The Salmon Run

Today, a friend and I enjoyed watching the Salmon Run here in Toronto, at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, with our girls.  This is our second year going, and we had a great time. Last year, we were a bit late in the season, and only saw a couple of fish, and plenty of salmon carcasses (a  great science and philosophical lesson). This year, there were more fish fighting their way upstream.

The salmon run is where salmon swim upstream, even jumping up over waterfalls, in order to lay their eggs upstream. You can see them all along the Don River, making their way to the top. A some points, they vigorously swim against the current.

Those white splashes of water are the salmon

In addition to the river, when you first enter the park, there is a large pond, that is home to a beautiful blue heron, ducks and some curious Canadian geese.

There is a beautiful walking trail along the river, but do be careful of the poison ivy! (Thanks Jena!) When our friend pointed it out, Little Miss exclaimed “It’s a good thing I’m wearing stockings!” as she traipsed through it. She did take notice though, and was careful walking along the rocks.

Poison Ivy

Lastly, a friendly grasshopper, that intrigued Little Miss.

If you get a chance, check it out! The salmon run typically runs from mid-September (earlier in other parts of Ontario) to mid-October. The weather does affect the salmon run, and with the ridiculously hot weather last week, it has delayed it.

We plan on going to another location next week, so we’ll see if there are more or less salmon. I hypothesize more.

Blessings,

Liz

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Go Home and Learn (About Camouflage)

This morning, we went on our morning walk. It was a somewhat typical September morning, other than the fact that it’s been in the high 20s (Celcius) the last few days, which is unusual for Toronto at this time of year. As we walked along, we came across this little guy:

He’s a leaf insect! At first, I thought it was an ant, carrying a leaf. The insect’s colour was so vibrant! It was quite beautiful. It even had veins to accentuate his “leafy-ness”. This nifty creature then sparked a discussion on camouflage, naturally.

As we were talking, our neighbour was walking by, and said “hello”. As typically happens lately, he asked Little Miss if she was starting school next year (our walks tend to happen mid morning, during school). I commented that we were homeschooling (she would have technically started school this year), and we continued our conversation about the housing market in our area. As we ended our conversation, he turned to Little Miss and told her that she had better “go home and learn”.

I thought it was a little funny. Here we were, outside in God’s creation, learning about camouflage, colours, and construction equipment (they’re doing work on our street), but he thought learning only happened at home. Learning happens everywhere! If we simply keep our eyes open, there are many opportunities to learn naturally, and dare I say it, more meaningfully.

Perhaps we’ll pick up a book at the library that discusses camouflage. Maybe we’ll take a field trip to the local pet store, and see what the chameleons are up to. Or, maybe we’ll simply look for more instances of camouflage, as they come up naturally, in our day to day lives. However, we won’t be working on a worksheet about it. Nor will I make Little Miss create a science fair project, that requires 5 examples of camouflage, while she dresses in military camo gear. If she chooses to dress up, and cover herself in mud, then so be it (and probably more likely than less, actually…), but I want to avoid forcing the subject. I don’t want to crush her natural curiosity by over extending our natural lesson.

I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to learn naturally, because they are everywhere. And I firmly believe that naturally occurring learning is more meaningful, and will have more staying power, than preconceived unit studies.

What have you learned lately?

Blessings!

Her Journey Stick

As I may have mentioned before, we are part of a Forest School Playgroup. We meet once a week, year round, in the forest. We have a beautiful creek that the children can explore, as well as fallen trees that are great for climbing. So, if you happen to see photos of us in the forest, they are likely from our playgroup.

One of the leaders brought yarn last week, so the children could make Journey Sticks. My mom had told me about them a few months ago, so I was eager to see if Little Miss was interested in making one. The purpose of the Journey Stick is to attach items you find along your journey – a collection of sorts – to a stick of your choice. Here is hers:

She chose flowers, weeds, leaves, and grass, because she felt they were beautiful. Some children decided to attach acorns, while others wanted a rock – creativity was needed to attach those items.

A journey stick is a fun way to have a momento from the forest. However, please be aware of your impact on your surroundings. This is not an activity we do every week, nor do we regularly pick items from the forest. Some flowers are protected in Ontario (like the Trillium), and if you pick them, you can face hefty fines. We generally take the approach of take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, but occasionally, we create something from the forest. We try to be as hands on as possible, while also minimizing our impact as much as we can.

Blessings!

What Letter Is That?

Yesterday was our “first day of school”. Although, for us, it was no different than any other day. We opted to spend the day with friends visiting Riverdale Farm, in downtown Toronto, and we made a pit stop at the bank.

