I heard insects buzzing around my ears which was kind of annoying. I also heard a dragonfly. I could hear the wind blowing through the grass.”

Olivia said she heard wind near her tree, but no other sounds.

Follow-Up Activity

After your outdoor time, complete your Seasonal Tree Study notebook page sheet or record your tree observations in your nature journal. Take a few minutes to talk about your time outdoors to see if there is anything that your child wants to learn more about. Follow up any interest shown.

We learned about tree galls which was something new to us all. We found out that you don’t have to spray the tree which is good – the natural predators will eat the insects on the leaves.

We walked by the willow tree which reminded the girls of having picnics under it last summer and early fall. “Can we do that again?” Olivia asked. “Can we take Eenie outside with us again?” Sophia asked.

The willow tree. It was planted about 9 years ago and
was about 5 1/2 or 6 feet tall at the time.

Once the weather cools down a bit and the mosquitos aren’t as bad, the girls and I will definitely be having some picnics under the willow tree.

After your outdoor time, complete a nature journal entry using the notebook page provided for the Summer Series, a general notebook page from the sidebar of my blog, the original notebook page, or your own blank journal. Photos of your tree are a good record in your nature journal as well. This might be a good season to press a few of the tree’s leaves for your nature journal.

The girls each wrote in their nature journals, attached a pressed leaf or pine needles, and put photographs to accompany their entry.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “N.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter N …is for Nature.

Nature is a major focus of homeschooling. Living on almost ten acres of land, nature surrounds us each day.

One of the girls’ favorite activities during the summer is raising butterflies. In 2008, there were an abundance of monarch caterpillars. Seeing the life cycle – from caterpillar to butterfly was fascinating for the girls.

#1 - Look at Me!
Olivia with a monarch butterfly.
This one was ready to be released.

Perhaps the most memorable release was when a monarch butterfly was brought outside and didn’t want to leave the girls. It stayed on their fingers, flew to a nearby milkweed plant, flew back in front of them, and then…eventually…flew off.

August 23rd - Third Monarch Butterfly Release
The third butterfly to be released in August 2008.
This one was quite content
to stay around the girls for a long time.

Both Sophia and Olivia enjoying feeding the birds and squirrels. One of the first activities I had both of the girls do for homeschooling involved watching the birds that visited the feeders. Each time a bird would visit, the girls would add a check mark next to the type of bird.

After a certain period of time (10-15 minutes…30 minutes if they were interested and lots of birds were visiting the feeder), they would create a chart to show which type of bird came to the feeder the most.

Sophia by Squirrel Buffet and Feeder
Sophia standing by the squirrel feeder that she and Olivia built.
The corn cob pathways with shell corn
sprinkled on the paths was Sophia’s idea.
The birds and squirrels enjoyed eating the corn.

One of the nice things about living in the country in a home that was built in 1890 is that the surrounding land has some very old trees which are great for climbing. The girls started out climbing the apple trees in the backyard, and have moved onto some of the larger pine trees in the front yard now.

Girls in the Tree
The girls in the tallest pine tree on the property.

During the past year, we have begun taking time for weekly nature study using the book Handbook for Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

Taking the time to learn more about the wildlife, trees, and seasons has been such a highlight of the past year. It has given us a new appreciation for the land here as well as the wildlife that visits and lives on our farm.

Sophia Taking a Break From Nature Journaling
Sophia taking a break from nature journaling.
She is listening to and writing down sounds she hears.

Olivia Drawing in her Nature Journal
Olivia enjoyed nature journaling even when she was much younger.
Here she is at four years old
drawing a picture of what she sees outside.

Since the girls were young, gardening has always been a part of their life. They have learned to raise vegetables, pumpkins, fruit, and flowers. Both have been able to plant seeds; transplant trees; and harvest and preserve what they’ve grown.

Sophia with Pumpkin
Sophia with one of the pumpkins that she grew.

We enjoy going on walks with the dogs and horses. Living in the country, there’s always something interesting to see in the fields, in the sky, along the road, or in the ditches.

Olivia Looking for Rocks

Olivia is looking for rocks and
then putting them in her cone-shaped purse.
If you notice…she picked heavy winter boots
to wear with her light summer dress.
(Summer 2008)

One of my favorite pictures is of Sophia on the far nature trail spreading milkweed. She had lots of milkweed pods in her pocket and she would open them and let the wind carry the seeds to new locations.

She hoped that by doing this, there would be more milkweed available for the monarchs the following year…and in years to come.

Floating Milkweed
Milkweed seeds being carried off by the wind
as Sophia releases them.

Even though there are plenty of opportunities to explore nature right at our home, in the pastures, and on the nature trail, we enjoy exploring other areas as well. One of our favorite places to visit is William O’Brien State Park.

