Tag Archives: nature study

NEW Amphibian Nature Study — and a Spring Give-away!

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Spring showers have meant the arrival of amphibians in Connecticut. See our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a blog post on the study of amphibians, emphasizing survey as an ecological study technique, and the use of approximate measures when recording observations of animals in the field.

See “Studying Amphibians in the Field: Using Approximate Measures” for more information, and a spring give-away of two great e-Books with science journaling resources and nature study ideas.

Or enter using the Rafflecopter form, below:

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Animal and Plant Surveys: 10 Reasons to Get Outside and Survey

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What’s a Survey?

Simply stated, a survey is an overview of the living things in an area. The purpose of a survey is to get a general idea of the types of living things in that area, a step in scientific inquiry that will then (likely) lead to more focused questions about the living things there.

 

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A simple table can be used to survey living things in your location. (c) Simple Science Strategies, 2013.

Why Conduct a Survey?

An animals survey can be a powerful, yet simple, outdoor-based learning task. With only a few minutes a day, several big scientific and educational ideas can be addressed:

  1. For students (and teachers) new to nature study, a survey provides an easy focus for outdoor excursions.
  2. Completing the survey allows students to practice collecting, organizing and interpreting data — an important science and numeracy skill.
  3. Using an organized list to answer a question is an important problem-solving strategy.
  4. Students working together with one clipboard and survey fosters discourse on scientific thinking.
  5. Conducting a series of observations on the same focus guides students to look for patterns over time.
  6. Looking for a particular type of living thing helps students hone their observation skills.
  7. Exposure to nature on a regular basis can engage learners, especially those who don’t have the opportunity to get outside often.
  8. Increasing students’ activity level by the inclusion of outdoor studies can fight childhood obesity.
  9. Working with a table of data gives students practice in using non-fiction text features – an important literacy skill.
  10. Gathering initial observations and data is an important step in both the inquiry and engineering design processes.

 

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Surveys naturally lead to the use of field guides — a staple in a science library.

Sample Animal Surveys

The above survey sheet can be used for amphibian surveys. or a generic animal survey can be used.

For examples of nature studies involving animal surveys, please click on the links, below:

 

 

 

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Nature Study: 15 Minutes to Deeper Science Understandings

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You can enrich any science instruction with outdoor nature study for only 15 minutes a day. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2013

In the Northern Hemisphere, we are (finally!) heading into spring – the nights are still chilly, but the days are creeping up into near 70 degrees F today. My Southern Hemisphere friends and readers are enjoying the shift to autumn weather. The sudden changes in both spring and fall make them excellent times to move your science instruction outdoors. Whether you are a homeschooling family with adolescent children, a parent with a tiny tot in tow, or a classroom teacher with 20 winter-tired faces looking at you, you can take advantage of nature as your classroom, for only 15 minutes a day.

Getting Started With Nature Study

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Nature study can be conducted using only a few minutes a day, and in any outdoor space.

For those of you who are just dipping your toes into the world of nature, here are some excellent resources to help you get it off the ground.

  •  “8 Reasons to Do Nature Study” reviews the rationale behind including nature study in your instruction, from laying the groundwork for more formal studies later on, to enhancing students’ inquiry skills, to increasing their overall health, just by getting outside more.
  • In “Getting Started With Nature Study,” my friend and fellow nature lover, Barb McCoy, gently guides teachers and families into the routine of nature study, through ten simple lessons.
  • When I first started homeschooling, I put together “Nature Study,” a lesson template I use to build a day’s instruction around a 15 minute outdoor excursion.

Building a Nature Study Library

Over the years, I have read many homeschool and outdoor education blogs on nature study, and I have compiled what I find to be the most commonly used nature study “texts” among all users. These books get used so frequently in my house that they rarely get put away. I personally own all of these books, and highly recommend them, for any nature study setting, and any grade level. Click on the individual photos for information on ordering them directly from this page.

[Note: The field guides here are suitable for the northeastern part of the United States, where I live. Choose the field guide that matches your own region.]

Writing and Nature Study

Science and nature study provide rich opportunities for student writing. Here are some resources that you might find helpful, when pushing writing into your science instruction.

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Writing and nature study go perfectly together! (c) Simple Science Strategies, 2012.

