Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nature Study: 1st attempt not so successful

OK, I'm going to admit something here ... I'm AMAZINGLY nature challenged.

I'm a fairly intelligent woman.

I have a BA in print journalism from Gonzaga University and an MBA with a concentration in Marketing Research from the College of William and Mary. I've scored well on various batteries of tests including passing a psych review to work in Flight Control at Delta Air Lines (not an easy thing to pass but I'm spatially top-notch and am amazingly honest when quizzed by a psych!). I have an amazingly high iq and read all the time -- deep stuff, not just fluff.

But, somewhere my education is lacking. Somehow I've gone through 18 years of formal schooling + a total of 40+ years of living and I'm still missing something. I'm nature challenged.

No, really, really nature challenged.

I can't tell a River Oak from a Water Oak from a Live Oak. And the only reason I know that there are more types than just "Oak" is because I spent more than an hour -- an embarrassing hour -- trying to teach my kiddoes about trees today.

I had grand plans -- we'd head to the Marine Museum park (an absolutely beautiful playground carved into a mixed type forest with gorgeous trees) and each pick a tree. We'd use the Common Native Trees of Virginia to determine exactly which tree and then draw it in our nature journals and record various facts and then come back in a month and take more readings. It would be fabulous.

Than reality struck.

I couldn't figure out whether a leaf was compound or simple, pinnate or palmate, 11 or more leaflets vs less than 11, slate gray bark or "not curled and peeling" .... well you get the picture.

At one point, I'd lost both String Bean and Bam-bam, who'd left quietly deciding that ignoring this crazy, book-reading lady would be better than trying to understand what the heck she was muttering about ... "margin wavy or widely toothed or is it at least some of the leaves deeply lobed"?????

Only LegoManiac stuck it out with me.
After almost an hour, we were able to confirm that one tree was a sweet gum and the other a flowering dogwood ... the kids were NOT impressed.
I came home to my very understanding husband. The man who has a PhD in Poultry Science, has coached Science Olympiad middle school teams to the Nationals, a guy who was North Carolina State champion in "Tree-mendous" .... did I get sympathy? Well, a bit.

His suggestion? Take a deep breath, re-group and down-size my expectations and lesson plans.

So on our next outing ... probably on Friday (you have to get right back up on that horse, don't you?) ... he said just collect different leaves, bring them home and really look at them, figure out what they are and KNOW the leaves.
Once the leaves fall (in the next month or so), than really look at the bark of the different trees ... take rubbings, pictures, sketches and try and id from these. By the time Spring comes around, we should know the "population of trees" in the park; we should know what we're looking at or looking for and be able to start id'ing trees in situ.

Who knew you had to know so much about trees to be able to identify them with your children?

And, you know the really ironic thing?

String Bean's poem for memory-work this week is Joyce Kilmer's The Trees!


Theresa said...

That just made me smile! You know, at least you are out there giving it a shot. That's the biggest hurdle! Yay for you!

Carole in Wales said...

Mary, I am right there with you! But I agree ... it is best to keep trying!

Julia S. said...

I want to thank you for this -- it gave me a big laugh. Not because I'm laughing at you, but I've so been there. The whole I'm intelligent so why can't I figure this out and the kids wandering off while I'm pondering what I thought would be a sttraight forward identification -- yep I could have written this blog. The funny thing is I was thinking we should get out and do some nature study, but the "who am I kidding" part of my brain was kicking in. Well you've inspired me -- or at least let me know that it's not just me out there- the only homeschool mom who can't figure these things out. Your husband's advice sounds good. I think I'll try it too.
Thanks again!

Amy said...

LOL Mary, I feel your pain! I was even a biology major who took classes in this. *blush* I just keep telling myself that was a looong time ago. :) Good for you for getting back on the horse! :)

MaryM said...

Wish we were there to help - although tree identification isn't necessarily my strong point. I think dh's ideas were good.