Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fifth Grade: Botany Weeks Two and Three

Weeks two and three have just zipped on by. We've really been enjoying Botany; it's a great study for getting outside!

We packed so much into week two, but we both had a great time and learned much. We started the week by making nature journals. We bought two spiral bound sketchbooks at Michael's  and picked up a kneadable eraser and some drawing pencils. We each painted a water color, to cut down and use as a cover; the sketchbooks looked very impersonal with their black cardboard covers. On our Monday walk at Apollo Park we spent some time sketching a few plants, trying out the sketchbooks and exercising our fingers. And even more fun, we spent Tuesday afternoon in the backyard, just sitting still and observing and sketching our surroundings for 15 minutes. I didn't want to make the session too long, thinking the Boy would rebel. But at my call of "Time's up!" He responded with an "Awwwww, Mom."It sounds so much better at the end of an assignment rather than at the beginning of one. He drew one of our goats:

In our main lessons we moved through pollination, plant classification, and mushrooms. We learned that mushrooms are actually the fruiting body of the underground fungus. (A fact that fascinates the Boy). We drew mushrooms, observed them on our morning walks, photographed many types, and after collecting samples in a torrential downpour, made spore prints.
Main Lesson Book

To make spore prints, collect a few mushroom caps. Place them gill side down on a piece of paper. We used both black and white papers, as we weren't sure what color the spores would be. (Most were white, with one being a yellowish color). Place a glass or a bowl upside down over the cap, to keep it moist and undisturbed. Let it sit overnight. In the morning, remove the cover and the cap, and you should have a spore print on your paper. We pulled out a microscope type toy that the Boy received a few Christmases ago and looked at the prints close up.
Our sample mushrooms
Spore Print

We ended week two with a group field trip to John Rudy park, for a nature scavenger hunt and some much needed social time. Our scavenger hunt was a great success, with all of the kids working together, rather than competing. Walking down the trail you'd hear "Does anyone need an insect? I have an extra!" "I have two pieces of trash, who wants one?" Afterwards we gathered for snack and to display our findings. Several of the kids made bark rubbings, while others jumped on their bikes or scooters and pedaled around the bike path.
Some of the participants in our group scavenger hunt
Over the weekend we spontaneously decided to go camping. After driving our middle son to the bus station (return trip to college in NC) we packed up the car and drove the 45 minutes to Codorus State Park. We spent several relaxing days by the campfire. Really, we didn't do much at all. We ate, walked, sketched, read, and sat by the fire. We learned about American Chestnut trees, found an enormous hornet's nest, skipped stones, and made s'mores. It was a lovely break!
Sketching on our camping trip

Upon returning home, mama was slammed with a three-day migraine, so the Boy joyously spent those days woodworking with his father, watching "Myth Busters," and caring for his mama.

Fortunately the migraine lifted enough for us to join an herb walk on Friday. Our friend Jen, who makes flower essences, took our homeschool group through her farm and introduced us to many plants and their uses. Jen taught us that each plant has a story to tell, and if we listen carefully, the plant will teach us and tell us what it can give for our use. Some of the plants we learned about were: plantain, clovers, roses, elderberry, wood sorrel, goldenrod, ragweed, motherwort, nicotiana, comfrey, and calendula. We'll be heading back there in a few weeks to make a few preparations from some of these plants. I can't wait!

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