Girls Running on Trail at William O'Brien State Park - Homeschool Phy Ed
The girls running on one of the trails
at William O’Brien State Park.

We also have enjoyed walking on some of the trails at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This is a bit of a drive, but the trails are easy to walk and provide a different view of what we normally see at home.

Olivia Looking at Hawk in Tree
Olivia observing a hawk in a tree at the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

We enjoy picnics outside (especially when there are no bugs – which is spring and fall in Minnesota).  There are lots of places to have picnics, but parks that have a lake or river by them are ones that are especially nice.

Feeding Ducks and Gulls
The girls feeding ducks and sea gulls
after a picnic we had.

Sometimes we visit places after we read about book. If a topic in a book interests the girls or if seeing an example of what was mentioned in the book would be of benefit, I try to find a place to go that would extend their learning.

For example, a few years ago, we visited Interstate State Park as part of a unit study we did on the ice age (after reading one of the Magic Treehouse books about the ice age).

Since the girls learn best by seeing and touching, I took them to this park to see first-hand what gorges are and the impact the ice age had on the area where we live.

This park has some fascinating and beautiful rock formations, glacial potholes, and gorges. The St. Croix River runs between the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the park.

Girls at Minnesota Interstate State Park
The girls on a rock overlooking the St. Croix River.
This was taken at Interstate State Park
on the Minnesota side.

When we travel, we always make sure that nature is part of our trip. One of our favorite places to visit is Grand Marais (Minnesota). The girls enjoy being able to be in Lake Superior (although the water is very cold) and play on the shoreline.

Walking on Water
Olivia and Sophia in Lake Superior
at Grand Marais, Minnesota.

One of their most memorable moments on a trip to Grand Marais that we took in September 2010 was being able to feed a chipmunk. We traveled up the Gunflint Trail and stopped along the way.

At the stop, there was a very friendly chipmunk who the girls fed Pik-Nik sticks (fried potato sticks). The chipmunk came up so close to them. They still – almost a year late – recall that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Close Enough To Pet the Chipmunk
The girls feeding a chipmunk.
Nature is such an integral part of homeschooling. Each day, the girls are outside playing or discovering something new. Having both of them so excited about wildlife and caring for the environment is a direct result of being able to homeschool them and have the opportunity to spend so much time outdoors.

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This week we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge Crop Plants #1Clover that is at the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work

1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 591-598.
These pages cover three sections in the Handbook of Nature Study but are closely related. I encourage you to read all the pages even if you do not think you have the particular clover in your area. Use your highlighter to mark sections you found interesting and that at some point you want to share with your children in the follow-up activity.


You can do an internet search for each of these kinds of clover so you and your children will know what you are looking for during your Outdoor Hour time this week. I use Google Images.


=>White Clover
=>Red Clover (Vermont’s State Flower)
=>Buffalo Clover
=>Crimson Clover
=>Rabbit Clover


This is some information from the Handbook of Nature Study that I found interesting and shared with the girls:


– Clover has for centuries been a most valuable forage crop; and…it has been the special partner of the bees, giving them honey for their service in carrying as pollen.



Those blossoms which are lowest, or on the outside of the head, blossom first.

White Clover

– All of them have upon their roots the little swellings, or nodules, which are the houses in which the beneficient bacteria grow. 



– If we pull up or dig out the roots of alfalfa or…clovers…we find upon the rootlets little swellings whic hare called nodules, or root tubercles.


– Each nodule is a nestful of living beings so small that it would take twenty-five thousand of them end to end to reach an inch.


– Even a little swelling can hold many of these minute organisms, which are called bacteria.


– The bacteria…are…underground partners of these plants.  The clover roots give the bacteria homes and places to grow, and in return these are able to extract a very valuable chemical fertilizer from the air, and to change its form so that the clovers can absorb it. The name of these substance is nitrogen.


– Clover roots, which penetrate very deeply, protect land from being washed away by…heavy rains.


– Clover foliage makes a thick carpet over the surface of the soil [and] prevents evaporation and thus keeps the soil moist.


– [Sweet clover has] a perfume so sweet, so suggestive of honey…in the blossoms. It may be the species with white blossoms or the one with yellow flowers.

Field of sweet clover in
Custer State Park, South Dakota.

– [It is] beneficial alike to man, bee, and soil.


– [Sweet clover can grow] on soil so poor that it can only attain a height of from two to four feet; but if it…gets foothold on a generous soil, it rises majestically ten feet tall.


– The blossom stalk…is at first an inch or so long, packed closely with little green buds having pointed tips.  But as soon as the blossoming begins, the stalk elongates, bringing the flowers farther apart.


– [White clover has] flowers [that] are all in one bunch, the tip of the stalk making the center of the clover head.

