Our "backyard" area, which the kids call "Azaela Garden"
One Small Square: Backyard
I'd put this book aside over the summer because I thought it would be a good book to read as we explored our new backyard. Then studies based on the book started popping up around the blogosphere (here and here, for instance). I had to laugh; apparently great minds think alike!
Fortunately the book lends itself to super informal study, because that is mostly what we can do right now. Here is what we have been doing: I take the book out of my basket and we go outside; I read a few pages, including the experiment sidebars, while I sit in a lawn chair and nurse the baby or stand and bounce the baby; the boys explore their squares or do the experiments as interested. Sometimes they spend a long time digging and drawing in their sketchbooks. Sometimes they just make a brief check of their squares. After we look at the squares, we often take a walk in the yard. We check out picture books from the library (or our own bookshelves) to build on interests, and I have the Backyard Nature coloring book for those who enjoy coloring. No lesson plans for me to make or follow, no time at the computer wrestling with formatting. Easy (for me, anyway).
We have two persimmon trees in our yard. This is Pop's drawing of one of them and us looking at it. You'll note what else we discovered under the tree (other than persimmons, which Pop calls "percinnamons".)
The boys' "small squares" for the backyard study are all under this sweetgum tree. The day they decided on their squares, Farmerboy discovered 4 or 5 cicada cases, which now reside on a windowsill in our dining area.
Farmerboy, working on an experiment from the book. Farmerboy is very much a hands-on science kind of guy. He will sometimes work in a sketchbook, but mostly he wants to do projects and experiments. The One Small Square books lend themselves well to this kind of learner, as well as to those who just like to read, look, and draw. This particular experiment was to try and capture animal tracks by putting dirt in a paper plate, then wetting it and leaving it overnight. Unfortunately our weather has been SO dry for the past month or so that the water evaporated too fast and just left the dirt parched and cracked. The dry weather has also made it hard to observe the kinds of life portrayed in One Small Square: Backyard, but the kids are still enjoying the study.
One Small Square: Woods
We're reading through this book at the same time as One Small Square: Backyard. I didn't plan this, but Katydid found it mixed in with the books in her room as she was unpacking and Farmerboy picked it up. It would have been nice to have done this book with the boys in New York, since we did have actual "woods" there, but as long as you have trees, the book can work in your yard. It begins with fall, so now is a good time to go through it. If you have logs for firewood, so much the better: you have a ready model of the structure of a tree, which is illustrated in the book. Today we read about the life cycles of insects and discovered a webworm nest that had been blown out of one of our trees. Farmerboy's "square" for this study is different than the backyard, but for some reason he still picked a sweetgum tree. (Could be because we have so many sweet gums! Or maybe because Katydid had already laid claim to the red oak.)
Nature Study for the Nature Study Enthusiast
... by which I mean Katydid. She's reading Gail Lawrence's Field Guide to the Familiar , spending time in her own small square, nature journal in hand, and spending around an hour every day birding, then entering her observations into ebird. I just get out of her way.