Debra Reed, at NotebookingPages.com, has created an amazing assortment of pages that can be used for science and nature notebooking and journaling. We have found pages for just about any topic you’d like to study, and have had a membership for many years. From now until April 30, she is holding several promotions. For more information, coupons and a free gift, click on the link, or ad, below.   NotebookingPages.com Free Nature Study Gift, 50% Coupon, & Prize Giveaway

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  [Note: This post contains affiliate links. I received nothing for mentioning these products, and personally have purchased all of them for my own use as a homeschooler and teacher. I never promote a product I do not currently use or wouldn’t consider purchasing. ]

 

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New e-Book: Nests, Nests, Nests!

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Burgess Animal Book for Children

Nests, Nests, Nests! – a 25-page e-Book for zoology and nature study. Simple Science Strategies, $1.95

Earlier this month, we studied nests, comparing a squirrel’s nest to an oriole’s nest in “Comparing Nests: The ‘Same and Different’ Center.”   For those of you who want to study nests in more depth, I am pleased to share my newest e-Book, Nests, Nests, Nests!

Nests, Nests, Nests! is a 25-page e-Book perfect for the elementary classroom or homeschool science class.

This set includes both primary and regular-ruled science journaling pages focusing on animal nests, as well as a variety of framed pages for thematic writing, note-taking or nature study. Organizers for studying and comparing nests of different animal orders, coloring and copywork pages, and game cards for sorting and classification tasks make this set versatile, perfect for direct instruction or independent learning tasks.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Set includes both primary- and regular-ruled pages.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Several different organizers lead students to compare nests of different animal orders, and to develop a deeper understanding of the purpose of an animal nest.

 

Vintage botanical and zoological illustrations provide high-quality visuals for students to study and color, and the pages include plenty of space for journaling, notebooking or note-taking tasks.

Plain lined pages provide space for more extended writing tasks, or writing paper for independent writing tasks.

The nests of 6 different animal orders  are featured, to get students to think beyond birds’ nests in this study.

Three different organizers are provided: a double-bubble map, and a concept definition frame and a discussion frame.

The double-bubble can be used to compare two different nests, either from the illustrations, from text studies, or from a classroom collection of nests.

The concept definition frame can be used by the class to determine the essential qualities of any nest, and to develop an operational definition about what a nest really is.

The discussion frame is useful for cooperative learning tasks where students decide whether or not humans also create nests.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Two pages of sortable animal nest cards can be used for a variety of games or independent learning tasks.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Manuscript and cursive copywork pages include scriptures that fit the theme.

A two-page set of images can be used to create a sort activity, for small group or independent learning task use. Simply copy them onto cardstock or heavy paper.

Images includes nests from birds, mammals, fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and other animal orders.

All images are original or images that are in the public domain. All the remaining work is original work.

 

If you are a homeschooler, and are looking for a “one-stop” set of notebooking pages, you will appreciate the manuscript and cursive copywork, which draws upon Scriptures on theme.

Per customer requests, this zoology item also includes suggested lesson uses, linked resources and much more.

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Click the button to order now!

 

The link to download the .pdf will be emailed to the email address you provide, within 24 hrs of your purchase.

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The November Simple Science Strategies Newsletter is Here!

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Well, this is not the United States Postal Service…

Weather events, loss of power, school cancellations and other unforeseen events DO affect the schedule here at Simple Science. And we apologize for it!

Winter Storm Ali 2012

We’re done making our snowman… here’s the next newsletter!

Without further ado (or TOO much delay) here is the November edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter.

In it, we will use November nature events as a springboard for conversations about some big science ideas:

Topic — preparing for winter

  • camouflage
  • hibernation
  • evergreen and deciduous trees
  • fall and winter nature finds

Science processes, concepts and disciplines

  • Building an Argument Using Evidence
  • Stability and Change
  • Life Sciences: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Strategies and tools

  • Comparing and Contrasting
  • Using Argument (Discussion Frames) to compare sides of an argument
  • Creating Double Bubble Maps to compare two things
Simple Science Strategies November Newsletter

Click image or link to download the November edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter (2012)

Don’t Forget!

