Over the years we have dabbled in a little nature study here and there but never really got into it as a regular feature in our days learning together. This year, it has been something we have wanted to enjoy on a more regular basis, and we are surprisingly almost half way through May with not much done in that department!
Yesterday, at the end of a long week with its own challenges, the beautiful autumn weather beckoned us outdoors to rectify that. We had a wonderful time, enjoying the sunshine and learning new things. We hope to make this a more regular feature in our days learning together, and I have been greatly inspired by the Outdoor Hour Challenges shared by Barb on her blog, "Handbook of Nature Study".
We chose to study the bright petunias that add colour to the pots on the patio.
Our primary source of information was the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. We discovered the history of the petunia as we know it today, and that they are family of the potato, tomato, egg plant and tobacco plants. The shape of the flower and the scent given off at night attracts the hummingbird moth which has a perfectly suited long feeding tube.
We looked at the soft fuzzy leaves, adorned with fine hairs and learned that the blooms only remain open for about two days before they droop and eventually fall off, leaving the seed capsule behind. Once dried out, the seed capsule will crack down the middle when disturbed and seeds will be spilled out.
We found a dry bloom and managed to get to the seed capsule, discovering seeds as fine as dust. I remember a friend being surprised at some or other plant springing up in her pots, and on close inspection, discovering they were petunias. Now we know how they happened to just appear in the same place.
The children each did their own note-booking page, drawing their petunias and recording a little of what we had learned. I watched my youngest as he carefully studied the outline of his flower and slowly recorded what he saw in a beautiful pencil drawing. He does not consider himself a good artist but I think the finished drawing was just lovely!
K on the other hand, finds drawing easy and she quickly reproduced a colourful specimen for her notebook.
We also read from the book " Companion Planting " by Margaret Roberts, and the children learned my reason for having planted them alongside my cabbages and broccoli - they repel white fly, aphids and cutworms.
Here we also read the story of an old English colonel who grew petunias in his garden as his own grandmother had told him the old wives tale of petunias calming badly behaved children. When asked if they had that effect on his noisy, active grandchildren, his reply was that he dared not be without them! Perhaps I too shall send the children outdoors to sniff petunias when next necessary!
We look forward to more nature study in the days to come.