Monday, September 30, 2013

Discovering Nature Study

After attending a workshop on Nature Study at the NICHE conference, I knew that nature study was something I hoped for our family to do. We have done a lot of it this fall, but even now it's hard for me to articulate what's so great about it.

I do know that all of creation proves the existence of a Creator. I guess that sinks from mind to heart when you take the time to really look closely at something God created. Lately we've been catching caterpillars and watching the whole metamorphosis thing. It only takes two weeks for this slimy creature to evolve into a completely different being. How could there not be intelligence behind something so delicately complex and exquisite?

Even more fascinating to me right now is this dead bug my mom mailed to Z...

That's right. My mom found this dead cicada on her patio, packaged it up nicely, and mailed it to us. She's cool like that. It's not that my mom is into dead bugs... she's more into the fascination that little boys can have with bugs. But what really makes this dead bug a treasure is that it lived 17 years as larvae under the ground before it turned into this bug and then died. Seventeen years. That's longer than most dogs live. That's half of my life this creature has been living. 

We learned that cicadas live underground for years feeding off the sap of tree roots. Then, after all that time, crawl out of holes in the ground and up that same tree's trunk. They attach themselves to the tree trunk and crawl out of their shell as the cicada with wings that you see pictured above. They get to live like this for about three more weeks, then die.

Here is a picture of a cicada shell. Z has a whole collection of them in the backyard if you want some.

That's not a bug. It's the shell or skin of a bug. How weird is that?

Here are our cicada sketches. Z's also includes the caterpillar. :)

Drawing what we find in nature really helps us to slow down and see the details of biological happenings... There is life happening all around us and how often do we look at it? How much do we value it? How else could we see the gift that life is without somehow finding a way to treasure it? I knew that nature study would probably be fun and adventurous, but as I'm drawing this sense of reverence comes over me... first for this magnificent life-creature that I never knew before, but then this awe of God who created it to be that way. Created each little detail. Cared enough to do that.

Maybe everybody doesn't feel that way, but I do, and I love getting to experience this with my son.

I keep this "nature bag" by the back door now.

Inside the bag: Bug catching stuff, nature journals, colored pencils, a couple random identification booklets, and some ziploc bags. It's an insulated one so we can even put lunch in the bag if needed.

Some other entries in our nature journals:

Three sides of a rock.

Back of dandelion. Blade of grass.

Leaf. Stick.

As you can see, a nature study can be extremely simple. :)

(And it must be, if you are four years old.)

Robin's nest on the water meter.

And the point for a little guy is to get him to slow down for even two minutes, to look at something long enough to record it on paper in his own way. We admire each other's drawings. He loves doing this together!

Nature reserve park.

Twenty-three lemon basil seedlings.



One morning we "studied" flowers. At our level, that means we observed them and identified a few!

 A monarch and a bumblebee sharing the same flower.

Z made a little booklet about the different colors of flowers he found. I got this printable booklet from the Handbook of Nature Study Website. This site is really helpful and encouraging if you've never done nature studies before. It's based on the Handbook of Nature Study.

 We saw flowers growing in some unexpected places!

(And my spirit was encouraged to bloom right where I am... in the unlikeliest...)

 I may not have found this had I not been out searching!

 God's gifts are everywhere!

I picked up this shelf at a garage sale for a quarter. It's the perfect little nature display for all of Z's treasures.

Learning to ask questions... exploring our world... sparking curiosity... investigating how things work... discovering the facts of life... watching God hold it all together through seasons and systems and seeds... marveling and letting God nurture us through what He made. Nature study is a habit worth keeping. Highly recommend it!

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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