Clover growing in the backyard.

– The leaves are very pretty.

White clover leaves.

– The white clover, in common with other clovers, has the…habit of going to sleep at night.  Clover leaves fold at the middle, the three drawing near each other, looks like going to sleep.

Olivia looking a clover leaf she found.
They each picked a young leaf and older leaf
and compared the markings.
(The older ones have a more pronounced design in white on each leaflet.)



– The clover head is made up of many little flowers; each one has a tubular calyx with five delicate points and a little stalk.

Clover head made up of tiny little flowers.
This one is in the backyard.

– The outside blossoms open first; and as soon as they are open, the honey bees, which eagerly visit white clover wherever it is growing, begin at once their work of gathering nectar and carrying pollen.

New clover with the outside blossoms opening first.



– White-clover honey is in the opinion of many the most delicious honey made from any flowers except, perhaps, orange blossoms.  So valuable is the white clover as a honey plant that apiarist often grow acres of it for their bees.


Outdoor Time

2. Your outdoor time this week can be spent in your yard or at a near-by park.
Look for areas of lawn or pastures that may include clover. You may find clover at the edges of trails as well so keep your eyes out as you have your outdoor time this week.


We use to have a beekeeper who had several hives here.  This past winter was particularly difficult for the bees, and he lost all the bees. So, this is the first year in many years that we haven’t had bees here.

Beehive 2
One of the beehives that was here for many years.
After this past winter, which was very difficult,
there are no longer beehives here.



One of the years, he suggested planting white clover near the bees. The clover has since spread throughout different areas of the farm – the nature trail (which is used as a pasture during the late-fall and winter), backyard, and main pasture.

Clover growing in the backyard.



3. Another subject for your outdoor hour time could be the honeybee. The relationship between clover and honeybees is a beneficial one and if you can observe bees in the clover you have witnessed a great partnership.


We did a study about bees several years ago, learning about the different types of bees, and the different stages of honey (from the bees gathering the nectar to harvesting). This was a fun hands-on lesson that had the girls pretending they were bees as they visited different activity stations (e.g., clean the hives, drink nectar).


This time we went out and sat by the clover for a while to see if any bees visited the flowers.  We didn’t see any in the backyard.  However, later while I was mowing on the nature trail where there’s a combination of white and red clover, there were some bees visiting the red clover.
4. Pollen can be a topic for your outdoor hour time if you don’t find clover or honeybees. You can review Outdoor Hour Challenge #18 if you need help knowing where to look for pollen.


We found plenty of clover so we didn’t focus on pollen during this nature study.


Follow-Up Activity


5. After your outdoor time, make sure to discuss with your children what interested them from their nature study this week. They may be more interested in learning about something they observed and our job as parents is to help them answer their questions. Use the Handbook of Nature Study by looking up the topic in the index or the table of contents.


In the Handbook of Nature Study, on page 593, there is a section on nodules. The nodules will be found as little “swellings” on the roots of clover. These nodules have an important job which is explained in the Handbook of Nature Study on the same page. Make sure to read this section to yourself so when you have your follow-up activity you will be prepared to talk about nodules.


Sophia wanted to know if you can eat clover. Told her that it is edible so she tried some. “Please do not take a picture of me eating clover,” she said. She tried it and said it had a “pleasant” taste…”kind of sweet.”

Sophia holding some clover and
wondering if it was edible.

Found some recipes for ways that clover can be used for eating. Since there’s an abundance of clover on the nature trail, we will pick some of that later this week and make some recipes using clover. In the mean time, there are recipes listed below that use clover.
5. On page 594 in the lesson, #3 suggests that you take up the clover plant and look at its roots. This would make a great addition to your nature journal. Sketch the whole clover plant and then perhaps one of the flowers.


The girls picked several clover plants and leaves to draw in their nature journal and observe closer with a magnifying glass indoors.

Olivia holding a clover leaf and blossom
that she brought indoors to draw.

We did not dig any of the clover plants up since it was so hot outside (almost 90 degrees). On a cooler day, this would be an interesting thing to do.
6. On page 598 in the lesson, #5 suggests that you tie a string around a clover head that has not yet blossomed. This way you can observe the same flower over a period of several days. You could record each day’s observations in your nature journal either in words or as a sketch.


There were many clover plants in different stages of growth in the backyard. The girls looked for ones at the early stages of growth, middle, and end.

Sophia looking for clover in different stages of growth.



Optional activity: Find some clover honey at your grocery store and enjoy it on bread or in some herbal tea.


We enjoyed some honey that was produced from the bees/hives on our farm.


Other activities


I read on Healthy Home Gardening that “Native Americans used whole clover plants in salads, and made a white clover leaf tea for coughs and colds. Leaves of white clover are edible, raw or cooked. The young leaves are best harvested before the plant flowers, and can be used in salads, soups etc.


