Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting in Touch with Nature

Nature walks. The most guilt inducing school-related words I know.  Every year I begin our science studies with the best of intentions because every year before, my best intentions for science have fallen short.  Every book about homeschooling discusses the life-enriching benefits of actually stepping out of one's home and experiencing the science of the world around us.  Every page in the "science section" of homeschooling how-to books waxes poetic about the merits of teaching children about the great outdoors.
In all our years, we've never taken a nature walk and in each of those years, I felt I was cheating my children out of the education they deserved.  Surely by now we should be experts at cross pollinating exotic orchids or at the very least be able to keep the petunias on the front porch watered!
Inspired by another new year of science, we took our first Wright Academy Nature Walk!  Spurred on by a mysterious tree at the bottom of our hill, and armed with our newly-acquired tree identification field guide,

and our science book
we headed out into the heat of the morning and commenced to walk, nature walk.  
When we reached the mystery tree, we set to work.
See those veins on the leaf? Those mean that this tree is of the vascular type and the vein in the center of the heart-shaped leaf is, according to our science book, called the midrib.  I'm telling you the learning that happened on our street today was astounding.

We also learned that it wasn't a simple matter to identify a tree that we knew little about.  It was kind of like looking for a word in the dictionary that you don't know how to spell.  I never could understand that whole thing, "Mrs. Sherman?  How do you spell the word: knife?" To which she would respond, "You'll need to look that up in the dictionary." I know she was well meaning, and I've said the same thing to my own students, but I wasted lots of time in the "N" section of the dictionary that day.

Today, we think we found the right answer for the tree, but we wouldn't bet the ranch on it. 
We asked our resident artist to sketch the leaves and the "pods" on them so we could "send it back to the lab for further testing".  (It's what they always do on TV!)

It was a good exercise (and it was a good way to exercise!) and we learned, and stretched our brains and our legs.  I understand why all those homeschooling "know-it-alls" continue to recommend nature walks. Speaking of those who are in the "know" if ANYONE knows the common name of this tree, please let us know!!
  The Wright Academy had an additional incentive for taking our very first nature walk today...
...seems we've gained a new student and we wanted to make sure that his first day in our school was a pleasant one, so we spent some time outside hoping that there was less chance that we'd scare him away... today.  Tomorrow we're not going to take it so easy on him.

(Daddy's on sabbatical for 4 weeks starting this morning!
Read about it here.)

1 comment:

Sudeana said...

Too much fun! Could you throw you book in for the weekend-I bet there are some pretty good mysteries that could be solved at Mom and Dad's!

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