Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family Fun Day

Fred and I have arranged our work schedules so that one of us is always home with the kids. This arrangement, unfortunately, does not leave many opportunities for the family to do things all together. Our solution was to create monthly Family Fun Day. One day a month we both take off of work and Ms. Q takes off of school and we spend the whole day doing something fun together. This was our first one. It worked out great so we are planning our next one for September.

We started out at the Cape May County Park Zoo.

Then we ate Rita's water ice - yum - and rented a movie. When we got home we set up a tent in the backyard so we could have a camp out!

We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs - and of course that sweet Jersey corn.

Fred set up a movie projector and screen for an outdoor movie and we all had a great time camping out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Outdoor Challenge #4 & #5

I just realized that I never published our expereince with challenge #4. Although I wrote it last week I seemed to have saved it in draft format. So I added this week's #5 to it.
Challenge #4
The Outdoor Hour Challenge this week was to walk outdoors and observe. The challenge was to notice what your child pays attention to and develop a focus area. The next challenges will involve discussing and researching the chosen focus area.
I found this passage in the recommended Handbook of Nature Study reading very inspiring:
"The child should never be required to learn the name of anything in the nature-study work; but the name should be used so often and so naturally in his presence that he will learn it without being conscious of the process."

Why this passage strikes me so, I am not sure. I know very few scientific names for things. In fact, when I was required to learn the scientific names for things in school I am pretty sure I purposely ignored the teacher because of the irrelevance of this knowledge to life. The idea behind this statement is what really captured me. We are new to nature study but have always been nature observers and enjoyers. I have no idea how to "teach" about nature. But this statement is reassuring in that I really don't need to teach anything, just set a good example.
We really enjoyed the park we went to this week. It was new one for us, close enough to get to quickly and just enough nature for observing. It is a city park, not a preserve, but beautiful just the same. After discussing all the plants and animals we saw today, Ms. Q decided that her focus area will be butterflies!

Challenge #5
For this challenge we brought a friend and spent most of the day hiking through the pinelands.
We tried to keep focused on looking for butterflies but there didn't seem to be very many. According to an article I read in the local newspaper, our over abundance of rain this summer has dramatically decreased the number of butterflies in our area. It did however increase the number of mushroom varieties we saw on our hike. We saw over 20 different kinds! The different colors, shapes, and sizes had the girls running with the camera from one spot to another.
The highlight of our hike was this little guy (or gal):
The girls thought it was so cool how (s)he covered up with the leaves in order not to be seen. This led to an interesting conversation about camouflage in nature and how animals use it for protection from predators.
Other highlights included a set of deer tracks that Ms. Q identified and attempted to follow, a salamander climbing on a tree trunk, and an observation deck overlooking a fast moving stream.
Here are some pictures from our day:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dolphin Camp (Finally!)

Ms. Q and Fred FINALLY made it to Dolphin Camp this week! They were originally supposed to go last month but were rained out. Ms. Q has been waiting for Dolphin Camp day since we studied the ocean and dolphins as a unit study in May.
They began the day with a lesson on dolphins and learned how volunteers at the Marine Mammal Standing Center help rescue dolphins who have been stranded on the shore. Then they took a cruise to see if they could spot any dolphins.
Dad do you see any yet?

I think there are some there!


Thursday, August 6, 2009


Ms. Q has been patiently waiting for her sunflowers to bloom...and they are finally here! She has been checking on them and recording the progress in a sunflower journal she made. She observed and measured them each step of the way from planting the seeds until today when this little beauty final opened. She took a million pictures of them (including the one above).

She was slightly disappointed that it isn't taller than her but I explained that not all sunflowers get that tall and she was ok with that. She is so proud of her flowers she has been giving visitors a tour of them. Which is really funny because they are planted right next to our driveway and anyone parking in the driveway will have already seen them! But she likes it when people comment on how beautiful they are. So - Wow - isn't this flower beautiful!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Karate Kids

Ms. Q and the team from Art In Motion Karate did a wonderful job demonstrating their martial arts skills Saturday. The kids performed a wonderful demonstration at the San Juan Festival here in town despite temperatures that soared into the high 90's.

This was the demo team's first presentation and the kids practiced hard the last few weeks to make sure they were prepared. Congratulations to the kids on a job well done. We are so very proud.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Outdoor Challenge #3

Outdoor Challenge #3 was a great success! It has been raining off and on for weeks and Little M is getting over being sick, so we stuck to our own backyard again this week.

Ms. Q is already used to drawing in her nature journal and she was excited to draw the story of our nature walk. She noticed a small hole in the ground that ants were walking around but not going in. She hypothesized that this was not an ant hole because it was too large. I asked her how deep did she think the hole was. She did not know but she thought it must be pretty deep because it was so big. I took a long blade of grass and stuck it into the hole. It wasn't very deep but very loud buzzing sound followed and a large dark insect stuck its head out of the hole!!! We yelled and ran away, but did come back again to finish our exploring.

Ms. Q thinks that the insect could have been a cicada nymph. She knows more about insects than I do, so I believe her. Evidently cicada nymphs grow underground and then come out and climb trees to shed their skin before becoming mature adults. She loves collecting these skins every year.

Her journal entry was great. She wrote the story and drew some great pictures to go along with it. I tried to remind her to use descriptive words like we did last week to describe what she experienced and she did pretty well with using them in her narrative. So far so good. We are really excited to get to next week's challenge.