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26 April 2013

Nature in the Neighborhood

It's the first week of Nature in the Neighborhood, and I'm so excited about it! I'm also more than a little nervous... what if nobody comes to play?? I guess that's the way it goes when you try to start a blog party. But first, the nature we enjoyed this week!

Fierce little cuties, aren't they!

It's been an unusually good week for us. We had some nature study at home, when we watched the Red-tail Hawk cam. We saw some eggs hatch and nestling behavior, and I also got to watch the adults protect the nestlings from a rain storm. (The boys happened to be watching Superman cartoons at the time, and hawks in rain couldn't compete.) The Great Blue Herons have 5 eggs now, which has been fun. Seems like every time we go check the camera, if we see eggs there's been one more. I've been taking an interest in their nest building. It looks so haphazard... they bring in a stick and set it down somewhere, stab a bit with their beak, and then sit down. But gradually a bowl shaped depression has sort of... happened. Birds are amazing.

So that's been our indoor nature study. This is, I believe, the third year we've been watching the nest cams, and I've come to really enjoy it.

As for our outside nature study, we returned to the park for our 2nd week of our Pond Study. (The first week is here.) That was lots of fun too. At first, the boys had eyes only for the big rocks and long sticks. And what's not to love about a rocks and sticks?!

After a while we headed over closer to the water. First thing we saw was a couple of male mallards. I don't know where the females are; we wondered if they're hiding on nests somewhere close. But we enjoyed seeing the males.

Our pond is a little flooded right now, but when I asked a couple leading questions it was clear that Hero didn't realize it. So we looked closely at a tree that's at the edge of the flooded area, and we'll look closely again next week and maybe the week after. Hopefully, he'll notice without me telling him. I'm not sure that he actually knows what "flooded" means, not really, so it's not surprising that he didn't think anything of it.
We checked out some seed pods. I don't know what they are. But they were not nearly so pokey as they look. Not soft, exactly, but definitely not sharp. I was surprised. I'm wondering if they're thistle, but the dried up stalks of the plants are not enough for me to be able to try to make an identification.
It was about this point that my little water-baby discovered that the grass is saturated and splashes. Last week I got Dragon some lovely yellow rain boots, but they had been all out of Hero's size at our local store. We'd made a special trip to find him rain boots the day before, and now I was really glad we'd done so.
Pretty soon Hero got in on the action as well.
They put those rain boots to good use.

It wasn't terribly warm; I think it was about 40F. So I warned them that once they got wet we were leaving. I was pleasantly surprised at how little trouble there was over staying on the edges. I was consistently helping the little guy figure out where the boundaries were, but once he knew, each time I called him back he came with very little fuss. He's growing up. The big guy, once he knew how far I was comfortable with, stayed in that area, splashing around. He told me today that stomping the water and throwing rocks in it were his favorite parts of the trip. I'm not surprised! I recently got him a sketch book and started asking him to draw something -anything that grows, rather than is built- in his book. This is what he did this week. That's Hero, standing in the pond (the rectangle behind him), wearing his boots. I just love it.

Altogether, a very successful trip to the pond.

What about you? Did you get out in nature this week? Did you watch a nest cam? Did you plan something? Got a tip to share? This is a come-as-you-are party; no need for perfection! Show us what you did and we'll inspire each other! Want a reminder about Nature in the Neighborhood in the future? Like Baby Steps Blog on facebook.

24 April 2013

A Little Hawk Watching

Cornell has these awesome nest cams, and this afternoon the 3rd egg in the Red-tail Hawk nest hatched. Then they had some rain. Watch what happened:

He's so fluffy!!!

