We’ve officially set aside Fridays for special homeschool outings now that the weather isn’t quite so snowy and the baby brother isn’t quite so brand new. Last Friday we braved the rain and went out to our local nature park, which ended up being quite lovely despite the chilly weather because nobody else was there! I’m working on turning the kids into little nature scientists and knew I wanted them to focus on one thing while we were out so before we left we all decided on the question of the day: “Is it a living thing?”
The idea of living things vs. non-living things was something I thought they’d pick up right away since it seems like such an obvious question for me, the mom. As it turned out, it’s not such an easy answer and they came up with mind-bending questions like whether or not water is living since it moves around or if leaves are alive by themselves or only alive as part of a whole tree.
To see if something was living, we checked for these key characteristics of living things:
We determined that water isn’t a living thing because it doesn’t eat. Leaves eat and grow, but not when they fall off the tree so leaves must only be living things as part of a living tree. The idea that trees eat made sense to them when we talked about the food coming into the roots from the ground, but when they asked how trees make waste I explained that trees give off oxygen and then Eva made the connection that oxygen was tree poop and we were all breathing tree poop and they thought that was hi-la-rious. (Yes, we straightened that out later.)
It was a great late winter/early spring lesson because so many of the plants are deceptively dead-looking and that led to a lot of conversations about whether or not something was going to keep growing in the spring or if it would decompose and turn to dirt. I was surprised at how perceptive the kids were when they really got their brains working on sorting things out.
I can’t wait for springtime and the outings that come with it! I’m getting ready for some big time nature lessons and it’s been fun to start collecting the books and gear we’ll need. Here’s a peek:
Affiliate links – Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World /// SainSmart Jr. Kids Bug Catchers and Viewer Microscope /// Toysmith Nature Kaleidoscope Kit /// Learning Resources Magnifier & Tweezers /// Toysmith Garden Root Viewer /// Moulin Roty Le Jardin Flower Press /// The Practical Naturalist /// CamelBak Kids Water Bottle /// Mountaintop Schoolbags for Kids