Review: Out Of School And Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

One book that is a staple in many homeschoolers’ personal libraries is Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.

Comstock’s Handbook deserves its own review but today I wanted to share a picture book we have thoroughly enjoyed here.

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Jessica Lanan, is a wonderfully put together introduction to the life of Anna Comstock.

It shares the story of Anna’s childhood love of exploring nature, and how this love matured along with her, into a life’s passion for studying nature.

Anna did not marry right away, but went to college (in a time when this was not the norm) to learn more about plants and insects.

“Such thousands of insects I never saw before.” Anna Comstock

She spent time developing her art skills, drawing insects. Her drawings were even used by a professor in his lectures, as well as by farmers identifying insects that were destroying their crops.

Some of the lovely illustrations in the book.

She also used engraved wood prints to produce very detailed images. One thing that I love in this book is the recreation of these wood prints – some can be found in her Handbook of Nature Study.

Side-by-side view of the illustrator’s rendering of Comstock’s wood stamp drawings, and the images from The Handbook of Nature Study.

Anna Comstock wasn’t just a scientist and artist though – one of her passions was getting children out into nature. She worked hard to convince teachers to include nature study – real study with children getting OUT into nature and not just reading about it at their desks – in schools.

“Nature study cultivates in the child a love of the beautiful.” Anna Comstock

I think The Handbook of Nature Study is an essential addition to any homeschool library, and we so enjoyed learning about this remarkable woman who made this work possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This book gave an abbreviated introduction to Comstock’s life – but you can read more at Britannica,  and wikipedia includes references and external links to check out.

Two resources worth mentioning that use The Handbook of Nature Study:

The Handbook of Nature Study: The Outdoor Hour

Exploring Nature With Children

 

Save

Save

Save

Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve

One of the benefits of currently living on the Forgotten Coast here in Florida is enjoying all the natural beauty around us.

This weekend we took a family field trip to nearby Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Located near East Point, FL just before you drive over the Apalachicola Bay to St. George Island, this Reserve has an incredible Nature Walk, an Overlook for observing the Bay, and a wonderful Nature Center with lots of specimens, exhibits as well as aquariums.

ANERR
Welcome to the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR)!
anerr_1
The littles exploring the Nature Trail.
anerr_2
Purple Martin houses near the Bay Overlook.
anerr_3
The kids loved looking across the Apalachicola Bay at St. George Island.
anerr_4
After thoroughly exploring the Nature Walk and the Bay Overlook, we headed up to the Nature Center.
anerr_6
The boys were amazed at the size of this whale backbone that was found.
anerr_7
This wonderful interactive map showed the various boundaries for nearby parks and reserves and sensitive areas.
anerr_8
Aquarium residents Horseshoe Crab and Atlantic Stingray. We loved watching them interact!
diamondback terrapin
Aquarium resident Diamondback Terrapin.
water collection
ANERR collects rain water and it’s quite the show! There are two pipes for observing water moving from the roof to cisterns below the building, where it is used for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses.
activity guide
My book worm already working on the Activity Guide she got from the gift shop.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Amazing Butterflies Exhibit at San Antonio Botanical Garden

This is the first in a series of posts about events at San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABOT). We LOVE the Garden! Its a wonderful place to spend a few hours, just exploring and relaxing. They also have wonderful events and educational opportunities available throughout the year. We attended the opening weekend festivities for the Amazing Butterflies Exhibit this fall. This exhibit is currently touring, and had been scheduled to run at SABOT through January 2012. However, it has been extended through March 25th 2012, so there is still plenty of time to check it out! The butterfly exhibit is wonderful – it is an interactive maze for children (and adults!) to explore the lifecycle of butterflies. Kyri had a blast when we went, and she keeps asking to return.  Check out the interactives that make up the amazing butterfly exhibit! Another wonderful part of the exhibit is the curricula material that is available (aimed for grades 1 – 5) through SABOT. You can make the trip to the exhibit part of an in-depth unit study on butterflies!

 

 

Climb-in pupa pods

 

 Spider Web Climb

 

Monarch migration monorail

 

Project Feederwatch

Being home with the children has given me an opportunity to do something I did not realize was such an enjoyment: bird watching. It started with us putting up a small feeder in our front yard. Our daughter and I would enjoy watching the birds eat in the early afternoons. We soon put a second feeder in our backyard, conveniently located behind our dining room window so we easily watch our bird visitors throughout the day. Just recently, I started to read about Project Feederwatch, a Citizen Science program through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I had previously requested their Urban Birds data collection packet, but this was during the time of our relocation and getting ready for the baby and so unfortunately we did not find an opportunity this summer to do this. But I decided that since we get so much enjoyment from watching the birds who visit our yard, we could participate in Project Feederwatch this season, as this would be a great Nature Study to incorporate into our homeschool lessons.

The project is simple: people have their location that they feed and watch the birds on their property. The data collection season goes from November 12th through the end of April 2012. Participants should observe two sequential days every week or two, and have the option to report on the website (the preferred method) or sending in paper reports at the end of the season. Species at the count site are observed and counted over the two day period, and the highest number observed at one time is the number recorded for that species for that particular count period. Participation helps scientists observe bird winter migration patterns across the country and in Canada.

There is a small fee to participate ($15), and this provides a calendar, and some birding tips, bird identification posters, and information on feeding birds. We are novices at this, so the material has been quite helpful. The only species I could identify before we started was the plainly obvious Northern Cardinal, of which we see a couple of males and females. We also have a slew of small brown birds that I realized were house sparrows, which apparently are the bane of bird people nationwide because they are so prolific, and crowd out native species, like blue birds. They tend to crowd my feeder so I am exploring some ways to feed them away from the main feeder to keep the other species I get happy. We also get three (at least) Tufted Titmice and I have seen a single Goldfinch, a single Eastern Towhee (or at least that’s what I think it is) and a few White crowned Sparrows. We get a fair amount of Mourning Doves and the Grackles here are RIDICULOUS! And so noisy! I typically just grouped all the black birds I saw into one group until I really started watching them this past week. This is when I realized that while most of the black birds that we see are the Grackles, there are a couple of smaller black birds too – and they are not a solid black but rather a black body with a brownish-greenish head and chest. The best I can figure, these would be Brown-headed Cowbirds – so that’s what they are getting listed as. I will continue to tweak our feeder setup, hopefully draw away the House Sparrows to keep my other birds happy, and see if I can get some more unusual visitors. We plan on counting each week if possible, so I will have a counter on my main page throughout the months of November through April 2012.

Please check out Project Feederwatch and the other wonderful resources available from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/

Our backyard setup. Hopper feeder with Songbird food mix – mostly black sunflower seeds with some other feed mixed it. A tube feeder with thistle – so far I’ve only seen one Goldfinch visitor. I also have two small dishes near the ground that I fill with water daily for the birds. With our drought they are most appreciative! This is a great location because it is under two Live Oaks, and next to my fence and my neighbor’s smaller trees. Also, the ground under the feeders has tall grass for shelter so they feel secure. We also have a small brushpile near my composter that the birds enjoy. In the drier weather they enjoy using the dirt in my planter boxes for their dust baths.

One of the mourning doves perching in my tree. We get several of these – both larger ones seen here, and smaller ones that are similar in size to the Cardinals.

A Northern Cardinal and House Sparrow in the smaller tree against my fence. There are four or five of these trees against my fence, and this is the main congregating area for the birds. They spend most of their time in my Live Oaks or these smaller trees.

Our property backs up to a Greenbelt so there can be no development behind us. All there is to see is Texas scrubland. We usually get cows grazing a couple days a week, and deer on occasion. We were lucky to see this deer mama and youngster feeding just behind our fence. While I was photographing, one of our resident Cardinals was on the fence for a photo op!