What is happening in the natural world where you live?
What is happening in the natural world where you live?
There are only a couple of days left ’till sign ups for the Nature Pen Friends close, so please do get in touch soon if you would like to participate. Information is here.
It has been a while since I did a weekly round up, and while this post isn’t exactly that, it gives you a bit of an idea what we have been up to.
Back in May 2015, Two kilograms of rocket seeds took off from Florida bound for the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month Principia mission.
After several months on board, the seeds were sent back and landed in the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2016. After they returned to the UK, they were packaged up with identical seeds that had stayed on earth. Schools (and home educators!) were invited to take part, and participants each received two packets of 100 seeds to grow and compare.
We planted our seeds with friends who are helping us with the project. I shall keep you posted on the developments!
We also had heaps of fun investigating Barn Owl pellets this week!
Big girl took a break from exam revision to join us as we carefully excavated the pellets to find what the owl had eaten.
This was utterly fascinating, and we found the remains of several small mammals and birds. Here are just a few of the bones we found.
This week was also my birthday, so I did some celebratory dyeing and dyed up some sock yarn, inspired by the colours of the bluebells that are beginning to bloom.
I received some books for my birthday that I am really looking forward to getting stuck into; Creating Textured Landscapes, and Drawing and Painting Trees in the Landscape, both by Claudia Nice. Her art work is beautiful and inspiring, so I am hoping to learn a lot from working through the books at my own pace.
Speaking of books, we have some great ones on the go; Elianna is reading Never Give In, The Extraordinary Character Of Winston Churchill, Rose is reading Woof! by Allen Ahlberg, and together we are reading My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrel, which is hilarious (though, be warned, it does contain swearing.)
Rose has been very busy in the garden, rescuing tired bees and even a wasp, tending and observing the tadpoles, and chasing our cat when he unfortunately caught a baby bird. She is making the most of the burst of fine weather we are having at the moment; getting her schoolwork finished as early as possible, and heading barefoot into the garden. Which is where she would much rather be.
“Lectio Divina” is a Latin term for the Christian practice of “divine reading”, a way to read the scriptures, meditating upon them, and moving forward in prayer. The reader is changed by this deep and powerful experience; but what has this to do with nature study?
These three stages of learning are reflected through many ideas of education. They are a truly wonderful way to approach nature study. Let us look at the three stages of Lectio Divina and how we can bring these ideas to the study of nature.
When studying nature, this would be the stage at which we closely observe. Like the grammar stage of The Trivium, we are learning the facts about our subject. We spend time closely observing nature, learning, reading books and field guides and building up a store of knowledge about our subject.
In our nature journals, this may look like:
Key facts such as the location, date, time of day or night.
Brief notes on the weather.
We may make quick sketches to capture what we see, notes at the sides of our sketches to help us remember key details, such as notes on textures, position etc.
Latin names of subjects
This is such an important step in nature study; not to be rushed or missed by the harried parent! Reflecting upon what we have learned, making our own connections, thinking critically is important to building a relationship with, and understanding, the natural world around us. How does all that we observed in stage one fit together? This would be the logic stage within The Trivium.
In our journals we may make notes on connections; ‘what does this remind me of ?’ I would strongly urge you to read this blog post by naturalist John Muir Laws: Prompts For Deeper Nature Observation. His questions, I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of, are wonderful, thought provoking tools.
The final stage is our response to all we have learned and discovered. We have been changed by our experiences and have a need to communicate and express that. We cannot do this stage well, or authentically, without the building blocks of the previous stages, like the Rhetoric stage in The Trivium.
Our nature journals are the perfect place to respond; we may choose to:
Create more intricate, fully formed paintings or drawings of the focus of our nature study.
An arrangement of pressed flowers or leaves
Quotes that pertain to the subject
Passages of scripture
Poetry; either written by ourselves in response to our wonder at the focus of our studies, or poetry written by another, that our heart connects with.
Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to the journal keeper.
These stages are not fixed rules, but an oft-practiced pattern to mark the way as we progress in our journaling of the natural world, and enter into a deeper relationship and knowledge.