On our way downtown, Little Miss (who we just turned around from rear facing in her car seat, but that’s another topic for another post) saw this logo on the back of a trailer:

“What letter is that, Mommy?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s not a letter. It’s a logo, which is a picture for a company. But it is made up of 2 letters smooshed together,” I replied.

Little Miss, 3.5, doesn’t know all of her letters yet. She knows some, but not all. But she did recognize that this one was somewhat familiar.

They’re always learning, aren’t they?

Blessings.

Solar Eclipse 2017

On August 21, we here in Southern Ontario had the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse, like most of North America. Well, part of one at least – we received 67% coverage. Not one to shy away from an experience such as this, we did not hide inside for the day. We spoke about the risks of looking at the sun early that morning, and we created a viewer using a piece of cardboard (everywhere was sold out of eclipse viewing glasses, plus I’m pretty thrifty. i.e. cheap). We simply took a piece of cardboard, and poked a hole in the middle of it. I realized quickly that we needed a solid colour surface in order to see anything, so I grabbed a shelf my parents had inside, and used that.

Little Miss watching the moon partially cover the sun

It was really neat watching the sun’s crescent grow smaller. We didn’t experience darkness, per se, but the best I could describe it is the world looked a brown/tan colour at its peak.

A few minutes prior to its peak.

 

The peak of the eclipse – 67% coverage

We did notice a brief drop in temperature (maybe 2-3 degrees Celcius), as well as increased winds. Little Miss did not look up at the sun, even though she knew what was going on. Truthfully, she wasn’t incredibly interested for more than a short period of time. Earlier that morning, we watched a brief video (about a minute or 2) about what happens when there is a solar eclipse. Interestingly, she inquired as to why there was pink around the moon. This was a great opportunity to discuss solar flares, which we expanded on. Another friend’s daughter asked about sun spots when they discussed the eclipse, and yet another friend’s family investigated why the eye’s pupil dilates, and how that is affected during an eclipse. All of these children are between 3-6 years old. I love how curiosity can take many different forms, and lead you down such varying paths.

Then this happened:

Can you make your broom stand on end?

While I was scrolling through Facebook that afternoon, I came across a post that read:

“Do you have a broom? When you get a chance try standing a broom up in the middle of the room. Only on eclipse day will a broom stand straight on its own perfectly straight. Let me know if it works for you…”

Well, naturally, I grabbed my broom, and lo and behold, it stood!

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to wait for the next solar eclipse, nor the next equinox (August 21st was the vernal equinox, so that was another explanation proposed). It actually has nothing to do with planetary alignment. Rather, it’s due to the broom’s mass distribution. But, give it a go none the less. It’s fun to leave a broom standing on end for the next person to find 😉

Blessings!

Snap Chat Continued…

A couple of days ago, I posted about our snapdragon experience. I shared some photos of orange snapdragons, and their explosive fun. Well, we went back down to the ravine yesterday, and came across these pink and purple snapdragons:

Pink Snapdragons

You’ll notice that the seed pod (the green “bean” in the top middle of the photo) is significantly different from the orange snap dragon, being larger and shiny. The leaves are also quite different (jagged, as opposed to the smooth edges of the orange variety). The large pods are also harder to pop, and you really need to wait until they are quite engorged. But, when they’re ready, brace yourself, because there is also a much larger “pop”! So much fun!

Another significant difference was the seeds:

Snapdragon Seeds

Can you guess which seeds belong to which plant? The orange snapdragon had 2-4 seeds, on average, per pod, whereas the pink and purple snapdragons had 10+! It was a really neat experience to note the differences among the species of plant, as well as practice our math skills of counting and addition. Learning happens everywhere!

Blessings!

P.S. The seed answer is: Left, pink and purple. Right, orange. We collected the seeds and will be planting them in the spring. I really hope they come up in our backyard.

The Cicada Scene

Ah, cicadas. The sound of summer. There’s nothing quite like the remarkably loud buzz of the cicada to remind you of summers past. But man, are those things creepy! It kind of throws you off, when you’re walking down the street, and you see a massive bug on the sidewalk, or an exoskeleton hanging off a tree, no?

Well, we had a great time learning about cicadas this last week. It all started in a park… The Littles and I were meeting up with some fellow homeschooling families. Little Miss C (3.5) was playing around on the playground, and we noticed that there were some wasps buzzing around something on the ground. Upon closer inspection, we found that it was a partially eaten cicada:

Neat! We’re always up for exploring dead bugs, so we checked it out, and put it back down for the wasps’ dinner. As we went back to join our friends, we discovered that they were spending their time collecting cicada exoskeletons:

They also realized that there were many small holes around the trees, where the cicadas had come out of hibernation. Did you know cicadas can hibernate for as long as 13-17 years? Cool!

