Friday, June 19, 2015

Bullfrogs, bats, and snakes! {Nature Study}

Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks.  There are some wonderful places near where we live to explore nature.  There's our neighborhood, of course.  Or our backyard.  The other day we were in the backyard and a red-headed woodpecker came flying down, pecked around in the grass, found a worm, and few off.  Ten feet in front of us!  It was so cool!

There's a park about 15 minutes away that has a good sized pond and a little creek.  We go there every so often (I've posted pictures from that park on this blog before) and the following pictures were taken there.

Eating lunch.

We saw a pretty blue jay flying around - such beautiful detail and design on him.  We never see them at our house.  Please excuse the blurry photo!

We watched the turtles swim around and fed them some bread.

I had checked out the take-along guide, Frogs, Toads & Turtles from the library and we tried to identify the turtles.  I think this one below is a slider, according to this website.  It wasn't in the book, but it was still fun to look and try to identify it.

Wild strawberries.

Trying to feed the ducks.
Izzy spotted a big ole' bullfrog.  The bullfrog was in the above-mentioned take-along guide and the girls were fascinated by the fact that they sometimes eat snakes.

See him in the water?
I tried to get a picture of his webbed feet.

These next few pictures were at one of Izzy's tball practices down by the river.  When we got there the other night, there was cotton stuff flying through the air and all over the ground. 

It was from a cottonwood tree right next to the field.

See the cotton buds?

Here are some of the cotton buds.  I don't think I've ever seen/noticed a cottonwood tree before.

Addy thought it was pretty cool.  She looks so much older in this picture!

The next few pictures were taken in our yard.  We watched a bunch of ants carry around a dead bug.  It was quite fascinating.

Jared was weed eating and spotted a tiny frog on our air conditioning unit.  He was probably half an inch long.  We looked him up in that trail guide and determined that he's a spring peeper.

Last Friday we went to a conservation area about 20 minutes away.  This place is so neat and I really hope we visit it often.  They have lots of trails, a pond, and a large creek, plus they do some cool things for kids in the summer - they teach them archery, to fish, and every Wednesday they do little nature "classes."  The day we visited we went on one of the trails.  It was about a mile and took us like an hour and, even though we went before lunch, it was SO HOT.  Thankfully we were in the shade most of the time, but the stretch back to the pavilion where we ate our lunch was in direct sunlight.  And man, the sun was brutal that day.  And Addy had been cranky for quite awhile (note to self:  bring a snack and don't leave it in the car!)  So I gave her a piggy-back ride.  Nothing like giving your 4 year old a piggy back ride in the summer heat, with no shade, when you're 27 weeks pregnant.

Fun times!  Definitely memorable :)

Before we went on this trail, we got to see a couple of really neat things at the visitor's center - of which I did not take any pictures, ugh!  First, one of the workers showed the girls some bat scat scattered around, then proceeded to take down a clock that was hanging outside and, lo and behold, there was the bat!  He had made his home behind that clock, ha.  We watched him just hanging there, and he eventually flew off.  Pretty crazy.  Bats are really hairy, by the way.

Second, there were barn swallow nests all over the place and we saw two with baby birds in them.  We also got to watch a mama swallow feed her babies.  So cute!

On to the trail!

Lots of mushrooms next to a big log.
Snail shells are so cool with their spiral.

Excuse the blurriness, but here's what we guessed was some kind of cocoon.

We saw lots of lizards.

And a snake in the water.  The girls freaked out.  But then when we got back to the main building, they were fascinated with the snakes in the little aquariums.  One of the workers got a black rat snake out and let the girls touch it.  He also let us take home a little snake identification guide and the girls fought over that thing for like 3 days.

We also saw some very large schools of fish.

At one point, there was a butterfly that kept landing on Izzy's hat over and over again.

Nature is so full and the complete opposite of boring.  There is always something to see, if we're willing to look.  I love this quote by Charlotte Mason:  
"We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things."  (Home Education, pg. 61)
I understand and value the importance of nature - it is full of beauty, of diversity.  It brings such a sense of awe at God's creation, which I think is most important for children.  And it's up to us, as parents, to introduce and encourage our children to become aware of what's around us and to excite that sense of awe.  We have so much influence on our little ones.
"Some children are born naturalists, with a bent inherited, perhaps, from an unknown ancestor; but every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage; for, but few children are equal to holding their own in the face of public opinion; and if they see that the things which interest them are indifferent or disgusting to you, their pleasure in them vanishes, and that chapter in the book of Nature is closed to them...Audubon, the American ornithologist, is another instance of the effect of this kind of early training.  'When I had hardly learned to walk,' he says, 'and to articulate those first words always so endearing to parents, the productions of Nature that lay spread all around were constantly pointed out to me...My fauther generally accompanied my steps, procured birds and flowers for me, and pointed out the elegant movements of the former, the beauty and softness of their plumage, the manifestations of their pleasure, or their sense of danger, and the always perfect forms and splendid attire of the latter.  He would speak of the departure and return of the birds with the season, describe their haunts, and, more wonderful than all, their change of livery, thus exciting me to study them, and to raise my mind towards their great Creator.'"  (Home Education, pg. 58-59)
I let myself worry some because Izzy (6), with whom I'm about to begin first grade, has always preferred to be playing and running around outside than slowing down and paying attention to her surroundings.  But I've decided that I can't worry; I just need to do.  It's just like teaching a child to be polite or to read.  Of course there will be some resistance, but we know what's best and what's important for our children so we keep at it.  We must be consistent - develop the habits.  And we trust - trust that God will see our efforts and produce in our children the fruits of our labors.

And I can already see some fruits.  I can tell a difference between now and, say, six months ago.  By being intentional about putting our kids in nature's path, Izzy and Addy (4) are both more inclined to spot and show us random things they found, and be excited about it.

We are laying a foundation upon which to build.  And in the coming weeks, when we officially begin first grade, we'll go on to the next level and utilize a nature journal - which is a whole other form of intimidation for me!  But that's another conversation :)

Have you been enjoying the outdoors lately?  Share with me!


  1. I can't believe how many different kinds of critters you saw! :) How FUN! I love the picture of the tiny little frog.

    I, too, love how encouraging nature study teaches our kids to notice more. I just love the CM way. :)

  2. Love your photos, Angela. Your family seems to be such nature-lovers!
    And btw, I have printed out your Math series, and I am slowing reading it and highlighting it. I look forward to a new school year, and hopefully, new attitudes toward Math from my children - and me. Thanks for your help. :)

    1. We're getting there :) We've always enjoyed being outdoors, but only in the last year or so have I been more intentional about focusing more on nature and getting the kids to notice more. Consistency!

      And I'm glad you're enjoying the math series. I've enjoyed writing it so far (I have a few more posts in my mind, I just have to find the time to get them on the blog). I hope there's something there that's helpful!

  3. Amazing pictures! I'm keeping this post open till I can show my boys tomorrow. You saw so many wonderful things. I too love it when you can actually watch your child grow in a certain area. It's so exciting.

    1. Aww, I hope your boys like the pictures :) It was fun (although I forgot to mention the part about how the 4 year old got stung on the finger by a sweat bee and SCREAMED her head off like her hand had been cut off. That was fun.)