Share…

Please post your work on our Blog Carnival. See the link for important details about the November blog carnival.

Give us feedback…

Take a few moments to complete a very brief survey about your experiences on this blog.

win! (who doesn’t like free?)

Enter on our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a chance to win an All-Season Indoor Composter, by UncommonGoods. Entries will be accepted through the end of November. No purchase necessary. Click here to enter.

 

The All-Seasons Indoor Composter, $48 at UncommonGoods.
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From Apple Flower to Apple Fruit

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On Stability and Change: The Apple

This month, we are studying the concepts of stability and change. The first of our nature-based studies involves a favorite autumn topic in New England: apples.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

The apple: a great opportunity for year-round botany study. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

Apples present an excellent opportunity to study stability and change, in both spring and fall, where we can study the transformation of the bare tree to one with leaves, the emergence of leaves and flowers from buds, the growth of apple fruits from the spent blossoms, the gradual ripening of the fruit, and the ultimate dropping of fruits and leaves as the fall winds down to winter.

This is also a nice opportunity to begin to talk about the structures of flowers and fruits, using the familiar, and accessible, apple, even during the winter months. Use the Apple a Day” notebooking pages, for these, and other, activities.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

An Apple a Day” – September Botany Journaling, 2012
20 pages, $1.95

 

A Year of Studies, by Season

An apple tree, all year round

Using the “Adopt-a-Plant” strategy, choose an apple tree (or, if you do not live near one, a crabapple tree will do), and observe it very early in the spring, before the leaves emerge (March or so, here in New England). Sketch the tree, or one branch on the tree in one frame, and provide a narrative to accompany each drawing. Add additional pages, as necessary. Here are some questions you might use as prompts for sketching and writing:

Winter (March)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. This frame and lines journaling page is useful for multiple sketches over time, or multiple views.

  1. Sketch a bud on a twig. How are the buds protected in the winter? Carefully dissect a bud. What do you see inside?
  2. As the bud opens, what parts of the bud remain? What happens to the other parts? Why do you think this happens?
  3. Notice the markings and scars near the buds. What do you think cause them? Explain.
  4. Count the number of nodes from the tip of a branch to the trunk. How old is the branch? Explain how you figured this out.

Spring (May)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Botanical drawings and content vocabulary for journaling, word study, vocabulary building, or penmanship.

  1. Sketch an opening bud. What parts do you see first, the flowers or the leaves? Do they come out at the same time? Do all buds produce leaves and flowers? Describe what you see.
  2. Draw an opening apple blossom. Label these parts: stem, stipules, calyx, sepals.
  3. Sketch an open apple blossom. How many petals do you see? Draw the calyx behind the petals. What shape is the apple blossom? Color your drawing. Are the petals the same color on the inside as the outside? Why do buds and the blossoms appear different colors?
  4. Draw an open apple blossom. Label these parts: petals, stamens, filament, anther, pistil, stigma.
  5. Have an adult help you cut open the base of the apple blossom. What do you see inside? What do you think these become? Use what you know about apples to help you answer.
  6. Carefully sketch the arrangement of the new leaves as they grow around the blossom. What color are they? Do they stay this color?

Summer (June)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Diagrams with labels, or boxes for labeling. Pages with and without word banks as a scaffold for labeling.

  1. Sketch a twig or blossom after the petals fall. What parts remain? What parts are missing? Why do you think some parts fall off? What part do you think becomes the apple fruit that you eat? What becomes the seeds?
  2. Use a piece of colorful tape to mark one twig with developing apples. Return to sketch one developing apple, once a week. Identify any parts of the original blossom that remain.
  3. How many apples grow from one winter bud? How many leaves? Draw a branch and show the arrangement of apples and leaves.
  4. Does the apple branch keep on growing? What part grows after the fruit forms?

Fall (September)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Woodcuts from botanical texts: useful for rendering accurate colors when observing.

