Dedication and Passion

When Sweetie started fly tying earlier this year, she learned of a scholarship opportunity to attend Fish Camp. She expressed interest in going to camp and talked of it frequently. Under the tutelage of experts, the young anglers learn the fundamentals of casting, fly fishing techniques, advanced fly tying, and outdoor skills through an award winning summer fly fishing camp located in Northern California. Surrounded by miles of private stream and fish-filled lakes that provide the ideal fresh-air classroom, the kids have a blast catching (and releasing) lots of trout on flies they tied themselves.

She thereby wrote two essays as a part of the application process and begged to go even if she didn’t win a scholarship. Yesterday, she received a call from one of the volunteers on the selection committee announcing that she had been selected. Knowing that she would be taking part in the fly fishing expo today along side her mentors, she was very excited; I doubt she slept much.

She has shared her winning essays on her blog. I encourage you to hop over and read about what she enjoys most about fly fishing and why she wants to go to camp.  She is pictured here with one of the local fly fishers and with another young angler who was also selected as a scholarship winner.

An Introduction to Entomology :: Free Online Workshop

When I was teaching in the public school, my favorite unit to teach was entomology.  Now that I homeschool, I have come to realize how much I miss teaching others and exploring our natural world together.  While my children and I actively engage in nature studies regularly, we have not been very consistent in incorporating more in-depth science studies into our curriculum.   I have discovered that I am more accountable when I provide opportunities to our fellow homeschooling community.  For this reason, I have decided to open this course to anyone interested in learning about insects along with us.

I have designed this unit so students will develop an appreciation for the diversity of insects in their local area as well as an understanding of the greater diversity the world over.  Participants will have the opportunity to use an identification or dichotomous key.  The course is open to all ages but the content is geared towards middle level students – parents and families are welcome to join in on the fun.  Any prior knowledge about insects is appreciated but not required.

The unit includes several labs and research assignments in addition to a long-term project. I will communicate weekly whereby I share videos and other media showcasing specific lessons and activities designed to teach insect anatomy, scientific classification, ecology, and inquiry.  I will also provide research suggestions, resources for study, and experiment ideas. 

See the course outline here, Entomology Course Outline

Participants will have the opportunity to participate in class discussions, contribute to data collection as citizen scientists, and do independent research on topics of interest.  Participants in the course are expected to keep a field journal or notebook of their work. Participants are also encouraged to come up with their own project ideas (videos, PowerPoints, art projects, field trips, photography, and more).

This free course will be six weeks in length and is scheduled to begin in May. For those interested in taking part, I ask that you subscribe to the Entomology Online Workshop newsletter via MailChimp.  You can find the subscription link in the right sidebar.  Upon receiving the verification email, you’ll want to click on “manage your preferences” and choose the list topics of interest to you; Entomology Online Workshop is listed as one option. I will then provide the necessary weblinks and/or pass codes required to access the course materials (via GoogleDocs, Flickr, and Project Noah) when the course begins next month.

Participants will have the opportunity to share documents via GoogleDocs, write blog posts (optional), and submit photographs of student work via Flickr.  Participants are also encouraged to collaborate with one another via my classroom on Project Noah.  Parents are expected to partner with younger children to read over and edit student presentations, checking for grammatical errors. Students working independently are asked to use spelling and grammar checks before submitting work. 

Each family or student that will be making home videos (strongly recommended) about class projects and activities should have a family or individual YouTube account. You can either use an already established account or start a new one for the class. Students wanting their own account must be 13 years old. Any videos made for class can then be uploaded to YouTube and the link given to me. Families are responsible for setting up desired privacy settings.



World Water Quality Monitoring Project

 Science and Service Learning have long been seamlessly intertwined in my life since I started teaching full-time.  Though I am no longer in a formal classroom, the two share an even larger part of my life.  Hands-on, real-life science comes naturally to me.  It is a major component of our daily living and learning.  We seek out opportunities to put our skills to work and to learn about the world around us in a natural way.  This is Unschooling at its finest.
wwmprojectOur Roots & Shoots group has been taking part in a great service learning opportunity called the World Water Monitoring Project for the past few years.  The international education and outreach program builds awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens in basic monitoring of local water bodies.
Upon learning how to collect water quality data with our group, the kiddos asked if we could purchase our own.  The cost of a Basic Kit (shipped to any location in the US) is just $13 plus shipping. At this price – I couldn’t pass it up!  We now carry the kit with us on all our nature outings and it has provided us the necessary tools to engage in meaningful, hands-on science.  I supplement the kit with other tools that I have used for years – including a Kestrel 3000 Pocket Wind Meter – a handheld weather-monitoring device that provides a wide range of functions.
projectwwm
We also make every effort to identify the little critters we capture in our nets.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but dichotomous keys are helpful and we carry a few laminated ones with us.  We record our findings in a Rite In The Rain Journal.  When we return home, we upload our data to the  World Water Monitoring Project and if we’ve spotted critters, we upload images to Project Noah.