“They can be used as a vegetable, cooked like spinach. Flowers and seed pods have been dried, ground into a powder and used as a flour or sprinkled on cooked foods such as boiled rice. The young flowers can also be eaten raw in salads. The root can be eaten if cooked first.


“A sweet herb tea is made from the fresh or dried flowers. It is considered delicate. The dried leaves impart a vanilla flavor if mixed into cakes etc.”


The recipe below is from the Manataka American Indian Council


Clover Soup


Ingredients:


2 cups clover flowers and leaves
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter (we used dairy-free butter)
2 pints water
3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:


Clean and dip clover flowers and leaves in cold salted water. Remove and cut into pieces. In a large saucepan, sauté flowers, leaves and onions in butter.


When all is softened add water, then potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for 20 minutes. Drain the cooking liquid and save it.


Puree potato mixture and dilute with the cooking liquid, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Can sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese if desired.


White Clover Salad


Make a fresh salad using lettuce and onions from the garden.  Sprinkle white clover blossoms on top.


White Clover Tea


White clover has many health benefits. According to the Peterson Field Guide of Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, American Indians used leaf tea for colds, coughs, fevers, and leukorrhea. In European folk medicine, flower tea is used for rheumatism and gout. Like red clover, white clover contains the estrogenic isoflavone genistein which has cancer-preventative properties and antioxidants.


To make white clover tea:


1. Pick fresh flowers and leaves.
2. Rinse.
3. Place in a tea kettle or small pot with water.
4. Heat to almost boiling.
5. Strain into tea cup.
6. Add sugar or honey (if desired).


We enjoyed learning about clover and its benefit to bees and environment.  It was an added bonus to learn about its use throughout history by American Indians as well as other in folk remedies.  I’m sure that when we use the blossoms in a variety of food this weekend, it will be something that we will remember for a long time!


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This week we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge Crop Plants #5Strawberries that is at the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work

1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 608-611.

Here are the parts that I found interesting that I shared with Sophia and Olivia:

– The strawberry’s five petals are little cups of white held up protectingly around anthers and pistils.

The five cup-like petals of a strawberry plant.
This one is growing in our garden.
You can see the many pistils that are each lifting up a stigma.

– At the every center of the flower is a little, greenish-yellow cone, which, if we examine with a lens, we can see is made up of many pistils set together, each lifting up a little circular stigma.

– The strawberry leaf is beautiful; each of its three leaftlets is oval, deeply toothed, and has strong reular veins extending from the midrib to the tip of each tooth.  In color it is rich, dark green and turns to wine color in autumn.

Strawberry leaf with its three leaflets.

– As the strawberry ripens, the petals and stamens wither and fall away.

Strawberries in various stages of ripeness.
By this stage, the petals and stamens
have withered and fallen away.

– The strawberry is not a berry, that definition being limited to fruits having a juicy pulp and containing many seeds, like the currant or grape.

– The strawberry is a fleshy fruit bearing its akenes, the hard parts which we have always called seeds, in shallow pits on its surface.

Holding some strawberries that were just picked.
The akenes (what we call seeds) are easily seen
in shallow pits on the surface of the strawberries.

– The root of the strawberry is fibrous and threadlike.

– The runners begin to grow after the fruiting season has closed.  Each runner may start one or more new strawberry plants.

Sophia holding a runner from a strawberry plant.

– After the young plant has considerable root growth, the runner ceases to carry sap from the main stem and withers to a mere dry fiber.  The parent plant continues to live and bear fruit…but the later crops are of less value.

2. The lesson suggests that each child have a strawberry plant with roots and runners attached to observe in person. This may not be possible but perhaps you can find a plant that you can observe with its leaves and a green or ripe strawberry.

The girls each went to the garden to take a look at the strawberries as well as went to the berry patch to pick strawberries.  They found some runners in the garden.

Olivia found a runner on one of the strawberry plants.

Outdoor Time

3. For this challenge, spend 10-15 minutes outdoors. This would be a great time to check up on any crop plants that you have been growing in the garden. If you don’t have any crop plants growing, spend your time observing in your own backyard looking for a subject that interests your children. Perhaps you could bring along your magnifying glass and inspect leaves or flowers or insects. Enjoy this time together.

We split the outdoor time into two different parts – one was at the strawberry patch where we picked two flats of strawberries with my sister, Mary (the girls’ aunt); and the other was taking a look at the vegetable and herb garden and seeing how everything is doing.

The girls with their aunt picking strawberries
at the berry patch.

We enjoyed picking strawberries and came home with two flats of berries. 

Sophia with some of the berries she picked.

