Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nature Study

When I read about nature studies; I really could see this beautiful, relaxed afternoon. Playing in the park. My children listening intently as I read to them about the natural world around them... So peaceful, so serene... My children hanging on my every word... 
Now let me tell you how our first nature walk went.... 
I packed up a bag of all my Charlotte Mason recommended materials and a few extras. Audubon Filed Guide, colored pencils, bug boxes, magnifying glasses, tweezers, and of course our handmade and fully improvised individual nature study notebooks. 
I strapped my pack of goodies onto my back and the family hit the trail. Actually the asphalt as, I live in a city. 
There is a park a few blocks away from our condo so we rode our bikes down to the park. It seemed like a great idea except Twizzler kept lagging behind while Skittles was off to the races. 
When we got to the park, we were exhausted and just let the kids run around. Charlotte would be proud except that the kids were not delving into nature, they were swinging from the monkey bars. Oh well. note to self: next nature walk should not take place at a playground. 
It was pretty hard to drag them toward anything natural while we were at the playground so we took them down to the water. The park is on a river. So, we all walked over to the water's edge and began to walk down a pier. Then Twizzler put the breaks on and cried out that he was afraid he might get sea sick if he stepped out onto the pier. So, we took turns going back and forth until he finally realized he might be missing out on something interesting at the end of the pier and he was. At the end of the pier was a jet ski dock. I had never seen one before.. I don't know if you have, but it looks like a bunch of black laundry detergent bottles tied together. 
We had been told, that in the morning you can sometimes find sea turtles sunning themselves on the dock.. but alas, it was mid-afternoon and there was no life to be found. Not a sea turtle, not a manatee, not even a fish! 
We were about to give up the search when Skittles found something sticking up between two of the black plastic "detergent bottles". It looked like a large thick green bean. NATURE!!!!! EUREKA!
We gathered our belongings and marched over to the picnic tables, nature specimen in hand. I was afraid that such a strange looking thing would be difficult to find but it was in the first few pages. It turn's out our specimen was actually a mangrove propagule. WHAT A DISCOVERY!!!! 
We read about propagules, which are like seeds that fall off of the mangrove trees and float down stream until they find a resting place in the loose soil and begin to grow. 
We got out the colored pencils and began making our entries. I was feeling successful... Then a homeless guy showed up and laid down on the bench next to us. I am not the kind of person who would abandon a learning opportunity over one homeless man. Then a few more showed up. So we grabbed up our notebooks and went home.
When we got home Skittles threw the mangrove pod into the mangrove swamp that our condo overlooks. We had every intention of coming back and observing it to see if it would grown. I don't know how many of you have ever seen an actual mangrove swamp before but I can tell you it looks like a million sticks coming out of the ground. I couldn't tell one from the other if I tried. 
At the end of the day, my nature study did not turn out quite the way I had imagined it. However, the kids learned something new. So did I and that is what it's all about. RIGHT?!?!?

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