Category Archives: Nature Study

How To Build A Spiderweb Frame

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Add a bit of wimsey to your garden, by inviting spiders in with a spiderweb frame!

We often squirm at the idea of spiders, but outdoors in the garden, spiders are beneficial!  Why not welcome them in?  Here’s a great article about why we should want spiders in our gardens.

Here’s how we made our spiderweb frame.  We used power tools, but all this could be done with hand tools.  You’ll need the following tools:

  • A saw (a keyhole saw would be good)
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 Screws (long enough to go through the thickness of your wood frame and into your post)
  • 11.5×10 piece of wood (we used 1/2″ plywood as this was a prototype, but you could certainly use a nicer grade of wood)
  • 1×2 post in any length you’d like.  Ours is 2.5 feet

Here’s what you’re going to do:

Cut a piece of wood into an 11.5×10 piece.  Mark with a pencil, a line 1.5 inches from the bottom, going across the piece of wood.

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Next, draw an “X” through the middle of the to 10×10″ portion of the wood.

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Then, starting at the center point, measure 5.5″ out on each line leading to the corners.

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From the end of your 5.5″ mark, cut a 45* angle, creating an octagon that looks like this:

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Next, measure out a 3/4″ border within your octagon, and mark it with a pencil.  Keep your cut line within the 10×10″ portion of the frame.  The big portion at the bottom will be used for securing the post to the frame. This will be your cut line, so you can cut out the inside of the frame.

Drill a hole right on the inside edge on your cut line so you can get your saw in there.

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Then, start cutting!  Cut all along the inside border, all around.

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You’re almost done!  Now you need to grab your two screws and your post, and screw the post into the frame.

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Voila!  You’ve completed your spiderweb frame!  Now push it into the dirt in your garden, and wait for a spider to show up, to make your frame her home!

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When you make your spiderweb frame, please send photos so I can post them, or link your blog below.  I’d love to see what you made!

Outdoor Science Adventure: Cotton-Tail Rabbits

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Sometimes a nature study opportunity just presents itself!  Two days ago we discovered that a cotton-tailed rabbit had delivered a litter of 8 bunnies in the raised garden outside our condo!  Ever since, we have been visiting, observing, and feeding our fuzzy new neighbors.  What a perfect time to do a cotton-tail rabbit nature study!

DSCN3958Here’s what we did:

We read pages 215-219 in Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.  I don’t read the entire section to my kids because it wouldn’t hold their attention.  I go through with a pencil and underline the parts I want to read.

After that, we went down to observe the bunnies.

  • Pay attention to the rabbit’s ears.  What do you think it’s thinking?
  • Take a look at the nostrils.  Why do you think it wiggles so?  Do you think they have a good sense of smell?
  • Look at the placement of they eyes.  Why do you think they’re located where they are?  Do rabbits blink?
  • Look at the hind legs.  Why do rabbits need such strong hind legs?
  • How does a rabbit protect itself?  What is meant by “freezing”?

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The girls made a few sketches of the rabbits.  We didn’t use a printable for this because it was super last minute, and we didn’t have a chance to print anything out.  Instead, the kids made a scrapbook page to paste her sketches onto.  She wrote a few interesting facts that she learned about.  Here are some of the things we learned about rabbits that we didn’t know before:

  • Bunnies leave their coverlet at 3 weeks old, at which time they’re on their own.
  • Rabbits use their strong hind legs to jump up to 8 feet (which would explain how they got into our high-off-the-ground planter)
  • Predators for baby rabbits include; hawks, owls, snakes, and red squirrels. RED SQUIRRELS!
  • Rabbits don’t dig their own burrows.  They move in to deserted burrows of woodchucks or skunks.  The mother rabbit makes a coverlet using grass and her own fur.  In the case of our baby bunnies, they mom didn’t use a burrow.  She just made a coverlet out of mulch.  City rabbit!

The Handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com is, to me, the holy grail of nature study.  She did a great nature study about rabbits back in January of 2009.  Well, as you know, nature study never goes out of style!  The info in still relevant ;)  Check it out!

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The bunnies came right up to our “observation window” to peek in at the girls.

Have you done a nature study about rabbits?  Post a link to your blog post about it, below!

The Reluctant Naturalist’s Guide To Nature Study

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It’s not always easy to get outside to do nature study, is it?  In my homeschool, nature study is very important, and high on my priority list.

But, even though it’s “high on my priority list,”  I find it’s really easy to put it on the back burner when other fun things come up.

 

 
Here are a few tips for getting out there and actually doing nature study, even if you’re a reluctant naturalist:

Just get out there!  Make a commitment to get outside and into nature for an hour, at least once per week.  Even if it’s very informal, kids will pick up on the joy of the natural environment.  It doesn’t take any work on your part for your children to observe the smells that waft through the woods or a grassy field, to see what happens when they poke at a puddle with a stick, throw rocks into a creek, or look at interesting moss growing on a tree.

DSCN1911You don’t have to travel far to get into nature!  I live in a downtown area, with a lot of brick and concrete.  To get out into nature has to be an intentional endeavor.  That being said, we can always walk to or take a short drive to be at least partially immersed in nature’s splendor.  Even a man made city park is full of squirrels to observe, ducks to feed, various types of trees, and bugs.  Don’t feel like you have to drive great distances to get into the wilderness in order to enjoy nature study.

But, what if I forgot my printables?  Don’t laugh.  This is a biggie for me.  When I first started coordinating our nature study efforts, I thought I had to have pretty printables with areas for the kids to sketch their finding, and write everything down.  Now I know that while the printables one might find on the internet are super cool, they’re not necessary.  If you want to have your children record what they’re observing, you can do a simple nature journal that you make yourself, or just do nothing.  The sights, sounds, and smells that your child will observe while out in nature will be permanently ingrained into their memories.

You don’t need to be able to identify every plant, bird call, or cloud formation! Really, you don’t.  If your child asks a question that you can’t answer, use it as an opportunity to learn more about it later.   Here are some good online resources for identifying things you might find in nature:

Rocks                                          Clouds                                       Trees

Flowers                                       Bird Calls                               Reptiles

Form a group that meets up on a regular basis. If you need accountability to make sure you’re getting out there, form a group!  Get the word out on Facebook, meetup.com, or in your homeschool group.  Plan to meet up weekly (or monthly, or bi-monthly, whatever fits into your schedule), and just do it!

This is a fantastic time of year to get into the nature study habit!  Just get out there, have fun, and make some memories!

 

Outdoor Science Adventure: Bracket Fungi

 

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It would be very rare to go on a walk in the woods and not find a bracket fungus attached to the bottom of a tree.  While very pretty and whimsical looking, this beautiful fungus is actually an indicator that the tree is doomed.  While the tree will not die immediately, it could shorten decades off it’s life.

There are many different types of bracket fungi.  Here’s a great link that illustrates various types.

How do trees get bracket fungi?  When a tree has a sore (an open spot caused by a falling tree, metal object, storm damage, etc), it’s susceptible to fungi spores.  Once they’ve entered the unprotected part of the tree, they make their home.

How can one prevent bracket fungi from forming on an injured tree?  Opinions differ on this.  Some people think it’s best to just leave it and let nature take it’s course.  Others say it’s important to use a tree spray to keep bugs and fungi spores out of the opening.  I suppose this would make a great experiment if you had damage to a couple trees in a storm!  The most important thing is to teach children (and adults!) not to harm trees.

Next time you head out to the woods, be on the lookout for bracket fungi!  Here’s a printable you can bring with you, and put into your science journal: Outdoor Adventure Bracket Fungi.

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Bracket Fungus is also sometimes known as Artists Conch, because the bottom can be etched.  Here is an example of really beautiful bracket fungi art!

Here is some artwork that the kids did.  Isn’t it cool?

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If you do a bracket fungus nature adventure, please post a link to your blog post.  We’d love to see what you’re up to!