The girls were so excited when they found large ones or unusually-shaped ones.  Sophia found a heart-shaped strawberry which was neat to see. We have found heart-shaped rocks before…but never a heart-shaped strawberry.

After picking the strawberries, we came back home and showed Mary the vegetable and herb garden.  Things that can be harvested include: a few small strawberries, lettuce, rhubarb, and herbs.

A cucumber starting to grow
with the blossom still attached.

Things that are growing, but not yet ready to harvest are: a variety of  small tomatoes, a zucchini, some tiny cucumbers, onions, beets, raspberries (black and red), onions, leeks, and peas.

The tomatoes are starting to grow.

Things that haven’t yet shown any blossoms or small vegetables include: beets, carrots, peppers, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Follow-Up Activity

4. Allow time for discussion and a nature journal entry after your outdoor time. Follow up any interest in any subjects you observed during your outdoor time either in the Handbook of Nature Study or in a field guide.
We talked about picking strawberries and how there seemed to be fewer berries than in past years.  The strawberry season is very late this year due to unseasonably cold temperatures and lots of rain.  When we started picking strawberries, there were very few.  However, as we spent more time and went further down the row, we found larger berries. 

The girls have been finding lots of tiny toads in the garden area this year.  When the 4-H club visited on Monday night, a few people were talking about them and saying that due to the amount of rain we received this year so far, there have been more frogs and toads than in past years. 

Tiny toad that Olivia found in the garden.
The girls collected more than 80 of these the other day.
After observing them, they released them back into the garden.

5. Have some fresh strawberries on hand for observation and then eating.

We will be taking a closer look at the strawberries and observing them tomorrow.  We have several recipes that we will be trying over the next few days. 
Here are some ideas for careful observation:
  1. Notice the strawberry’s color, shape, size, seeds, hull, and stem.
  2. Smell the strawberry.
  3. Take the stem in your right hand and the berry in your left hand and pull. What happens?
  4. Look at the seeds on the outside of the berry. What are their size and shape? (use a magnifying glass)
  5. Cut the berry vertically and notice the colored layers. (some red, pink, white, or green)
  6. Are there seeds on the inside of the berry?
  7. Cut a cross section and describe the inside of the berry.
  8. Eat the strawberry and describe its taste.

6. Your journal entry could include:

  • Drawing of the whole berry, showing the shape, stem, and the pattern of seeds.
  • Drawing of a vertical section, showing the shape, stem, and the seeds on the outside. (cut the berry in half lengthwise)
  • Drawing of the horizontal section, showing the seeds, and the colored ring. (cut the berry in half crosswise)
  • Drawing of a strawberry leaf if possible showing the distinct shape.

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This week we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Series #3: Spring Bird Study that is at the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work:


As part of our spring nature study this week, we will prepare by learning about some familiar bird songs. Read about the “Songs of Birds” in the Handbook of Nature Study on pages 42 and 43.


The following exerpts are from the Handbook of Nature Study (the book) that I found interesting and shared with the girls:

In most cases only the male bird sings, but a few exceptions are recorded…the female rose-breasted grosbeak and cardinal grosbeak, which sing under some conditions.

Birds do most of their singing in the early morning and during the spring and early summer months.

Some ornithologists have developed complicated systems of recording bird songs as musical scores.  Wilson Flagg and F.S. Mathews are well-known names in this field.  Such a method has its limitations because many variations of bird songs cannot be indicated by the characters used in writing music.

The song of the warbling flycatcher.
A Year with the Birds by Wilson Flagg
The song of the green warbler.
A Year with the Birds by Wilson Flagg

The song of a bird written as music is not usually recognizable when played on a musical instrument.

Here is a link to a page that will help you learn about to listen to and then identify birds by their calls:  Songs and Calls.  This link has wonderful examples of bird songs divided by rhythm, pitch, tone, and repetition.

It also has a spectrogram which visually illustrates bird songs.  There were a few birds of particular interest because we have quite a few that visit our yard regularly: American goldfinch, house wren, rose-breasted grosbeak, black-capped chickadee, and cardinal.  As we listened to the spectrogram for each of these birds, we read the description about the songs:

“The American goldfinch’s long, varied song lets you see how lots of different sounds look when they’re translated into a spectrogram.”

Bird banding at Warner Nature Center
American goldfinch that was being banded
at a local nature center.
Sophia, Olivia, and I were able to watch how this was done.

“The cardinal’s song is a series of sweet, slurred whistles. Watch the curving lines on the graph as you listen to the pitch changing.”

Olivia thought it was “neat” and Sophia thought it was “interesting.”

Brainstorm a list of birds you know that live in your area. Pick two or three to research on the All About Birds website. Look up each bird and listen to their bird songs. Challenge your children to imitate the bird song and to listen for it when they go outside.

