Flower Bulbs :: Nature Study

We haven’t done a true nature study in a long while. I thereby made a more conscious effort to assure it didn’t get overlooked again.  My oversight/distraction has become a frustration for me … in more than one subject, but this is a topic for another post.

For Christmas, my mom and her partner gave us a bag of tulip and daffodil bulbs (they operate a small nursery). To be honest, I had set the bag in the laundry room with the thought, ‘I’ll get to them later.’  I then promptly forgot about them, until I stumbled upon them the other day and decided I best make use of them before they began to decompose.

The munchkins both chose to illustrate just one bulb, while I illustrated both (Buddy’s shown on top, MeiLi’s is in the middle).  I am not very knowledgeable about flowers so I can’t discern one from the other.

When we completed our illustrations, we planted the bulbs in two large pots that adorn our porch. We look forward to spring when they come into bloom.

Eberhard’s :: Field Trip

Earlier this week, we had the delightful opportunity to visit our local dairy.  The family owned business was started by Jack and Nelda Eberhard in 1951, and today is operated by 2nd generation, Bob, and 3rd generation, Mark. The experienced staff at Eberhard’s Dairy Products, consisting of 50 people, has over 460 years of combined experience in the dairy products business.  Eberhard’s offers a full line of locally manufactured milks, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter and ice creams under the Eberhard’s Quality Chekd label (since 1983).

In the photo above, Bob Ebherhard begins our tour showing us the room where the temperature of the storage tanks (pictured at top) are controlled. The raw milk is brought to these tanks daily and they process the milk from one tank at a time.

From here, we all donned hair nets and proceeded into the processing plant where we followed the milk through the process of pasteurization and homogenization.  We also visited the room in which sour cream and cottage cheese is made. The picture below shows where the pasteurized milk is poured into the jugs (background) and the label is attached (foreground). 

The picture below shows a portion of the machinery with which ice cream is produced.  Bob explained that they now use ammonia as their freezing agent (which is still the most efficient way to operate).  We learned that at Eberhard’s 20 different flavors are manufactured, 13 of which are available only in gallon sizes.  The most popular flavor, making up over 50% of their ice cream sales, is vanilla.  Three vanilla varieties are made … vanilla, french vanilla and vanilla bean.
 

We were shown how the milk crates are sanitized before the product is loaded (a mechanized case washer that transports stacks of crates along a conveyor belt), the dry storage area, and the cold room.  We also briefly stepped into the freezer storage, the largest (7,000 sq. ft. + 24’ high) and coldest (20°) storage freezer in Central Oregon.  

It was a very informative trip and we enjoyed every moment. Bob was very gracious to open his plant to us and the kiddos now feel a special bond with Moo Moo Belle, pointing her out when we see her face on the trucks and product labels in the stores.

Pine Cones :: Fall Nature Study

With the end of summer and the public school kids absent from our neighborhood, we begin our nature walks in a more relaxed, low-key environment. I know from past experience that I will have fewer families join us for our excursions … regardless of when I schedule the outing. This is perfectly fine with me.  A smaller group is certainly more intimate and we now look forward to longer excursions and all-day outings farther from home.

Last week, we chose to walk down to our neighborhood park for nature study on pine cones.  We met two other families there … one new to homeschooling.  Upon arrival, we selected a dry cone and placed it in a tub of water.  The kids shared what they expected to happen … a couple expected the cone get bigger like a sponge as it absorbed water.  It was a delight to show them that the water made the cones close up to protect the seeds.  We talked about nature’s design and I encouraged them to try the simple experiment again at home with other types of cones.

The 4 kiddos pictured here have been nature journaling for quite some time.  They are getting very adept at their illustrations and my little guy has just begun to narrate to me more information he’d like to include (okay … I admit, I had to encourage him and asked him questions to elicit what he knew) … but it is a start.  DD, on the other hand, has begun to sketch what is of interest to her on her own.  While the girls were collecting cones, they had also observed a few small birds flitting about the pines.  MeiLi recognized it right away … it’s a Nuthatch … see how it walks upside down!  It was no surprise that she chose to illustrate it when she sat down with her journal.  [Admin Note :: As I was writing this, she peaked over my shoulder to say, “Oh. I’m not yet finished, Mom.  I want to color her, too.”]