Here is Little Miss C exploring a cicada hole. She was curious as to how deep it was:

Here is a recently emerged cicada, however likely not long for this world, as it has an underdeveloped wing – an excellent opportunity to discuss the life cycle of the cicada. I love the bright colours.

And here is a cicada mid-emergence! This was a very neat experience. The cicada was vibrating its body, I believe to help stretch out its wings to allow them to dry off.

What are your favourite sounds of summer?

To listen to the cicada’s buzz, click here.

Snapdragon Fun

I love nature. I love God’s creation, and I think it’s beautiful, marvelous, and I often stand, or sit, in awe of it. And sometimes (often) I interact with it. Since I was a child, one of my favourite flowers has been the snapdragon. If you’ve never experienced snapdragons, you don’t know what you’re missing! These flowers begin to bloom in the month of August. In our neighbourhood, we they are scattered along the walkway in our ravine. Each year, I anxiously await their emergence.

What, you might ask, makes these flowers so special? They are TONS of fun! Fun? How can flowers be fun? Well, because they “pop”! Take a look at the three photos below:

Snapdragon Flower

Snapdragon Seed Pod

Popped Snapdragon Seed Pod

The first photo is of the snapdragon flower itself. It’s a brilliant orange, with specks of red. The second photo shows a seed pod. It looks kind of like a bean. A ripe seed pod is longer, and rather plump. These are the ideal pods. The third photo shows a popped seed pod. That is where the magic happens!

Once you find a ripe pod, very gently squeeze it. I can’t emphasize “gently” enough. Once you give it a gentle squeeze – POP! If they are particularly ready, even just brushing it with your hand will cause the pod to explode.

It’s a little alarming at first, but it is a LOT of fun 🙂 I promise!

Do you have a different name for snapdragons?

Look Up, Way Up

I love and adore experiential learning (learning through experience). You will notice that most of our meaningful learning happens in a casual fashion, through curiosity. So, I am always looking out for situations that occur in our day to day lives, where we can observe, and learn, about the world around us.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that the construction site by my parent’s home was active on a Saturday (a rare occurrence). They were removing a large crane that they had built the condo around, and therefore had to remove in a strategic way. It was fascinating to watch the construction workers disassemble the crane piece by piece, and lower the pieces onto large flatbeds like this:

We watched as they precisely lowered the pieces, using hydraulics, onto the trucks, then secured them into place. We discussed physics and engineering in a meaningful context. When have you experienced experiential learning?

Sorting Colours

Have you ever searched Pinterest for educational toy ideas? You know, the DIY ones that are “so easy” to make, and are guaranteed to entertain your child for hours? I have. And I’ve saved them all. I’ve even made a few, including my beloved Quiet Book, which truth be told, does not see nearly as much action as I thought it would. But, lately, I’ve started to have a shift in my thinking: What if kids learn things, even if we don’t sit down and formally teach them? What if their natural curiosity will lead them to learn the things they want to, and they’ll enjoy doing it all on their own? What if I stood back, and guided when needed, as opposed to creating more work for myself, and stressing myself out that she should be learning “this”? Or be able to recite “that”? Well, this morning, I was reassured that she will “get it” when she’s ready, and without all my Pinterest projects to help her along. Meet the Paw Patrol!

Have you seen the show? We like it in our house. Ryder (a boy who loves to help people) and his team of pups (are you singing the song yet?) are here to save the day! My beloved husband bought a set of 6 action figures (the pups) for our daughter last week. We have tried VERY hard not to go overboard on branded toys, but these cute, small figures were too hard to resist.

This morning I was getting ready for the day, and came across Little Miss playing with her figures and her rings, the ones from the classic Fisher Price toy that go on a yellow cone. She had put the pups in their own life savers (I think that’s what she was playing) based on their colour. Rocky in green (Green Means Go!), Rubble in yellow, etc. She wasn’t taking yellow pom poms, and putting them in the yellow container while I coached her. She was doing this all on her own. Naturally she dismantled it all just as I was about to take a picture, but I’m sure you get the idea 😉

But surely, Liz, it was a one off, no? Nope. She then proceeded to the kitchen where she wanted to give them all water, and a bath. My hubby reported this back to me at the end of the day, when he came home before me to a puddle of water and cups all over the floor (I was in a rush!).

Again, the pups were all designated their own bath and water bowl based on their colour. Can you guess what colour cup Skye got?

They’ll do it. And you know what, does it really matter in the long run if your child never puts the red bead on the red string? Probably not. But, if they do, they’ll enjoy it more if they do it in their time, based on their own curiosity, not ours.

Blessings,

Liz