Saturday, September 6, 2008

We love the big outdoors

We've been doing a lot of critter exploring lately. Mostly it has been great, but sometimes nature has not been so kind to us. I learned that the slime on my leg was pecan snot, the Monkey learned that it hurts like hell when a squirrel throws a pecan grenade at your head from 15 feet above, and the children learned that I am useless when it comes to identifying any species of caterpillar. See all the learning we've got going on?

As part of our first unit from R.E.A.L. Science: Life, we did a plot study. Basically, we marked out a square meter of wild land and observed it for signs of living and non-living things. This is the point you are meant to pause with wonder at my motivation and dedication to my children's education. If we had started this curriculum three weeks ago when it still blazing hot outside, I would have skipped this activity, without even a mention of the possibility to the Monkey Ducks. As it turns out we've had some low-humidity, beautiful mornings so I enthusiastically provided my children with a meaningful learning experience.

We packed up our magnifying glasses, field guides and clipboards and headed to the Nature Center. The Monkey picked a plot that had a pecan tree smack in the middle of it. We thought this was great! Oh, the nature we would see. We didn't realize how much we'd feel the nature. Some of the squirrels in and around the tree did not appreciate the interruption to their mid-morning feast. We were soon hit from every direction with pieces of pecan shells. Then, a big glob of what can only be described as a snotty slime fell from the tree and landed on my leg, followed by another blob on my shoulder. I had no idea what this was but I kept my cool and smiled with the kids at how amazing nature is (take another pause of wonder.) I found out later that this slime comes from the inside of an under ripe pecan. I am certain the squirrels already knew this. We found some bugs, saw a caterpillar, watched a blue jay, and then the Monkey was attacked. It was a direct hit from a squirrel that had gotten into prime position while we were distracted by some lady bugs (who I now think were in on it.) The squirrel went Rumsfield on us and dropped a whole, almost ripe pecan straight down onto the bullseye marked on my son's head. Being the fine mother that I am, I laughed, especially when he started to look a little dizzy. I took it more seriously when he started to cry.

So, here's our adventure in pictures.

A very cool caterpillar that the Monkey found. I tried to identify it but failed. Anyone have any idea what kind of caterpillar this is? It was smooth, moved like an inch work, distinct body segments, and two yellow stripes down it's side.

This is a debris carrying larvae. We identified this last year, when the Monkey said "look, Mama, the dirt is moving." They are very cool little things. They are sticky when born so whatever they are around sticks to them to provide their protection. That's my arm it's climbing on (pause with wonder.)

The debris carrying larva crawling on the Ducklings finger with her proud brother looking on.

One of the damn ladybugs that distracted us.

Let's call him Donald, shall we?

Some more nature pictures follow in the next post.

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