How many species of flowers can you identify in your ‘neighbourhood’ or park? When I thought about all the plants growing in my area, I realized that there are many plants I’m unfamiliar with. My project for the rest of this year, and most likely the next, is to know the fauna and flora of my district intimately.
Charlotte Mason encouraged scouting in the Parent’s Union School Program. Among their task list for handcrafts, needlecraft and housecraft were listed tasks for Nature Lore. Task 6 read, ‘Out of 25 flowers of your district name and give the family of 20.’ August through to October is the perfect time to investigate plants as they flourish and bloom after winter.
Scouting the district for plants and wildlife is a huge project that may seem daunting to begin with, but if we take one step towards the goal each time we walk outdoors, we’ll be increasing our knowledge in bite sized pieces day by day or week by week.
I’d like to encourage you to take up the challenge of investigating and identifying plant species and wildlife in the district despite feeling amateurish.
“I know that many parents feel handicapped at present by their own defective education in Nature knowledge. It is such as these whom I am anxious to help in this paper. But before I can do this, they must dismiss from their minds any idea that it is the quantity of knowledge acquired that makes a Nature student. It is rather the particular habit of mind induced in the act of acquiring such knowledge which is of the most value to us and our children. For this reason it is that the mere reading about Nature is of but little value ; but to watch an insect pollinating a flower ; to study the arrangement of the buds on the common trees ; to rear caterpillars into butterflies ; to watch the little seed growing into the perfect plant ; such studies as these have a real educational value, they teach to SEE ; and seeing is a faculty which this generation has shamefully neglected.” (PR 19, p. 722, emphasis mine) Nature Study in the Home PRA by Alfred Thornley
Nurturing a life long habit of identifying fauna and flora we encounter with our children ‘will cherish in them a love for investigation,’ and they’ll ‘take these to be their life-long friends.’
Notes for identifying plants:
- Take photographs of the plant as a whole, then in parts; the leaves, flowers, buds, and seeds. Measure the plant and note its leaf and bud arrangements.
- Notice the characteristics of the habitat it’s growing in.
- Use a plant field guide specific for your area to identify the plant.
- Or upload the photographs to an app like iNaturalist. I’ve been very impressed with their prompt responses to plant identification.
- Write a list of all the plants you encounter in a notebook or nature journal according to season.
- Begin to notice plant families and their similarities.
Scouting Nature Lore List | Task 7 reads:
- Watch the changes which take place in the trees noticing, in particular, their: (1) Stipules, (2) Folding of leaves, and (3) Flowers and pollination.
- Keep a record of your observations with comparisons and illustrations. This may be included in your nature notebook’s daily entries. (The students were tasked to make an entry into their Nature Note Book every day for a month).
So how do we inspire reluctant children to learn to love the outdoors? Augustine said the goal of education was “ordo amoris.” Yes, it’s Latin! It means learning to love what ought to be loved and learning to love what must be done. Our goals in education aren’t only high academic scores, but an attitude of the heart where learning about lovely and beautiful things is a joy.
In the article “How to Interest Children in the Outdoor World,” C. A. Rooper explained:
…the first thing is to create in the children a real interest in the subject. In order to do this (for children will not do so spontaneously) the parent must lead the way. The parent must first take a lively interest in the subject, and make it, if possible, a kind of “hobby,” and then the children will easily be induced to follow. … and for that purpose nothing answers so well as a walk, the too often despised walk. And yet a walk can be made most attractive as well as useful. It should be arranged with a definite object, and the route chosen with a special end in view. … This method will not permit of a hurried rush after a quantity of specimens nor of a record number of them found, but it will give, which is far more interesting, a thorough knowledge and real acquaintance with a few, and the children will learn from it the beauties, charms, curious adaptations and peculiar habits of certain objects in nature from which knowledge and interest in all will be developed. (PR 13, p. 733)
If you need a little guidance, here are a few resources that may lead you along the path of flower exploration this season.
Did you know we have FREE Plant Pattern Cards for you?
And when you subscribe, you’ll receive sets of task cards that include fun nature activities for the children like this…
The Flower Task Cards will pop into your inbox this September.
Access a Wildflower lesson from the Australian Nature Study Guide-Winter/Spring HERE.
As a Christian, I believe creation reveals the Creator and it is a witness to His existence and attributes. It shows me that God is all powerful and intelligent. It reminds me to be grateful for the brilliant designs and patterns in nature and to be a responsible steward to all He has made. Fulfilling my mandate to care for creation is much easier when I understand how it works. This is one of my goals – to know Him more through exploring what He has created, so I begin taking small steps one at a time.