Magnificent birds. Oh. And the final baby hatching? They posted a video of that. I'm still amazed at what a process it is for a baby to hatch. I had no idea that it took so much time!
Don't forget - come back on Friday and link up your nature posts in the new blog party! If you want a reminder, head on over to Facebook and "like" Baby Steps Blog


23 April 2013

Announcing: Nature in the Neighborhood

I've been wanting a blog party for nature study. There are so many fun ideas out there. People do some amazing things with their nature study. Some of it fits in nicely with an existing blog event; mine just about never does. So I'm starting a come-as-you-are nature study blog party. Don't have a lot of land to explore on? Me either. We use city parks. Have a lot of land? We'd love to see what you're doing. Stuck inside because of weather that's too hot or too cold? I hear ya! What do you do to keep learning about nature then? Got a great thing going, or you're struggling and looking for inspiration - we want all kinds of nature study posts. I'll open the blog party on Friday mornings at 9am. You post what you did on your blog, link up, and tell your friends.

Birds of Prey Eat Fish

When the things we learn about show up in the kids' play, I know the learning is sticking. This time, for the first time, it's Dragon initiating a game about something from school. I'm loving that!

Dragon has decided that Ospreys are the coolest birds around. He asks me, daily, to show him this clip:

He particularly loves the part where the Osprey shakes itself. We also check in on Cornell's Osprey nest cams. They actually also have a second nest with cameras on it, so we peek at both. We look at the Red Tail Hawks that just hatched, and keep an eye on the Great Blue Herons, and Bald Eagles (they have eaglets already!) but Dragon likes the Osprey best.

I recently got a new sewing machine, and have been making a series of small projects, exploring that capabilities of my new toy tool. One of the first thing was a set of monsters, one for each kid. The boys helped make them, and Hero actually did quite a bit of the work on his (on the right).

When we started watching the Ospreys, Dragon asked me to make him a fish, so that he could be an Osprey. No problem. Happy to do it! And so I did. It was fun. Of course, then Hero had to have one as well. My new machine isn't (technically) an embroidery machine, but it sure does have some nice decorative stitches, which I put to good use on these fish.

The boys decided that they "needed" fish. After all, birds of prey eat fish. They look pretty happy about the new meals. I like it when they like the things I make!

21 April 2013

Soggy in Space

What happens when you wring out a wash cloth in space? It certainly wasn't what either Hero or I guessed!

19 April 2013

At the Pond: Week 1

Over at Angelic Scalliwags they're doing a year long pond study. It's been showing up in my feed regularly for almost 2 months now, and the idea intrigues me. We've been doing nature study for a long time now, and we recently introduced sketch books successfully. But it's been very open-ended. We go to the park and wander around looking at pretty much anything that catches our interest. The instructions for Hero's sketch book are very simple: draw anything from nature. Something that grew, rather than was built by people. While we definitely have some places we visit regularly, it's not been anything terribly intentional. That's just the wild spaces I know about within a reasonable drive of our home.

The idea of a weekly visit to our pond is intriguing. The idea of investigating ecosystems and getting hand-on with some of the science that you could do at the pond - even just doing the "look for interesting things" that we've been doing, but in a for focused way, on a particular environment. It's an appealing idea. So we're went to the pond.

The day looked lovely. Really, it was lovely, in an Early Spring kind of way. We only stayed about 20 minutes because that wind was a great deal more brisk than I'd anticipated. It was downright chilly.

The boys threw rocks into the pond. What could be more natural? They loved throwing the rocks and seeing the splashes, hearing the thwonk of the rock hitting the water.

We had a look at the cat tails along the bank. That was fun. The boys had never touched one before, so I grabbed one that hadn't burst yet & pulled it over where they could reach. I'd forgotten how soft they are.

The silly thing burst while Dragon was touching it, and that brisk wind blew seeds all over him. Surprised us all! Enough that I forgot to take pictures, which is kind of a bummer. He was cute with cat tail seeds all over him. I think I'll have too look up cat tails in the Handbook of Nature Study and see what I can learn about them. Seems like I remember reading about them being good insulation; maybe we can do something fun with that.

18 April 2013

A Little Tigress

We've been debating what our Baby Girl's online nickname ought to be since well before she was born. We've finally settled on Tigress.