The girls came up with the following list of birds that they know live in our area:

– Goldfinish
– Cardinal
– Catbird
– Brown-headed cowbird
– Red-Winged Blackbird
– Pheasant
– Nuthatch
– Blue Jay
– House Finch
– Mourning Doves
– Sparrow
– Wren

Olivia picked these birds that she was interested in hearing their songs: brown-headed cowbird and red-winged blackbird.  Initially, she thought the cowbird sounded a lot like the red-winged blackbird.  Then we she heard the blackbird she was able to distinguish it from the cowbird since it sounded more “squeaky” and “high-pitched.”

Sophia picked the following birds that she wanted to listen to their songs: pheasant and house wren. We hear both of these birds regularly in the yard and pasture; and hear them on our nature walk for the Spring Bird Study.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Male
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak that was at
one of our feeders.  The grosbeaks have a beautiful song.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Spend your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time this week looking and listening for birds. You might try going out several times during the week at different times of day to listen and observe.


This will be a week you can work on a few minutes of quiet time while you are in your backyard or local park. Remind your children that if they are quiet even for one minute they might hear a bird or other animal. One minute can see like a lifetime for young ones so use your good judgment on this activity.

Sophia and Olivia making marks in their nature journals
every time they hear a bird song.

We spent time outside in our backyard since there is a variety of birds that regularly visit us each day.  We walked to and then stood in different locations (e.g., deck, by the apple tree, by the pine trees in the backyard, and several places on the nature trail). 

Olivia walking out on the nature trail
to listen to birds.

One of the things Olivia mentioned was that she heard so many birds singing all at the same time.  One would start and then another and another.  “I couldn’t tell the old birds from the new birds.”  It did sound like – a constant symphony of birds singing and calling to one another. 

This bird kept singing while
we were on the nature trail

As we listened to the birds, there were some that were easily recognizable and we knew their songs and calls:  red-winged blackbird, mourning dove, house wren, American goldfinch, and pheasant.  However, for the majority of the bird songs and calls we were hearing, we couldn’t identify which bird was making the sound.

It would be nice to have someone skilled in identifying bird songs to come here and listen to the birds with us and say, “Oh…that song is from the purple finch.  That one is from the blue jay.”

Follow-Up Activity:


Take a few minutes to follow-up on any interest that came from your outdoor time even if your children were interested in something other than birds.

We were noticing that a lot of milkweed is starting to grow now throughout the nature trail area and backyard.  I flipped over a milkweed leaf and saw a tiny yellow ball.  The girls and I are hoping that it is an egg.  So, we brought the leaf in and it is in the butterfly observation holder. 

We’re hoping that this is a monarch egg
that’s on the underside of a milkweed plant.
We also were happy with the gentle rain that fell the night/early morning before our nature walk.  Temperatures had reached over 100 degrees during the week, and there had been no rain recently.  Having rain – without the thunder/lightening and hail – was a welcome sight and sound.
Rain drops on one of the irises
in the morning.

Review the bird songs you learned and practiced during your preparation work. If you saw an unfamiliar bird, try to identify it using a field guide. Learn more about identifying birds here on this page: Bird Identification SkillsIf you do not have a field guide, you can try this online bird site to help identify birds: WhatBird? And this website for additional information as well: AllAboutBirds.

We tried to identify the bird above since it was pretty far away from us and we didn’t have binoculars with us.  It had a small crest on its head which seemed more pronounced when it sang.  When we came back indoors, Sophia looked at the Minnesota bird book and found one that looked similar to what we saw:  Tufted Titmouse.  The name means “Small Bird,” and comes from Scandinavian and Old English words.

However, looking at more pictures of this bird on the internet, led us to believe it may be another bird (perhaps the feathers on the bird’s head just moved so they looked like a crest when it sang).  Looking at the picture of the bird we saw, we noticed it had a spotted chest and was more brown in color.  Looking athe Minnesota bird book again, we found the female rose-breasted grosbeak which looks just like the one we saw.


Don’t forget to look up any birds you identify in the Handbook of Nature Study and see how Anna Botsford Comstock suggests you learn more about that particular bird by reading the narrative and the accompanying lesson.


Allow time for a nature journal entry.  You can print the pages from a coloring book, complete them, and then adhere them into your nature journal or you can use the black line drawings as a guide to sketching your bird directly onto your journal page.

After the walk, the girls worked a bit on their nature journals.  They wrote the names of some of the birds they heard and recognized and counted the number of songs they heard.  Sophia wrote a brief description of the walk and what the day was like (e.g., cool, cloudy).

Looking to the southwest from the nature trail.