  1. Sketch three apples of different varieties, making sure to render the shape accurately. Describe the differences and similarities in these areas: shape, stem, color.
  2. Observe a ripe apple on a tree. Notice the color. Is it the same color everywhere? Develop a hypothesis about the role of air temperature and sunlight in the development of apple fruit color.
  3. Carefully draw and color one apple. Is it the same color everywhere? Are they spots or streaks? Is it the same color on both sides?
  4. Draw a ripe apple (outside and inside views). Identify the flower parts that created the structures you see.
  5. Use words to describe the texture of the apple skin. What function does the skin serve? (See Experiment 1)
  6. Cut up apples of five varieties. Create a data table to compare and rate them from 1-5 based on these factors: color (1=greenest skin, 5=reddest skin), texture (1=coarsest pulp, 5=finest pulp); crispness (1=crispiest, 5=softest), juiciness (1=juiciest, 5=driest), taste (1=most sour, 5=sweetest), aroma (1=no aroma, 5=strongest aroma).
  7. Cut apples of several varieties from stem to flower end. Draw and compare the core area.

Winter (December)

science strategies apple flower botany

Sample page. A variety of lined pages, in both regular rule and primary rule, for copywork, handwriting practice, observations or thematic writing.

  1. Gather an apple, a pear, a peach, a plum and a cherry. Carefully cut each in half, starting at the stem end. Sketch what you see. What is the same about all these fruits? What is different?
  2. Cut an apple from end to end, along the core. Sketch what you see. Note the core line. Can you connect the stem to the flower end through the core? Why?
  3. Cut another apple across the core. Sketch what you see in this view. Identify the flower parts that formed what you see. Draw the seed cells. Can you see faint dots between the cells? What do you think these are? How many seeds do you find in each cell (carpel)?
  4. List all the apple varieties you know. Use other resources to find more names. Sort them by use, color, country of origin.

Want a Report Cover or Fun Word Wall?

science strategies apple flower botany

Download it here

Two Experiments

These experiments are adapted from The Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock), where you can get many other ideas for prompts for botany journaling or classroom discussion, as well as great background information for you, the teacher.

science strategies apple flower botany

Handbook of Nature Study, $23.67, Barnes & Noble (click on image for ordering information).

Experiment 1. The role of the apple peel

Take three apples of similar size, shape, and soundness. Peel one. Place the peeled apple on a desk or shelf. Place one of the unpeeled apples so that it is touching the peeled apple. Place the remaining unpeeled apple on the other side of the peeled apple, but at a distance, so it does not touch.

Which one would you predict would rot first? Which one would you predict would rot next? Where would the rot start? Why do you think this?

Develop a hypothesis to explain your thinking. Explain what you think the role  the skin serves in the life cycle of the apple tree.

Observe the apples for rot over the next several days. Evaluate your hypothesis.

science strategies apple flower botany

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Experiment 2: More on the role of the apple peel

Take the rotten apple from the first experiment. Use a safety pin or a needle to prick the flesh of the rotten fruit, then use the juice-covered pin to prick a healthy fruit. Go back and forth, pricking the rotten fruit once, then pricking the good fruit, making your initials in the good fruit. Put the inoculated apple on a desk or table. Throw away the rotten fruit or compost it.

Develop a hypothesis about where rot will begin on the inoculated fruit.

Observe the inoculated fruit over the next several days. Note where rot begins. Explain why you think this is so. Also relate your findings to how apples should be handled at the orchard, in shipping, and in the grocery store, to ensure long shelf life.

science strategies apple flower botany

See “Favorite Photo Friday” for more about this photo! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Share Your Work!

Make sure that you share your October apple work on the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Entries are due on October 26, for posting by November 1.

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The “One Small Square” Strategy: Mushrooms and Other “Fun Guys”

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[Edited and re-blogged from “A Child’s Garden,” September 2011. All photographs (c)2010-11, Kim M. Bennett/Simple Science Strategies.]

We originally completed this study last fall, but are re-submitting this for the current SSS Blog Carnival, because it made good use of the “One Small Square” Strategy, the focus strategy for Week 3 of the September Newsletter, and focused on mushrooms, the topic for Week 2!

Mushrooms love the wood chips in my flower bed (Hartford, Connecticut, 2011).

We sure have had some wild weather here in New England at the end of the Summer of 2011. We have had so much rain that the crop of mushrooms sprouting up everywhere has been very interesting and incredible.

