Monday, May 10, 2010

Nature Study: Dandelions

This past week we had our first "real" nature-study. We started with the study of dandelions, mostly because we have a lot of subjects to work with and the study was rather obvious by just looking out our back door :)

Dandelion Observation

One of the first things we did as part of our nature study was to dig up a dandelion from it's roots (after taking pictures of it) and observed it's parts

Something that Treyton was particularly interested in was the center of the plant and how it didn't fill in the same as the outer ring of the plant. He also noticed "milk" coming from the root - I told him that this was called latex (he didn't really care what the real name was :))

He also observed "feathers" on the stems of the flower. He dictated and I recorded his observations into our Nature Field Journal (a spiderman notebook) ;)

Dandelion Life Cycle
We went out and observed dandelions in nature. We talked about how we don't want dandelions in our yard, how they are weeds and how when they grow in our flower garden they can kill off the other flowers. We picked dandelions at all different stages of the life cycle and discussed the life cycle of a dandelion.

Taste Testing
In doing research for our nature study I saw a recipe for a Dandelion Salad, instead of making a salad we opted to just try a taste... I told Treyton they tasted bitter, he kept asking me what bitter meant... after he tried it I said "That taste is what bitter is." he got it!
 Lexa wouldn't try a dandelion, she kept pretending she would but then she would put it down and just laugh and pretend to do it again.... 
Having so many dandelions in our yard and beautiful weather one afternoon, we decided to read our dandelion books in the yard amongst our very subject. This was great! As I was reading the stories when certain stages or parts of the dandelion were discussed, Treyton would merely lean over and grab what we were discussing in the book and would compare the pictures in the book to the reality he had in front of him.
Dandelion Germination
And of course you couldn't have a dandelion study without, after talking about the seeds and life cycle of a dandelion, helping nature out by spreading a few seeds yourself :)

Dandelion Dissection
After collecting more dandelions (we had plenty of subjects to work with) we went ahead and brought them inside for a little bit of in-depth study. We began to cut them apart and take a closer look inside.
The first thing we cut open was the stem, showing how the stem was hollow and open (like a straw). Treyton felt the inside with his finger and described it as "bumpy and on the sides, soft".
 As we began to cut open the top Treyton observed (without realizing it) three different stages of the dandelion seed. We compared what the seeds look like as part of a dandelion flower, then we took seeds from a closed up (almost mature dandelion) as well as the seeds from a fully mature dandelion.

We saw that the seeds go from white to cream to brown as it matures with the flower.

Dandelion Seed Experiment
After observing our seeds, and petals from all different stages of a dandelion, Treyton wanted to see if any of them would fly, like the seed parachutes.
We quickly learned that the yellow flower parts do not fly as one piece. So we cut a flower in half and removed the seeds leaving us with lots of yellow petals. Still, the petals would not fly. Treyton's hypothesis was that they needed the seeds to fly.
We then tried to have the seeds fly away (with the yellow flower parts attached) and they still would not. We then concluded that it was the white "feathers" that in fact helped the seeds to fly.

We took a walk around the house in search of the tallest dandelion we could find. We collect several specimens and brought them back to the patio for a further more in depth analysis. After lining up our collections we narrowed it down to the dandelion we suspected to be the tallest, from there we measured them out and came to find that our tallest dandelion was just over 16 inches (when straightened out)!! We were impressed with our findings. :)

Nature-Study Recordings
With this study Treyton and I started a nature-study field guide. (Though we don't call it that, Treyton was very confused with me calling it a field, because a 'field' to him is a piece of farm land). I would record Treyton's observations and findings as he dictated them, asking him clarifying questions only. I illustrated a few of our specimen's and then Treyton would also.

On one of the final days of our study, Treyton decided he wanted to draw different pictures of dandelions from his collections of the day, he then proceeded to draw on his own.... besides the one orange leaf I think they turned out great!

This was a very satisfying study. Treyton learned not only about dandelions but also about nature-studying. He learned about journalling his finding, drawing in his field journal and observing. I am LOVING nature study (now that I understand what it truly is). I am so very grateful that I came across Anna Comstock's Nature Study Handbook at our public library and that I was also able to find it for a good deal so I now own it! I look forward to our next study... whatever it may be!

To see more dandelion studies, what others have done visit the Handbook of Nature Study Blog 


Virginia Lee said...

LOVE IT!!!!! We did a Dandelion Study last year. It looked very similar to yours. Except we did not taste them, but we did paint with them. =)

I am so glad you are loving nature study and I can't wait to see what else ya'll do!

Ticia said...

How thorough! We're blessed with a yard mostly free of dandelions, but I'm so looking for some next year, I've seen so many cool ideas.

Unknown said...

Wonderful study with your children. I think the dandelion is a wonderful first study to build up some interest.

Please submit this entry to the OHC Blog Carnival so other moms can see your ideas:

Thanks so much for sharing your link.

Jamie {See Jamie blog} said...

What a fantastic study! Love that you all tasted them, too! We did a dandelion study a year or so ago, but not as in depth; I think we need to do another one!

Pebblekeeper ~ Angie said...

Thanks for submitting to the Blog Carnival! What a fun study - Love your pictures and information.