Other Activities

I ordered a book from the library that should arrive soon.  It’s called The Music of Wild Birds: An Illustrated, Annotated, and Opinionated Guide to Fifty Birds and Their Songs by: F. Schuyler Mathews and illustrated by Judy Pelikan.  Mr. Mathews was referenced in the Handbook of Nature Study.

What intrigued me about this book is that the description said, “As Mathews points out, the music of wild birds is everywhere – in poems, children’s nursery songs, as well as in the works of the great composers: the Black-billed Cuckoo’s call appears near the close of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony; the Nashville Warbler’s song is found in the opening bars of Rossini’s Carovale, and the Meadowlark’s song is remarkably like the first two bars of Alfredo’s song in La Traviata.

“He reveals how a bird’s character is reflected in its song: the Baltimore Oriole is a sharp-billed, sharp-witted character, and his remarks are as incisive and crisp as the toots of a steam whistle. And he reminds us of the words of our great poets – Wordsworth, Emerson, Sir Walter Scott – and their descriptions of the very same birds and their music.”

Black Capped Chickadee
A black-capped chickadee at the feeder.
We hear the chickadee singing almost every day.

Found this poem about a bird that’s commonly seen around here throughout the year: the black-capped chickadee.  It’s called The Snow-Bird’s Song Poem and it’s by F.C. Woodworth.  The girls both liked the poem…especially the part about the stockings, shoes, and little frock:

The ground was all covered with snow one day,
And two little sisters were busy at play,
When a snow-bird was sitting close by on a tree,
And merrily singing his chick-a-dee-dee,
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
And merrily singing his chick-a-dee-dee.
He had not been singing that tune very long,
Ere Emily heard him, so loud was his song;
“Oh, sister, look out of the window,” said she,
“Here’s a dear little bird singing chick-a-dee-dee.
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
Here’s a dear little bird singing chick-a-dee-dee.
“Oh, mother, do get him some stockings and shoes,
And a nice little frock, and a hat if you choose;
I wish he’d come into the parlor, and see
How warm we would make him, poor chick-a-dee-dee!
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
How warm we would make him, poor chick-a-dee-dee!”
“There is One, my dear child, though I cannot tell who,
Has clothed me already, and warm enough too.
Good morning! Oh, who are so happy as we?”
And away he went singing his chick-a-dee-dee.
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
And away he went singing his chick-a-dee-dee.

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This week was a good one to do the Outdoor Hour Challenge’s Spring Series #2 Spring Weather Observation since there has been a variety of weather:  warm (in the 60s) and cold (in the 30s); rainy, snowy, and no precipitation; and windy and calm. 

As with other posts:

Bold Typeface – is from the Handbook of Nature Study website where the Outdoor Hour Challenges are found.
Italic Typeface – is used for quotes from The Handbook of Nature Study book.
Regular Typeface – reflects my words.

Inside Preparation Work:


Read pages 851-854 in the Handbook of Nature Study. This section is not exactly about weather, but it ties in nicely with some springtime observations of the sun and its path. You might like to construct the Shadow Stick (page 852 #13) and make observations over the next few weeks and months with your children.

We ended up not doing this because for the majority of the week the weather has not been sunny.  However, it does sound like it would be interesting to do, so we will revisit making a shadow stick during the summer when there are more sunny days.

At the very least, look up your sunrise and sunset times to calculate how much daylight you have now that it is spring in your area.

There’s an interesting website that will create calendars with different information that you want that relates to the times of sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, and moonsets as well as other items that you can select for a personal calendar.  We found it interesting to compare the length of daylight and how much it had increased over a period of one month (1 hour and 27 minutes for our town). 

Look in the section “The Relations of the Sun to the Earth” for this week’s reading.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Your Outdoor Hour time this week can be spent making observations about the weather. Enjoy whatever spring weather you are currently experiencing and spend 15 minutes outside looking at the sky, clouds, wind in the trees, dew on the grass, mud puddles after a rain, or whatever else you can experience in your part of the world.

Bailey (the pony) joined Sophia, Olivia, and I
on our nature walk this week.

A few things that we observed on our nature walk that didn’t relate to weather or clouds were: (1) a robin sitting on her nest; (2) male and female pussy willow plants growing near the pond; and (3) perennials growing in the garden.

A robin sitting in her nest in the oak tree.
I was able to see her build part of her nest
when I was on another nature walk.

The other thing we noticed is that the male pussy willows have moved from the catkin to the pollen stage, and now onto yet another stage. 

Male pussy willow that has been through the
catkin and pollen stages. It’s in a third stage now.

In willow trees, male catkins grow on one tree, and different-looking female catkins grow on another.

Female pussy willow. 
The plant has more delicate leaves and
doesn’t produce the catkins (as does the male pussy willow).