Fall, especially the Back to School time, is always a prime time to go mushroom exploring, with the warm days, cool nights and more frequent rain.  Also be on the look-out for mushroom cousins, the slime molds and actinomycetes, that you probably mistake for their more well-known family members. Here is a mushroom study that you can do for September.

 

Before You Go Outside:

Tiny shelf fungi on a dead tree. (Fenton-Ruby Park and Preserve, Willington, Connecticut, 2010.)

 

  • Read up on mushrooms. The Handbook of Nature Study has a very thorough discussion of many of the types of fungi that you might see on an expedition, on pages 714-727. If you read a little further, you can learn about their indoor cousins, the bread molds (pp. 727-728).
  • The Handbook of Nature Study website has an Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge on Mushrooms that has excellent links to videos, notebooking pages and other resources.
  • Gather materials you might need for a mushroom study: clipboards and pencils, hand lenses, a long plant tag or flag to mark your mushroom spot, plastic food service gloves.
  • Read One Small Square: Practice Looking Closely at the World and  Outdoor Hour Challenge #9: One Small Square for descriptions of how to carry out the observation activity. 
  • Prepare observation sheets for each child. 
  • Review routines: “How to Work With a Partner.”
  • Teach safety rules about potentially poisonous plants.

 

Honey mushrooms in a shady flower bed. (Hartford, Connecticut, 2010).

Observing Mushrooms and Their Cousins:

A mushroom study lends itself well to a multiple-day observation, since the fruiting body of most fungi only remains for a few days, and changes considerably with time and the weather.

Step 1: Note the location of some fungi on a nature walk.

Some places to look include wood chipped areas of a school flower garden or playground, rotting logs, tree stumps, and places where a tree once stood. At this time of year, a whole crop can pop up literally overnight, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any on a particular day.

Be on the lookout for the little “buttons” of some mushrooms that look like tan bumps before they sprout up the next day.

Step 2: Use the One Small Square technique to sketch what you observe.
Step 3: Mark the location with a stick or “flag” so you can find it the next day.

Step 4: Return to sketch changes for the next few days, until the mushroom collapses.

Mushrooms change very quickly from day to day, which is exciting for kids. Note the weather each time you observe (that day’s as well as the weather from previous days). These observation forms have a place to record the weather.

Each day you observe, ask the students some questions:

  • How did your mushroom change? Why do you think this happened?
  • What was the weather like the day before? How might that have affected the mushroom?
  • What type of weather do mushrooms prefer? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
  • Where are the mushrooms growing? What is the ground like there? Are there any trees around?
  • Do you see any insects around the mushroom? What are they doing?
  • Does your mushroom have a smell? (Make sure that children don’t handle the mushrooms without wearing gloves, because some poisonous mushrooms resemble harmless ones.)

Classroom Follow-up: 

Study the Anatomy of a Mushroom —

  • Enchanted Learning has a diagram of a gilled mushroom that students can label, to learn the anatomy of one type of mushroom.
  • The Mushroom Lady has a pile of activities that will get your kids really studying mushrooms in-depth.

Learn About Mushroom Relatives —

  • Here is a handy sheet of terms that you might want to study, so that you correctly distinguish between fungi, actinomycetes, slime molds and other fungus-like organisms.

Study Edible Mushrooms (and Eat Them!) —

  • Create a mushroom study station with stereoscopes and various edible mushrooms from your grocer’s produce department: shiitake, oyster, portabella, white button, straw, crimini…

Fairy Rings, Faerie Houses and Other Literacy Connections —

  • Study the folklore surrounding fairy rings and faerie houses.
  • Build a faerie house (or two or 10…) along your school nature trail or in your backyard garden.

Faeries and other woodland creatures — literacy connection!

Resources

One Small Square: Backyard. $2.43 at Barnes & Noble.

A voyage of scientific discovery is as near as your own backyard. There you’ll find a busy hub, full of creepers and crawlers, lifters and leapers, singers, buzzers, climbers, builders, and recyclers. It’s a place where children can smell, listen, look, and get a hands-on feel for life, all in one small square of land and air. Backyard is just one of the exciting, vibrantly illustrated volumes in the critically acclaimed One Small Square series of science and nature books for children. Click on the photo (right) for information on ordering this great addition to your homeschool or classroom science library. (Helpful hint: I had multiple copies for my science center).

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