It turned out to be a beautiful fall day and after our study, the kids enjoyed playing on the structures (the boys) and in the natural areas (the girls).  One family was new to homeschooling, so it was a delight to sit with the mom a while as the kids played to share our successes and failures.  She had many questions and I believe she left feeling much more at ease about her decision.

P.S.  This topic was selected from Barb’s Autumn 2010 Outdoor Hour Challenges.  To find out more about her challenges and how to integrate nature study into your curriculum, visit her blog, Handbook of Nature Study.

Cattails Part 2 :: Winter Nature Study

While on a mini-getaway to the valley last week, the kiddos and I did a little letterboxing at the Oregon Garden. While we were not successful finding the letterbox, we did come across accessible cattails. We collected a few to investigate more intimately.We pulled off the seeds to observe closely and recalled how Native Americans would use the fluff in their cradle boards as well as a variety of medicinal and nutritional uses.

After reading about an experiment another family [Delightful Learning] had tried with a cattail, my kiddos were anxious to give it a go as well. We thereby brought one home to use as a torch!

Admin Note :: This is a follow-up post to an earlier Nature Study lesson on Cattails. Click here for Cattails Part 1.

Cattails Part 1:: Winter Nature Study

It is my sincere hope to do a much better job in planning and following through this year. Particularly in the areas of composer & artist study, nature study, and believe it or not, science. I tend to let these topics drop when we get busy and this frustrates me.

In an effort to combat this tendency, I purchased Barbara McCoy’s Winter Nature Study with Art & Music Appreciation. Upon opening the ebook, I was immediately impressed. It is so complete and everything is laid out so concisely … I couldn’t wait to begin!
Friday morning, we went down to the park along the river to do the first winter nature study which focused on cattails – the only location I could think of with cattails accessible. Prior to departing, I read the suggested pages aloud from Handbook of Nature Study and printed off the accompanying notebook pages. Upon our arrival, we were disappointed to see that we were not in fact able to reach the cattails and would thereby not be able to investigate it more closely (i.e. pulling it apart and looking inside). Therefore, we made due with our observations from a far.
I had a difficult time getting Buddy to focus. He was much more interested in poking at the ice along the perimeter of the pond. He did manage to do a quick sketch but I know he can do better. Sweetie opted to do her sketch in her nature book rather than on the notebooking page that Barb developed. I did the same. Shortly before we departed, Sweetie started to express her frustration in her drawing abilities. She is a perfectionist – like me – something we both need to work on overcoming.
Her frustration and Buddy’s distraction proved to me yet again that we need to bring drawing and nature study back into our regular activities. We all need more practice.

American Larch ~ Winter Nature Study

Yesterday before my swim workout we had time to spare so the kiddos and I stopped by the park near the fitness center. They spent a few minutes climbing on the structures and playing on the swings. We then became intrigued by a the multitude of small cones that were scattered about on the ground. We started collecting them – thinking of fun ways to use them in craft projects (pine needle baskets, fairy homes, etc.) – when I started to wonder aloud, “What tree do you think these came from?”

The kids started looking up and matched the cones to those still in the trees. There were only 3 tree species in the vicinity… Ponderosa Pine, Juniper and a third with which we were not familiar. We were able to immediately rule out the Pine and Juniper – these are very common in Central Oregon and we know these two intimately. We knew the cones belonged to the third species – but what was it?

Our biggest clue was that there were only 2 individual trees of this species… both of which were in the backyard of a residence that bordered the park. Interestingly, neither of these trees had any needles whatsoever. Sweetie asked if they were dying. I told her I wasn’t certain but that I knew there was at least one conifer that did in fact drop it’s needles in the fall.
We inquired with a friend with a strong interest in science who also happens to swim with us at the fitness center and she confirmed my guess that the tree in question was likely Tamarack or American Larch (Larix laricina). As these are not native to Oregon – it is no wonder that these 2 trees were likely ornamentals that were planted when homesteaders first came to the area (both trees were mature and I would guess about 100 years old based on their diameter).

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so I was unable to take pictures. I hope I can get back to them before winter is over.

Posted to Barb’s Winter Wednesday Nature Challenge at Handbook of Nature Study.