According to the Naturalist’s Almanac, “When bees first start looking for food in the spring, they head straight for the willow trees because willows are among the earliest pollen and nectar producers. The hungry bees gather some pollen from the male trees and then visit the female trees for nectar. The bees pollinate the willows unwittingly while they themselves are gathering food.”

After we were done with the walk, we took a quick look at the garden to see how the perennials are coming along.  The rhubarb has grown quite a bit in a few days.

The rhubarb is growing quickly. 

The raspberries are growing leaves (both the cultivated domestic kind as well as the wild kind), the strawberries are coming up, and the catnip had plenty of leaves so the girls could both pick some of it for the cats to enjoy.

Olivia picking catnip for the cats to enjoy (which they did!).

Suggested Observations


Have your children describe any clouds they see in the sky.

These clouds were moving in from the west.  The girls described the clouds as “white” and “fluffy.”  They noticed that the entire sky was not covered, and that the blue sky was showing (quite a change from the morning sky which was completely overcast, gray, and very dismal as it rained heavily for most of the day).

A bright sky and bright, white clouds
moving over the farm from the west.

Notice how hard the wind is blowing by how things are moving: leaves rustling, trees bending, etc.

There were little ripples in the pond, but the trees were not moving much.  There have been much stronger (and scarier) winds here…this one was a pleasant, mild one.

There was a slight breeze, but it was warm enough
so the girls quickly took off their jackets.  

Notice the wind’s direction. Where is it coming from?

The girls faced in the direction that the wind was blowing, and determined it was coming from the south. 

The girls and Bailey are walking towards the
south part of the pasture.  Notice the puddles…there’s
quite a bit of standing water after a day of heavy rain.

Describe the temperature of the air and/or look it up on a thermometer.

It was 54 degrees around 4:15-4:30 p.m.  It was comfortable weather to be outside and do a nature study.  However, it was about 11 degrees colder than yesterday afternoon at about the same time.

54 degrees means no coats and
almost “shorts weather” in Minnesota.

Notice any precipitation that you may have this week: sprinkles, rain, mist, sleet, snow, fog, hail.

There’s been quite a bit of precipitation this week: sprinkles, rain, sleet, and snow.  The pond has fluctuated a bit with its depth and size, but seems to be of some depth which is nice.  There were two ducks swimming in the pond in the late-afternoon.  This is a special treat because the pond usually isn’t that deep for waterfowl to swim in – even at this time of the year.

The girls standing in one of the many puddles in the pasture. 
The water in the puddles is quite murky. It may be because
the grass hasn’t grown in much yet and
there’s quite a bit of dirt showing still.


As we were exploring the pond area, a sudden movement on the ground startled us.  We looked down to spot a frog.  It let us look at it for a rather long time before hopping off to the southwest pasture.

Northern Leopard Frog by the pond in pasture.

We were surprised at how large this frog is – many of the ones that we see here are rather small (an inch or two in length).  They can grow to be 2″-3.5″.

According to the Minnesota DNR site, “The leopard frog is called that because it is spotted, like a leopard. This was once the most widespread frog species in North America. But since the 1960s, its population here and throughout the United States has declined.”

The DNR site continues, “Minnesota’s leopard frog has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. Red-leg disease, pollution, pesticides and the loss of wetlands and other habitat are the main reasons. Leopard frogs are harvested for bait and for use in biology laboratories.”

If you made a Shadow Stick, make sure you spend one day marking the board every half hour from 9 AM to 3 PM. This experiment will need to be repeated again in June, September, and December if possible. (see page 852 #13)

We didn’t make a shadow stick because almost every day this week it seems like it has been either raining, sleeting, or a raining/snowing combination. We will make one to use in June, September, December, and March.

Follow-Up Activity:


Be sure to complete your Seasonal Weather notebook page. If you completed previous weather notebook pages, pull those out and compare the scenes you recorded in Autumn and/or Winter. Note that your days should be getting longer and any other differences you can find between the observations made in the past and now.

The girls and I each did an entry in our nature journals.  In addition to what is shown below, each journal will include at least a couple of photographs from today’s nature study to add a different visual element to the entry as well as bring back memories of the time spent outside together learning about nature.

Olivia’s nature journal.
Sophia’s nature journal.

Sophia also did a second page in her journal listing some of the things she saw and heard during her time outside. 

Sophia’s list of things she saw and heard.

Some of the 26 items on her list included: green grass, mushrooms, moss, a bird house, a baby pine tree,bird calls, the dogs, the sun, and chimes. 

My journal entry.

Extra Information on Clouds


If you observed any clouds, you might like to download this lesson plan and cloud identifier activity for your children. This is a handy tool to use in cloud identification.

A few minutes before we started to head indoors,
the sun began to shine and try to move from behind the clouds.
Another view of the clouds – a bit more
to the northwest than the previous picture.

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