Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Wildflowers of Ohio: The Perfect Summer Study

The kids and I completed this fun--and lovely!--wildflowers study back in the summer. It was primarily an enrichment for our CK-12 Biology chapters on plants, but I also tied it into our geography/history study of Ohio by having the kids earn the Girl Scout Wildflowers of Ohio fun patch, and using those patch requirements as our spine for this little unit.

We incorporated some art and some handwork, took a road trip, and had a magical time becoming wildflower specialists!

Here are the requirements to earn the Wildflowers of Ohio fun patch:

Wildflower Basics

1. Make a diagram of parts of a flower. 

The prerequisite for all of these steps is Chapter 15, covering plant evolution and classification, of CK-12's high school Biology 1 textbook. Ideally, you'll also be reading through Chapter 16, explicitly about plant biology, as you go. In addition, you'll want to swing back and review Chapter 4, which is when photosynthesis was covered.

I didn't end up taking photos of this activity, because flower dissection is something we've done a few times over the years. Even though this is a wildflower study, I bought a grocery store bouquet for the dissection, because their flowers are nice and large! To add interest and rigor, I required the children to make their own poster, hand-drawn or digitally created, that displayed the information from their flower dissection. They were to photograph each flower part twice, once with no magnification and once magnified using our USB microscope. We bought our USB microscope way back in 2015 (and it still works great!), but it looks pretty much identical to this one:

Here are some thumbnails of the kids' microscopic portraits:


If your kids are younger or need some scaffolding for the project, I really like this walk-through of a daffodil's dissection. It includes observational notes, ideas to direct a kid's interest, good spots to stop and draw, and supplementary resources.

If you want to do the flower dissection as a more directed activity, or with a group, I really like the way that this lift-the-flap diagram is presented.

And here's how you'd set up flower dissection Montessori-style!

And obviously, if you're not reading every single Gail Gibbons book about plants as you go, you're studying flowers wrong! This one is particularly relevant, as it has an annotated flower diagram:

Gail Gibbons picture books, especially, always have a lot more information than you'd expect in a picture book, and they're completely appropriate to use as a resource even for older kids like mine. We often read picture books first, and then move into more complicated material.

2. Start a wildflower journal. 

I've been using journals a lot with the kids this year, and I think it was this wildflowers study that inspired it! We treat the journals more as portfolios, and they're a good way to keep all of the kids' work in one place and show off the scope of their study and their mastery of it.

If I had this step to do again, I'd have the kids create journals especially to use here (as I did with their tree journals for later in CK-12 Biology Chapter 16!), but instead, they used their nature journals, and they worked fine.

As part of preparing for our Ohio road trip, we spent some time looking through this AWESOME guide to nature journaling, and we got lots of lovely ideas and bits of inspiration from it:

It gives you tips not just about drawing, but also ideas for interesting perspectives and new ways to annotate what you see. It makes nature journaling a much more meaningful and thoughtful activity.

 2. Learn about photosynthesis!

For this step, the kids reviewed the chapter on photosynthesis in CK-12 Biology. That chapter came so early in the book that they needed to review it as they started the chapter on plants, anyway, so this was a convenient step!

Here's all the work we did for Chapter 4, and any of those activities would make a good enrichment or review of how photosynthesis works. In fact, I'd fully planned to repeat the experiment on carbon dioxide uptake in water plants by having the kids collect some from a nearby wetland, but we didn't get to it before winter, so we probably will do it in the spring, instead, and thereby remind ourselves about photosynthesis all over again!

It's a really fun experiment!

The kids did, however, redo the modeling of photosynthesis project, and this time they figured exactly how to put together glucose:

Discover Ohio Wildflowers

Here's where we had the most fun with our study!

1. Go on a wildflower hike! Visit a Girl Scout Camp, local park, forest, or a field by your troop meeting site. Bring a simple field guides to learn about what you see. Or, bring a camera, take pictures, and try to identify the flowers later using books, doing online research, or ask an expert. 

As part of our Ohio road trip, we spent a day at Hueston Woods State Park, swimming with Luna, finding fossils, and sketching and identifying wildflowers:

2. Be able to identify 5-10 wildflowers by sight and add these flowers to your flower journal! Make drawings, cut out photos, and devote a page to each new flower you learn about. Be sure to answer these questions about the wildflowers: 
• What is its name? 
• Tell about an interesting feature. 
• What type of landscape does it grow in? (Forest, fields, roadsides, wet ground?) 
• What time of year can you find this flower blooming? (Spring, Summer, Autumn?)

Here are the guidebooks that we brought along to ready-reference our flowers:

I've always found using identification guidebooks challenging, but we've gotten quite a bit of practice this year, what with all the time we've spent studying growing things out in the wild.

Nevertheless, I love the question marks that Will put after her possible identifications:

It's very bothersome not to know for certain!

3. Wildflower fun!

We did NOT take any wildflowers during our hike, because we were in a state park. Instead, on another day when we were back in town, we took one of my very favorite local hikes:

The first part of the hike is NOT Luna's favorite. Stairs are scary!
It's much more fun to tromp around the waterfalls!

This spot is technically a city park, so it's perfectly alright to pick flowers--and the occasional robin's eggshell!

Will is holding a filthy Mason jar because we were also collecting water for a separate project. Homeschooling is all about multi-tasking!

Will and a friend once carried a giant snapping turtle all the way from beyond the farthest vista up to where the kid's mom and I sat together on the dock from which I took this photo. They showed the turtle to us, we admired it, and then they hauled it all the way back to where they found it.
The spot we're facing here used to be a wetland, then was a reservoir, and is now a wetland again.

 Here are the flowers we collected:

And here's what we did with them!

I'm only bummed that I didn't learn how to make these until the tag end of summer--next summer, I'll make pressed flower bookmarks every day!

Plant a seed! Share what you learned about wildflowers. 

For this activity, the kids modified Syd's Take Action Project from her Cadette Outdoor Journey. For that project, she researched the appropriate wildflower seeds for our location, perfected a seed bomb recipe, and taught other Girl Scouts how to make seed bombs.

As we were finishing up this wildflowers study, we were also prepping for our Girl Scout troop's Bridging ceremony, so the kids created seed bomb kits to give out as party favors. Syd designed a tutorial, and they included information about how wildflowers are important to our ecosystem:

The little kits turned out very cute, and will hopefully spread awareness--and wildflowers!

This was a really fun little unit of study that was simple to organize, but I think it had a big impact. It's easy to see something even as concrete as biology as abstract if all you do is read about it and take tests over it. Instead, if you can find every excuse possible to get out into nature and study biology wherever it is, and especially if you get to do some really fun, really active, really creative things, then your study means that much more.

When my kids think about studying biology, I want those memories to be joyful!

Here are some of the other wildflower resources that we used in this study:

P.S. If you like the weird, exciting, totally random stuff that I do with my kids, and you want to see more of it, check out my Craft Knife Facebook page! I'm on there kind of all the time, sharing resources, griping about stuff, and planning new adventures.

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