Friday, October 5, 2012

Nature walks & fall art projects

        My boys bought some Gak at our hotel and they've been dying to use it ever since.  Today I decided to let them play around with it as part of science.  We talked about properties of liquids and solids while trying to decide which category Gak fits into.  They decided it's a little bit of both!  It holds it shape for a while and you can bounce it like a solid but it will fill out the container and loose it's shape after a while like a liquid.  It's slimy and feels wet.  They were able to blow bubble with it like gum using a straw.  They cut it with scissors and put it back together again.  It was really rather neat.  
         We read another chapter in our dragon book and did another quick lesson in our math books.  Then we headed out for a nature hike.  I knew it would be muddy since it's been raining for a few days but decided the fresh air was more important.  We observed the world all around us and how much it's changed even in just the past few weeks with signs of autumn everywhere.  We looked at all the different colored leaves and watched as the wind kept gusting them to the ground in great big bursts like confetti.  We gathered leaves for our art project this afternoon and looked at how they mostly change color from the outside of the leaf inwards.  While we aren't using the actual leaves I wanted them to have some real leaves to look at for inspiration so I encouraged them to look for interesting colors, shapes and a variety of sizes too.  On our walk we saw a heron, a worm, a baby snake, some frogs, and many different types of caterpillars.  We watched a snapping turtle cross the field with the prediction that it must be a female getting ready to lay her eggs.  We saw many butterflies and painted turtles (or sun turtles) sunning themselves on logs and a few of them crossing the road to get to the creek.  We felt the shell and tried to help them move closer to the water and out of the road.  We saw a few different types of spider webs and Alec started teaching us all about spiders.  I had no idea that some don't even spin webs but stalk prey like a tiger.  One type of spider even eats small birds instead of being afraid of them like most spiders.  He had tons more facts for us.  I just had to ask him how he knew all this.  His response was that he had been reading the new Zoobooks magazine he got in the other day and it was all about spiders.  I never even saw him pick it up!  I often comment on how much they're learning without them even realizing it but they continually show me how much they're learning when I don't even realise it!  
Best we can tell this is a yellow bear morph


Spider web w/ dew on it
Heron in the swamp
See the baby garter snake?  My boys thought he was cute
We saw tons of sun turtles sunning themselves on the log
          

one of the caterpillars we saw- a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpilar
"Frog on a log... it rhymes"
milkweed plant (we think)

Snapping turtle walking through the grass

          After our hike we headed home for lunch.  While I made lunch I had the boys each work on writing a letter to Santa.  We hadn't done any writing assignments in a while and I have many family members looking for Christmas ideas for the boys already so I thought this would be a fun way to accomplish both tasks.  It wasn't though.  Other than Ian who sat right down and started writing,  it was another painful writing assignment.  Alec and Evan ended up in tears and left the room.  They weren't even able to come up with ideas of what they wanted to write.  It took a very long time but they eventually finished up a letter.  I helped Evan with most of his since we still can't spell but I did have him write a few words here and there.   I was disappointed and feel like we've spent the last few days since we got home from vacation battling about school work.  I'm not sure if it's just that they got so relaxed about schoolwork while on vacation and need more time to get back into the swing of things, if the activities just aren't engaging enough or what but I'm getting sick of cajoling, threatening and bargaining just to get through one day's worth of work.  Oh well, overall it wasn't a bad day and we accomplished a lot.  We'll have a nice break over the weekend and start fresh again on Monday.  



         Ian (my non- artist) was the only one who felt like doing art this afternoon and we're both thrilled with how well it turned out!  He traced some of the leaves he brought home with him from the hike this morning and colored them in using oil pastels.  He used bright  autumn colors and it came out lovely.  It was so wonderful to see his beaming smile filled with pride.  He's usually a bit disappointed  in how his pictures turn out so I was happy to see him so excited about his final picture.  I just wish the oil pastels we had were more oily and blended better since I was a bit disappointed by the way they didn't really cover the paper but, on the plus side, I didn't have a mess to clean up when art was done!  I did, however, have a lovely fall picture to display.  

    
        We ended our day by going to the orchard to pick apples and then hung around in our backyard for a bit feeding the fish and trying to entice the ducks over to our dock.  It looked like we had a male mallard along with the female today and we were very excited since all summer we fed the females and the ducklings but did not see any males.  Unfortunately, they didn't come close enough for us to be 100% sure that's what we were seeing.  The younger boys watched an episode of Wild Kratts about the proboscis monkey.  Wild Kratts is Alec's favorite show and I love that it combines fiction and non- fiction to make science and animal behavior very exciting.   I'm always amazed at the facts he retains and learn from these shows.  And, once again, I'm amazed by all we managed to accomplish in a day.  We always seem to be a bit more focused on science but they just love it and science teaches us so much about the world around us.  We can't wait to start a weekly round of nature walks now that the perfect weather for it is upon us!  I love fall in New England and am so excited to start our round of fall hiking, and art projects on top of all the traditional holiday planning, baking, and recipe hunting.    

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