17 April 2013

A Little Stargazing

Photo Credit: NASA
We headed outside at about 10:30 pm last night. It was chilly. We had our lawn chairs and my phone, with the Skywatch app. Love that app! So many times I've wished for a real live person to give me a tour of the sky. Skywatch does that for me, so that I can figure out what I'm looking at up there.

Last night when we first got out, Hero wanted me to show him Orion. However, that's a Winter constellation around here, so he wasn't up. We did, however, find the Big Dipper. And with the help of Skywatch, we also figured out Ursa Major. That was particularly exciting to me, since I've known that the Big Dipper is a part of Ursa Major for ages, but had never quite figured out where the larger constellation is. Now I know. We also located the North Star. He wanted me to show him the "South Star, that's opposite." I gave him the short answer; it was bedtime. But we'll be back to the concept.

We've done a lot of reading about Astronomy, but I decided that it's time to take it outside. Hero has been able to find things when I try to show him in the sky, and the boys both love to find the moon. So I'm planning to get outside about once a week. Gotta love homeschool for this kind of thing! Next time, maybe we can find the Little Dipper and Ursa Minor. I'm looking forward to it.

Early Spring

Last week we woke up to some truly beautiful weather. Ice storms are remarkable. And we were spared the power loss and tree damage. It's weather that I love to watch from my living room.

With any luck, it was Winter's last gasp. I'm really hoping that it's finally early Spring at our house. For real. No more snow. Though our forecast would suggest that's probably not the case quite yet.

Still. It's warm enough that we're venturing out.

It's not really that warm yet; "warm" days are still mid-40s. But it feels warm.

The sun and the wind and the birds... delightful.



It sometimes felt like The Winter That Refused To Die. But even here, we occasionally put away the snow shovels. Though if we do it too soon Old Man Winter laughs and gives us another 6 inches. Hopefully that's not what he's got in mind this week.

It's muddy and wet and cloudy and windy. But it's warm enough to be outside in light jackets, if only for short times. And it's so nice to be outside again.

02 April 2013

Jomon Pottery Activity

We're studying Japan right now. We like Japan. The Daddy and I have been there for a visit, before kids. We have various albums of traditional Japanese music laying around, and we recently added Japanese to our school line-up. So finally getting to Japanese history for the first time is pretty exciting.

Photo Credit
Hero's pretty excited too, and was asking to do more "Japanese history stuff." I didn't have a lot on hand; the ideas in the Story of the World activity guide were, for once, not very satisfying. An internet search didn't turn up anything good. I couldn't even find a documentary on the Shrine at Ise, which floored me. And then I remembered that the Jomon period is named for the way they decorated their pots, and it's so simple: they pressed rope into them. So we looked at some pictures. Later in the period, things got much more elaborate. But the Early Jomon pottery is very accessible. This pot seemed relatively representative, so we printed it out for reference.
Then we broke out the play-doh. No mess, no project to figure out what are we going to do with it. Just a model of the pot. Yarn made a good "rope" for pressing into our clay. We talked a bit about how this kind of pot was smalish, so they think they were practical every day pots - stick it in the fire and cook your dinner pots.

I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely the yarn went onto the pot. Wrap the stuff around, and then pull it off. Nothing to it. Turns out nicely authentic looking. If you overlook the fact that it's teal play-doh, and not actually clay. But the design is good!

Hero watched to see what sort of crazy plot I'd hatched, and then he gave it a shot too.

He wrapped the yarn. This step was pretty small, and he worked at it a bit. I didn't remind him to press it in, and maybe I should have; he wasn't super impressed with his results. But it was very authentically his, and I think that counts too.

As with every project, Dragon tagged along too. He gleefully squished my first effort and then was very intent upon making a project of his own. He never did tell me what it was this time.

I'd have to say: not bad for a spur-of-the-moment project. I'm pretty sure that the boys enjoyed it, and hopeful that they'll remember a little bit more because of it. The yarn went into the play-doh toys; I'll be interested to see if they do anything with that in the next little while.


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