Nature Study: Mostly Mushrooms

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No science professor in any university, if he be a man of high attainment, hesitates to say to his pupils, ‘I do not know,’ if they ask for information beyond his knowledge…In nature-study any teacher can with honor say, ‘I do not know.'”  — Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

When we began our nature study a couple of weeks ago, I was worried that the kids would grumble about going each week.  I thought that an hour would be more than enough time.  I never expected that we’d be running late to get back to music each week.  I never expected the kids to start begging to go as soon as the last bite of lunch was in their mouths.  I never expected us all to love it.

Our weekly nature study has quickly become a time that we all look forward to.  We may have to change it to a different day just so we’ll have more time.  The lady at the visitor’s center is proving to be a wonderful source of information.  This week she mentioned that we were there at the perfect time of day to see turtles in the creek.  She told us the best place to see them and the best way to approach so as not to scare them off.  I’m not sure we quite made it to the spot she was talking about.  We didn’t see any turtles, but we had a wonderful time.

We saw no less than five different varieties of mushrooms.  It didn’t occur to me until several days later to check to see what the Handbook of Nature Study had to say about mushrooms.  I just bought it over the summer and started using it when we do our nature study, so I’m not quite used to it yet.  I still haven’t had a chance to sit down with the kids and the pictures and show them what I learned.  Soon, soon.

Apparently, the cap goes through several stages of shapes as the mushroom matures.  We saw some in the convex stage:

…the plane stage:

…and depressed:

The red ones were my favorites.  From what I can tell, they appear to be different stages of a red boletus mushroom.  If anyone knows for sure, I’d love to know.

We saw this beautiful fungus (it doesn’t sound like those words should go together, but it really was pretty, don’t you think?):

I think it is vericolor trametes bracket fungus.  I’m so glad that I can say, with honor, “I don’t know.”

We walked across this bridge expecting to find another smooth, flat trail on the other side.

Instead, this trail went up the side of the mountain hill:

We didn’t explore it too far because we wanted to have time to sketch.  I got a great idea for our sketch books from Handbook of Nature Study on p. 14.  The student had drawn straight lines, at about a one inch margin, across the top, bottom and side of his nature journal.  This gave him a large center area for sketching, smaller areas for smaller sketches (such as animal tracks that he saw), and little boxes at the top where he could number and date the journal entry.

The kids wanted to use their whole pages, but I did mine like I saw in the book (No, I’m not very artistic.):

We sat at our favorite spot by the creek to sketch.  The kids all drew pictures of the creek.  It was so pleasant sitting beside the rushing water drawing together.  The kids were also thrilled to find these hinged shells still attached.

On the way back, we saw the biggest rabbit I have ever seen in the wild.  He let me get pretty close for a picture. A second one bounded away right in front of me.

I think we’re all in agreement that the membership fee was the best $35 we’ve spent in awhile.  I look forward to many more nature study excursions with the kids this year.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I have started calling it "expecting the unexpected" in our nature study. There seems to be a never ending source of enjoyment during our outdoor nature study time.

    Nature study is something that once you start you wonder why you never made it a priority before. I see it all over the world….families hooked on the joys of spending time exploring outdoors.

    Really nice post. 🙂

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  2. Thank you for this post! I am so glad you are all enjoying the nature studies so much. We have completed two so far! It sounds like you have found a real treasure in the nature preserve. Great pictures of the mushrooms!

  3. Kris, thanks so much for sharing this. We had just seen some mushrooms pop up in our front garden yesterday, but didn't pay them much mind. Today, we grabbed our nature journals and had a lovely time sketching the mushrooms, observing different stages (which I had known nothing about before), and watching the snails.

    I'm new to homeschooling (have a Kindergartener this year), and really appreciate your blog & all the great inspiration. Check my blog out if you'd like – – I'm journaling out unit on pigs which should be fun 🙂

  4. That looks wonderful! I am very impressed with your nature notebook. I have to admit that since my kids love nature study, and never balk at doing sketches, I haven't bothered to do my own. You have inspired me! I think I'll start a nature notebook of my own.

  5. This is such an inspiring post… aren't mushrooms just magical!! I'd be honored if you would share it on Friday's Nature Table on my blog today… pop on over to post it.

  6. What a beautiful post!!! And, I didn't 'really' know about the stages of mushrooms. Thanks for teaching me today! We've had some mushrooms in our backyard this week and I've been photographing them. It'll be fun to look at the photos and see what stage they are in.

    Also, I haven't touched my nature journal in months… I will try to get it out THIS WEEK and work on it. 🙂

  7. Neat post! We like learning about nature, too. I'm learning right along with my children. We picked up a book on clearance not long ago about mushrooms (Mushroom Picker's Foolproof Field Guide–it's got great pictures but isn't really foolproof in my case, I'm still awful at identifying them), and ever since the children have been wanting to do spore prints. I'd never heard of them before we read this book, but it's interesting and the children really enjoy it.

  8. How cool! I did a search for mushrooms/homeschoolers and found an old entry from one of my favorite blogs! My daughter is very interested in mushrooms right now so we are making a nature book about it.

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