Our outings are more meaningful when we know that our data will be used to help the scientific community better understand our world.

Orienteering – An Introduction

Orienteering is a sport that requires skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map which they use to find control points.  Originally a training exercise in land navigation for the military, orienteering has developed many variations.
Orienteering began in the late 19th century in Sweden.  The actual term “orientering” (the original Swedish name for orienteering) was first used in 1886 and meant the crossing of unknown land with the aid of a map and a compass. In Sweden, orienteering grew into a competitive sport for military officers, then for civilians. The name is derived from a word root meaning to find the direction or location. The first orienteering competition open to the public was held in Norway in 1897.  Barnesklubb met last week for an introduction to the sport of Orienteering.  A simple pentagonal course was set up in a local park and the kids were given instruction on how to navigate using the compass.  The points were clearly visible and at each, a ‘clue word’ was recorded.  When the kids completed a four-point course, the words completed a sentence. This lesson is provided in my earth science curriculum, Earth Logic:  Our Dynamic Earth. It can also be purchased individually.

We are excited to take part in more elaborate Orienteering courses in the future. Perhaps you’ll join us?

Environment Exchange Boxes

Have you ever marveled at the differences between the natural environments of your home region and those of areas through which you travel?  I know I do.  I grew up on the southern Oregon coast, lived in the Willamette Valley through college, and we started our family while living in central Oregon.  Even within this one small state, the ecosystems are varied and thereby the plants and animals that reside there are diverse.   I now live in Northern California and I am amazed at how distinctly different the ecology is here.

To celebrate the diversity of the regions in which we live, I am organizing an exchange activity.  However, I will need your help.  I don’t have many followers so you’ll need to help spread the word.  I’ve also shared the project with my local homeschool community.   The activity is based upon Project Learning Tree‘s activity #20, Environmental Exchange Box (click upon the link for the PDF of the lesson plan).   Follow this link for visual ideas, PLTs Forest Exchange Boxes.

Essentially, each family puts together a box of things found in your local natural environment … a selection of pressed leaves and flowers, seashells, seeds and cones, a vial of sand, feathers, a few stones, a sound recording of local birds, stories the kids have written about their favorite things to do in their area, photographs, samples of non-perishable regional foods (maple syrup, walnuts, etc.), and/or  copies of newspaper clippings relating local environmental issues.

We can also use a webcam and/or YouTube to facilitate the exchange – allowing the students an opportunity to interact with their exchange partners to explain the contents of the box they prepared.    What you select and how you organize your box is up to you.  Be creative!

Everyone wishing to participate would be given the address of another family to whom to send their box. You mail a box just once.

Those interested in taking part should submit the information below via email.  I will thereafter assign each participating family a partner family with whom to exchange boxes.

  • Name
  • School Name (if you have one)
  • Address
  • Telephone Number (include area code)
  • Age of Students
  • Email Address
  • Preferred state or region with which you would like to exchange (not guaranteed)

This exchange project has concluded.

Estuarine Ecology Unit Study

Upon returning home from our recent trip to the coast, I was inspired to organize the lessons I have taught in the past into a unit study for homeschoolers and classroom teachers.  I am now ecstatic to announce that I have completed it!

Estuarine Ecology

The Estuarine Ecology Unit Study is available as a part of the comprehensive Science Logic Curriculum that I have been developing the past couple of years.  This unit compliments the popular Life Logic: Ecology Explorations and provides lesson plans integrating science, history, math, language arts, technology, and fine arts.

Estuary Ecology

Here is an overview:

  • 14 Lesson Plans with extensive ‘Background Information’
  • 12 custom notebook pages to complement those lessons
  • Key vocabulary list
  • A detailed list of how the activities are correlated to the themes
  • Resource list
  • Clickable links

In total, this new Estuarine Ecology Unit Study ebook is 58 pages long. You will have a complete plan at your fingertips for your science curriculum.  I have aimed to keep these lessons as simple as possible with very few additional resources needed.

Price $14.97

The Estuarine Ecology Unit Study is an inquiry based, hands-on life science curriculum for middle school students.  It is created to provide teachers with the tools and inspiration to engage their students in meaningful science and service learning experiences through tangible curriculum, shared resources, and real-world contexts.  This secular curriculum was field tested in the public school classroom and modified for the homeschool or co-op setting.