This week was the first nature walk for Rose and two of her friends. We are planning to walk together each week, then return to my home, so that the girls can work on creating their very own field guides.
Our first outing was a great success; I began by sending the girls off to play for an hour, as per Miss Mason’s instruction:
“Then, there is much to be got by perching in a tree or nestling in heather, but muscular development comes of more active ways, and an hour or two should be spent in vigorous play; and last, and truly least, a lesson or two must be got in.” Vol 1 pg 45
The girls were most interested in the pond, as the toads and frogs are spawning.
Once they had finished their play, we began our object lesson. We are starting out with the study of trees.
“Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends. In the winter, they will observe the light tresses of the birch, the knotted arms of the oak, the sturdy growth of the sycamore. They may wait to learn the names of the trees until the leaves come. By-and-by, as the spring advances, behold a general stiffening and look of life in the still bare branches; life stirs in the beautiful mystery of the leaf-buds, a nest of delicate baby leaves lying in downy warmth within many waterproof wrappings; oak and elm, beech and birch, each has its own way of folding and packing its leaflets; observe the ‘ruby budded lime’ and the ash, with its pretty stag’s foot of a bud, not green but black –
“More black than ash-buds in the front of March.” Vol 1 pg 52
Here are twigs from some of the trees we observed:
Hawthorn, Horse Chestnut, and Ash.
We observed the placement, size, colour, and texture of the buds. We talked about the presence of lateral buds, (growing along the sides of the twig) and terminal buds, which grow at the end of the twig). Placement of the buds is key to helping us identify the tree; the Ash and Horse Chestnut have opposite branching (buds growing in pairs) The Hawthorn has alternate branching, with the buds growing one at a time.
The buds of many trees are protected by a covering of modified leaves known as scales which protect the new leaves growing inside. The Horse Chestnut scales are covered by a sticky substance which gives even greater protection to the developing leaves. The girls thought that this would be a good way for the tree to protect itself…
We came home for lunch, and after a smashing game of Rapidough, I worked with the girls to help them create the first page of their Field Guides.
We are working on heavy A4 paper, which they can slide into page protectors, to be kept in a special, dedicated binder.
Here is Rosie’s first page: