Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Outdoor Challenge ~ {Nature Study}

Through cloud rifts the sunlight is streaming in floods to far depths of the wood. Retouching the velvet-leafed dogwood to crimson vital as blood.
(Handbook of Nature Study, p.680)

     Having always loved nature, I couldn't wait to share the outdoors with my children. From forests to ponds to mountains, there is treasure to be found around every corner. (Just yesterday, we found a dead dragonfly and took about 2o minutes talking about body parts. Then, we studied the intricacies of the wings. Amazing how simply observing and questioning leads to real learning.)

      This year, Joe and I are going to take a closer look at all that nature has to offer, and participate in "Outdoor Hour Challenge".

     To start off, we decided to choose a tree. We chose the dogwood in the front yard. We talked about how it is Virginia's state tree and state flower. (And we will study it in depth when we really study Virginia this year. Here is our tree:

     Using Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study, we read about parts of the tree, and then read in depth about the dogwood. We created a collage on the front of the sketchbook and I reinforced it with contact paper so it will withstand being open and closed regularly. (I should also mention that Joe is always concerned about his drawing, and as a general rule doesn't always rush to draw things. However, I have noticed that this is different. He has enjoyed his new sketchbook and wants to make it his own.) Here are the two books:

     So after really focusing on the leaves, Joe decided that he wanted to draw one. Here is his drawing of the leaf and the berry:

     Then he decided that he would draw the entire tree and he noticed that the bark was pretty unique, as evidenced by his drawing. We found lichen on one side which then led to a discussion about parasites and fungi:


     We learned that one of the special things about the dogwood: "The twigs are spread and bent in a peculiar way, so that each white flowerhead may be seen by the admiring world and not be hidden behind any of its neighbors." p.681.

     We certainly look forward to studying "our tree" as the year continues....Allowing inquisitiveness and wonder to be our guides. (I should also add that when we talked about the sap, he mentioned, "So the tree's sap is kind of like my blood? Right?" Exactly. This then prompted him to create a play about a woodsmen cutting down a tree. He was sure to include the fact that the tree left seeds so that even though the family cut down the tree.....there would be more trees. This was totally not the direction that I had planned and I loved every minute of it. And so did Joe.)

     Sharing our journey here:

Outdoor Hour button

and also here:



  1. MJ- I don't have your email address and I was wondering if you were going to do Blue Knights this fall? I think we are going to give it a try but won't be able to make every meeting.

  2. I love dogwood trees and they make the perfect study for a year-long tree study. I love the careful sketches done with detail...great job! I look forward to seeing your next entry next season. :)

    Thanks for sharing your link.


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