This week in Exploring Nature With Children is the ‘nesting birds’ week. Rose and I headed to our special nature spot, looking out for any nesting activity, and whilst we didn’t see any birds obviously nest building, we did spot existing nests.
Once we arrived at the park we saw lots of mating behaviour; male pigeons puffed up and strutting their stuff to impress the females, male mallards fighting with each other and chasing females. Two of the males chased each other ’round and ’round in the pond, snapping at each other’s tales. It was quite a drama!
Rose with her pigeon friends
We also spotted this unusually marked fellow!
Isn’t he handsome!
The snowdrops are still thriving.
There was a glorious display of Daffodils.
We spotted beautiful lichen!
I found this smashing interactive on the Mallard Lifecycle that you may be interested in taking a look at.
We didn’t work in our journals this week; we have been busy visiting my poorly Mother-in-law, and our walk fell on our 100th day of school, so we were focused somewhat on the fun activities surrounding that.
How was your walk this week? Do let me know in the comments or FaceBook group.
I have been taking time to look back through my sketchbook from last year.
I began to play around with watercolour, painting animals in a free and relaxed way. I tried to capture the spirit of each animal, rather than a hyper-realistic image.
Unfortunately, I let life get in the way and I didn’t keep up with the exploration. I have ordered a new sketchbook for myself, as my old one only has a couple of pages left, so I am hoping this will be a good creativity boost!
Our nature study had a different flavour this week as we visited our local Pets At Home for a reptile workshop.
Pets at home offer a range of workshops , aimed at children from the ages of 5-11, although the website states that children of all ages are welcome.
Our workshop was hosted by Mark, a Pets At Home employee who was both knowledgable about the animals, and great with kids. We learned an awful lot about Charlie the Corn Snake, a resident of our local store, and the children got to hold him, which was of course a great hit!
I would definitely recommend going along to a workshop at your local Pets At Home; Rose and her friend had a blast, and are planning to get a flat together when they are grown up, so they can keep as many pets as possible! The workshops are still available, so check the website to see what is going on in your own local store.
I am often asked about getting started with nature drawing for both parent and child.
The best advice I can give for both parent & child is to simply draw.
Charlotte Mason knew what she was doing; observing nature closely, and drawing what you see (not what you think you see) is essential to building drawing skills. And vice versa; drawing will build observation skills.
“It is only what we have truly seen that we can truly reproduce; hence, observation is enormously trained by art-teaching.” Charlotte Mason
My firm belief is that everyone can draw. Of course, some will be more talented, or pick it up quicker, but there are rules we can learn, which when followed, produce authentic results.
Would we tell someone who cannot read that they do not have talent? We would show them step by step the keys to reading. I believe it is the same with art.
I also have a tutorial on my own blog which is more my current, splashy, loose style, and takes you step by step to create your own journal entry.
You may also find these other posts to be of help:
Not on sketching, but has useful ideas on nature study with children:
I would also really recommend the following books by Claire Walker Leslie:
I would also strongly recommend studying great works of art as part of a child’s education.
“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture”
Charlotte Mason Vol. 1, p. 309
So again, as well as surrounding the child with beauty, it is the idea of the “power of seeing”, and “only what we have truly seen” that makes a difference.
Here is an excellent article on how to get started with studying art with your child.
Exploring Nature With Children is a smashing resource for making picture study happen regularly in your own home. It has the name and details of a famous work of art that relates to the nature topic being studied each week. The works of art are easily looked up online, or found in art books available from your local library.
There is one picture for each of the forty-eight weeks of nature study; four weeks for each month of the year, organised by season.
In conclusion, to learn to sketch, you have to sketch. We can read all the books, buy all the supplies, but in the end we have to get down to the task, and learn by doing, learn by our mistakes. Which can be pretty humbling! But I think it is great for our children, to see us struggle to learn something new. It is a great reminder to us of how our children feel when they are working to master a new skill. Also be sure to surround yourself and your child with beauty, both in nature and in art.
Small steps, small steps.