Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Autumn Nature Study

We're currently trying a new nature study curriculum, Exploring Nature with Children, and I'm excited to have an outline to help me choose topics of focus for our nature study.

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Autumn Leaves
The first topic we chose was Autumn Leaves.  We started by going on a nature walk one afternoon.  We walked across the farm and down into the woods to their favorite spot in the woods, and I asked questions along the way.  We talked about how we could feel the wind blowing, and we could hear the wind rustling the leaves.  We could hear the leaves crunching under our feet.  We could see leaves fluttering to the ground, and we could see the many different colors.

Of course we gathered leaves during our walk, noticing the different shapes and sizes.

We brought a baggie full of leaves inside with us to do our nature journals.  I decided to let the kids use watercolor pencils.  I bought them a long time ago, but we haven't really used them before.  I felt like they'd work well for nature journals, and would be interesting for the changing colors of the leaves, as I wanted them to focus on the colors.  Also, they aren't used in our art curriculum, so it gives us something different to work with each week.

Elliott chose several different leaves for his nature journal.

Emory chose one leaf to focus on.

Why Do Leaves Change Color?
We discussed chlorophyll and completed this Science Experiment:  Why Do Leaves Change Colors?   The leaves we chose came from a tree who had a few yellow leaves on it, so I wasn't surprised that yellow was the color revealed...except it was very hard to see (it didn't show up well in the pictures either) so we tried it again with leaves from a Red Maple.  The "color" left behind was much more visible, but it was still yellow, though those leaves very certainly turn red.  I'm not really sure what happened.

Autumn Trees
One of the elements included in the nature study program is choosing a tree for a year-long study.  So I gave the boys the assignment to choose a tree relatively close to the house (I'm not hiking down into the woods in the winter) that they wanted to study.  Both boys decided to use the same tree, a small Maple.

I have the LeafSnap app, and this was the first time I tried it.  You might want to keep a white paper or index card in your nature bag, as it says to take the picture on a white background.  I took pictures of a couple leaves and Red Maple was the 1st (or 2nd) choice every time.  {I do keep meaning to try it on other trees that I can readily identify myself to confirm its accuracy, but I keep forgetting!}

Anyway, this ended up being a good tree, because the kids can see it from our house and Eleanor just got the cutest book called Maple from the Imagination Library that she adores, and we've read it frequently.

So this time we had a seat and drew our tree.

Or we just do what everyone else is doing.

 Admittedly, none of the kids lasted very long.  It's so hard to get them to sit still to draw in their nature journals when they want to be out running and playing and exploring.  There's nothing wrong with enjoying nature, though.

The best group shot I could get from my seat on the ground with Eloise.

I just love her face in this one.  I've already shared it, but I can't help myself.

I've been keeping my own nature journal, so the kids see me learning alongside them.  They noticed I didn't draw a ball-and-stick tree with brown and green.  I used a gray color for the trunk, which got them actually examining the bark.  Then we looked for other signs of life.  It's so simple to just see a tree, but when we stop and look, who knows what we'll find!

 Found a ladybug, mom!

Another day, we continued our study by doing leaf rubbings with leaves from our tree.

Emory's leaf.

Eleanor doesn't have an official nature journal like the boys, but she insisted on putting her leaf in a book, so I found her little Minnie Mouse notebook so she could do a leaf rubbing too.  And yes, I've made a mental note to get her a notebook.

An Autumn study has been a simple and easy way to ease back into nature study.  I'm looking forward to the new month and new studies!

More Activities
Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Elhert
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock (I recommend for mom!)
Autumn from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
Autumn Poems from Poem Hunter (choose a couple to share)
Press leaves or do leaf and bark rubbings for your nature journal

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  1. Leaf rubbing is always one of our favorite fall activities!

    1. I hadn't done it in such a long time that it was a "new" activity for my younger ones!

  2. Nice idea to use a nearby tree to study over the course of a year. And leaf art is always so much fun!

    1. I had more leaf-art projects, but there's only so much time in the day, right? LOL!

  3. What great ideas! We lived in the desert for so long that I've completely forgotten about the great activities we could do now that we live in a place with trees.

    I'm definitely going to take my youngest out to pick up some leaves for leaf rubbing.

    1. Hope she enjoys it! It must be interesting to experience different regions, but I wouldn't want to give up my four seasons! :)

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. What a neat nature study time you've been having. :)

    visiting from blogging through alphabet

    1. Thank you! Now that the leaves have turned on their maple, I'm going to point it out on our next nature walk. :)

  5. I am going to have to get that app!y kids are forever asking me what certain trees are, and I hate saying that I don't know! Great post. Autumn is my favorite season.

    1. The app might still be regional, and I couldn't get it to identify one of our apple trees, so I'm not sure if it's limited to native trees or what. I need to play around with it some more, but it is really neat!