Nature Study: Dandelion

Outdoor HourFor this week’s nature study, we’re continuing our flower study with Outdoor Hour Challenge #14. As part of the challenge, we chose another flower to study in detail, and this week’s lucky winner was the plentiful and sturdy dandelion. Has anybody noticed that two out of three of our flower studies have been weeds? You’d think that we have no other flowers to study, but that’s not the case. It just so happens that The Handbook of Nature Study has a lot of information on these weeds, and most of my garden flowers are either not listed in there or we just happened to miss the bloom time (like with daffodils and irises). Anyway, on with our weed/flower study…

Ever tried to pull up dandelions from your yard or garden? We have, so we already knew that they have quite long and strong tap roots! What we didn’t know is exactly how the puff-balls that kids love to blow as well as those happy little yellow flowers grow on the same plant. And why? We learned that they start out as the cute and usually short (to avoid mower blades!) yellow flowers, which close at night and open during the day. We’re going to try to watch this week and see if we can tell what time of evening they close, and what time of day they open. These are also composite flowers, made up of many tiny flowers on one flower head. After they mature, they close up again, stay that way for several days, and grow taller. When they reopen, they have become puff-balls. One plant we found in the backyard had every stage on the same plant! It was so fascinating to see that in real life in our own yard after reading about all those many stages in our Handbook of Nature Study! Lacy, our dog, got to help with this study since it was inside the fenced back yard, but she wanted to eat the dandelions! It may look like she’s just laying there in the picture, but she’s actually inching her way towards Kathryn in hopes of snatching the dandelion and running away with it.
Lacy helps pick dandelions
For her nature journal entry, Kathryn drew an enlarged picture of the dandelion seed, or akene, after examining it with a magnifying glass, and then came up with the idea to also tape a specimen of a real akene on the page next to her drawing. She described how it looked to her, and wrote some of what we learned about the dandelion. She even copied a little verse (the “with locks of gold…” part) from of The Handbook of Nature Study (p. 533):nature journal entry
Another part of this week’s study was making pressed flowers. Lacy tried to help with this, too and do a little close-up flower examination of her own as we tried to press them in our big ol’ Webster’s Dictionary. She is a very silly dog. We are pressing a foxglove flower, a honeysuckle bloom, a sundrop, and a sprig of thyme, as well as a few rose petals simply because Kathryn loves them. I think she hates to see the pretty roses fade and fall apart, but learning about how flowers do their job is helping her understand why they can’t all just stay looking pretty forever. And I am happy to report that our unwelcome stink-bug visitors seem to be all gone now, so it’s safe to prune my roses again! Hooray!!!

A little more about Kathryn’s nature journal entry: I noticed that Harmony Art Mom addressed some questions about nature journals/notebooks, and although this is our first year doing this, I hope that sharing what we do might help someone else figure out what they want to do. One thing I must be careful of is to remind myself that it is Kathryn’s journal – NOT mine! I also want to share a bit of “gold” from Anna Botsford Comstock in The Handbook of Nature Study on pages 14-16. I urge you to read all of that section if you haven’t already done so, but here are a few really important parts that struck me when I read it:

“A field notebook may be a joy to the pupil… The book should be considered the personal property of the child and should never be criticized by the teacher except as a matter of encouragement… No child should be compelled to have a notebook… It is a friendly gate which admits the teacher to a knowledge of what the child sees and cares for… These books, of whatever quality, are precious beyond price to their owners.”

Have a great time enjoying the nature around YOU this week! And thanks for joining in our little study!

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