Today we started the Outdoor Hour nature study for the first time. The Outdoor Hour is based on the book The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock and is hosted by the Handbook of Nature Study blog. The first challenge for the summer season is on mosquitoes and the sense of smell.
To prepare, I read the chapter on mosquitoes out loud to Jedi and Monkey. The book was not really written for very young children (Jedi is 6 1/2 years old, Monkey is 3 years 4 months old, and Bitty Bug is 17 months old), so I had to change the wording a bit so that younger kids could understand. Both of the kids really liked the line drawings in the book, and talked about what they observed about the pictures of the mosquito pupae and larvae.
Some interesting things we learned from the chapter:
-Only female mosquitoes bite and sing
-Pupae have two tubes near the neck: one is a breathing tube, and one has a flap that opens and closes to help the pupae float.
-Mosquito eggs float on the top of water, and are bunched tightly together. When the larvae hatch, they exit though the bottom of the eggs.
-If you put oil on the surface of the water, you will kill the larvae and pupae because of the inability of the breathing tubes to work if coated in oil.
-Before learning to fly, the pupae sheds out of it’s skin. It then remains at the surface of the water while attempting to learn to use it’s wings. If a breeze comes while this is happening, the mosquito will likely drown.
After we read the chapter, we went outside. It was just after dusk, and it was about 20 minutes after a brief rainstorm ended (and our observation time ended approximately 30 minutes before a bigger thunderstorm began).
Training the Senses
Sight: Both kids noticed a large amount of lightening bugs outside. They also noticed that most of the lightening bugs flew right above the fields surrounding our yard, but not in our yard (which was freshly mowed). Jedi hypothesized that lightening bugs preferred taller grass so that it was easier for the bugs to hide.
Smell: Jedi noted that it smelled “like worms” outside. The ground was damp from the storm and it smelled just like a rainstorm.
Hearing: While we were outside, we didn’t really hear any insects buzzing, but we could hear faint thunder in the distance. We also heard birds singing and crickets chirping.
After the initial senses training, we went to a part of the yard that has been dug out for a small pond. After several recent rainstorms, the hole had filled with water, about 3 foot deep. The water has been there for a couple weeks. The kids sat next to the water and observed bugs skating across the surface. We then took two samples of the pond water in observation jars to bring into the house.
In the house, we looked at the jars. The first jar didn’t seem to have anything living in it. The second jar, which was taken closer to the shore line of the pond, had several very tiny larvae that were very hard to see with the naked eye, and several larger pupae that were about the size of a grain of rice. The larvae tended to swim upright, with one end towards the top of the jar and one end towards the bottom, bobbing up and down. The larger pupae stayed in a fetal position with the tiny breathing tubes towards the top of the body arch. The pupae stayed at the surface for the most part, but if someone touched the observation jar, the pupae would dart straight down to the bottom of the jar and “convulse” by shaking the entire body back and forth.
The nature journals: