On day two of our new block party homeschool schedule, Eva and I dove into science. When making our science study decisions, I turn to Eva for input. As you may remember, she has requested a makers year this year, which determines all of our science-y choices. Within that framework, Eva landed on wildlife study as our first focus. This is a great choice for us, as both a transition from summer, and an opportunity to take advantage of the lingering pretty weather before the first snows of winter.
On DIY.org (our go-to place), Eva chose the Zoologist patch. To earn a patch, participants must choose three tasks to complete, document them, and then upload them to the DIY website. Eva selected the projects “Photograph an Animal in the Wild,” “Build a Wildlife Habitat,” and “Create and Test an Animal Maze.” Our camera battery was dead – boo – so we settled on building a wildlife habitat.
But first, in keeping with our Epic Formula of Clever Videos, Great Texts, and Creative Hands-On Activities, we started with some awesome short videos. Crash Course offered a fun look at the taxonomy of chordates and animal behavior. Ted-Ed provided short films on symbiosis, vermicomposting, and urban honeybees. Discussion and excitement ensued, and we hit the yard for our next phase of work. Over the next two hours, Eva and I cleared out her overgrown fairy garden, discussing the irony of destroying wildlife to make a habitat for wildlife. We get the hypocrisy, but recognized that this is a small patch of ground, and that we hoped to use it to both benefit wildlife and as a learning lab for us.
Here’s what we did in the garden:
1. We rebuilt Eva’s small pond, making sure it had small, leveled stones available for buggy self-rescue if one happened to fall in;
2. We cleared out the underbrush, and laid down freshly made compost from our compost bin;
3. We talked about what ingredients can go into a compost bin, and which ones should be left out; this tied in nicely to the vermicomposting video we had watched earlier;
4. We used the book Kids’ Easy to Create Wildlife Habitats by Emily Stetson to research the various aspects of animal needs we could address in the garden;
5. I agreed to split a small hosta with Eva, and taught her how to dig one up and divide it so that both halves would thrive. We used water from our newly installed rain barrel to give the new divisions a drink;
6. In addition to the pond, Eva decided on six constructed animal habitats for her garden: a birdhouse (which we will build next Tuesday), a bat house (which I will purchase), a banana/brown sugar smear mixture that will attract bugs for observation, a bug house, carefully selected plant life for the small patch of composted area to provide cover and shelter, and one additional suet feeder for the birds.
Observation takes time, and so often in our rushed checklist way of “doing” education, we don’t allow for this luxury. And I’m not pointing any fingers; I struggle with this myself, wanting so much to check things off and move along, feeling accomplished and productive in my Teacherness. But next week after we build our birdhouse and smear the banana, we will sit and watch, and hopefully catch a cool photograph. The sitting and watching and being is essential. Not to sound all Zen (though… if only I could be such a person…), but the best insights can come in moments of stillness. Being quiet and opening our eyes and ears and noses and fingers to the world around us will teach us so much more than any text, any video. We’re going to take our time with this, and see where it all takes us. Intensity and depth are themes of our year.
Next up: English Party! Feeling kind of geeky about Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, as we plunge into Pride and Prejudice.
For more photos of the gardens, click on one of the gallery thumbnails below!