Elementary Biology: Extreme Spring

Even though March Doldrums and April Showers are very real, life does get better when the sun comes out and we can turn the hose back on.

School work starts winding down, jackets are lost and forgotten (even though they are sometimes still very much needed!) and there is so much to learn through experience that we couldn’t do during the cold winter.

This year we are trying to pack in as much spring as we can… and it’s starting to show on my Fitbit! I’m exhausted!

(But very happy!)

And with our four year science cycle landing on biology again this year, we have taken advantage of a lot of our regular spring activities to really help the concepts we are learning sink in.

For instance…

Raising Butterflies

We were supposed to learn about insects back during the winter when we learned about arthropods, but you can’t release butterflies out into the snow! So we saved that for now. I checked out about 12 books about butterflies and caterpillars from the library – some informational and some cute picture books with butterfly protagonists – and the kids pretty much just read those on their own. We watched the caterpillars go from super tiny, to big and fat, to chrysalides, (to chrysalides knocked to the ground,) to fun butterflies we got to release into our yard. (Unfortunately, I probably didn’t wait long enough to order the caterpillars. It poured cats and and dogs and then snowed the next day! But we didn’t hang around for the snow. We were off to our next spring adventure.IMG_4797

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That little bugger knocked all the other chrysalides off the lid! 

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They look kind of gross.

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This guy is almost ready to come out.

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Notice the ONE chrysalis on the lid. At least 3 out of the 4 other butterflies survived, even if they had a harder time coming out of their chrysalides.

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Spring Break in a Desert Biome

Even though we pretty much go here every spring, it never gets boring. There is too much to do! And this year we convinced some cousins to skip public school and experience homeschool with us! I’m pretty sure they loved it. So on a cold and soggy morning we packed the vans and left in the pouring rain, climbed over the mountains and through the whirling snow, and down into the hot, dry, sandy deserts of Arches and Canyonlands.

Except it wasn’t hot at all. It was freezing. And the violent winds didn’t help any. (My three year old is still traumatized and won’t go outside if it’s even breezy.)

But it was still lovely. And my older kids read all the informational signs and lamented that we didn’t have time to look around the visitor’s center. I kept thinking, why? Don’t you just want to go out and hike and experience it? But really, they wanted to read and learn and figure out what and why and how.

Sometimes I wonder where these brainiacs came from. I was never like that as a child. But the answer is, all kids are like this before learning becomes a chore and being popular becomes the number one goal. Those are two pitfalls of life I have tried to help my kids avoid from the very beginning.

I think it’s working! 😉

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There was so much sand and dust in the air. It was hard to get a clear shot of anything from far away. But still, the colors were unbelievable!

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I spy an arch!

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Mesa Arch – with sand blowing up into our eyes and temps in the upper 40s. Less pleasant, but still spectacular.

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Screen Time: Disney Nature Films

But even when you are living it up in the rough cut canyons, the sandstone arches, and the petrified dunes, you have to take a break once in a while. One of the best things we brought on this “extended field trip” were some Disney Nature films from the library.

Now, I strongly dislike Disney. Some people may start throwing stones at me, but I’m not backing down from this one. I just don’t like it in my house. But we LOVE Disney Nature. We’ve owned Oceans for years, and we finally found Earth at the library, but it was too scratched up to watch. But the last few months we’ve discovered Crimson Wing, Bears, Chimpanzee, and Born in China. These are fantastic films with incredible footage and engaging story lines.

If I weren’t so cheap, I would go out and buy them. Maybe, actually, I will go out and buy them. They are that good. (And there are MORE than just those listed here. I’m excited to see the one about wild cats!)

So while the grown-ups packed lunches and picked up after breakfast, the children on our trip (all nine of them) got a little exciting, enchanting, and educational screen time that made them feel positive and motivated after the show ended. That doesn’t happen frequently with screen time. But that is another reason why I love these films.

“Formal” Biology Lessons: Seeds and Flowers

My little kids are finishing up their biology book with a unit on plants. Honestly, I’m having a hard time following any set curriculum very strictly right now. But what’s more fun, anyway? Listening to someone read to you about flowers? Or going outside and discovering them for yourself? (So although I did go through the book, I may have scrimped a little so we could just go and do. This wouldn’t have worked very well if I didn’t already know what I was talking about, but I already know about stamen, pistils, and pollen tubes, so we are good to go. I can just teach from what I know instead of relying on a book to teach all of us at the same time.)

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Almonds

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Peaches

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Pears

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Tulip – or target practice for bees!

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Some very interesting filaments, stamen, and lots of purple pollen.

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Coloring and labeling flower diagrams. I bet you didn’t know flowers had ovaries? So fascinating! I maybe should have been a botanist.

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Lima bean plant embryo. Cute! 

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Our sunflower starts are dicotyledons. Do you know how you can tell? We decided to examine all the plant starts under the grow lights – and a few plants outside, too. 

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Dissecting lima bean and corn seeds and labeling diagrams. 

A Flower Field Trip: The Tulip Festival

Another yearly tradition. And always worth it. (Especially so since we have a family membership so we get in for “free.” I can’t afford to pay $80 to take my children to go look at flowers.) It’s seriously beautiful, though.

And we took all our flower and seed knowledge with us!

Plus, my kids discovered the mid-air jumping photo. So that was awesome.

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Hooray! It’s almost summer!