I was thrilled this past weekend to stumble across the Handbook of Nature Study blog’s Outdoor Hour Challenge. Nature Study is something I’ve really wanted to incorporate into our homeschool, but I’ve been a little lost as far as how to get started. I grew up out in the country, but I was not the most outdoors-y kind of kid. I can recognize a maple tree and that’s about it. So this will be an educational excursion not only for Liam, but for me as well.
Monday we ventured to a nearby park, Le Parc du Joncquoy. Formerly on this site was a large chateau and its gardens.
The chateau was demolished in 1992, but care was taken to save as much of the arboretum as possible. Over ninety different types of trees can be found on this roughly ten acre site.
Liam found a number of trees with broad, flat leaves and beautiful “cones of flowers” (his words) that he wanted to identify. The tree looked familiar to me, but, like I said, I’m not exactly a child of Mother Nature. Yet. So we picked a leaf, committed the flower look and shape to memory, and went home to do some research online. Easy, right?
Ummm, no. Turns out we didn’t get a leaf, but a leaflet. This particular tree has compound leaves. Using the OPLIN site because it had the virtue of being first in my google search for “what kind of tree is this?”, I found that I hadn’t quite done all my homework. Note to self: return next day and check out the bark and the compound leaf structure.
Tuesday we returned, armed with a tad more knowledge and a camera for photographic evidence. We investigated the bark, found that the young leaves had five leaflets, but the most mature had up to seven. Found on the ground next to a couple mature trees what looked suspiciously like chestnuts. Ahhhh, now the light begins to dawn. When we lived in Harmegnies there was a huge Horse Chestnut tree in the village “grand place.” I don’t recall it flowering, but I’m sure I just wasn’t being observant at the time. The clincher, though, was finding a sign on one of the trees further up the path with both the French and Latin names for the tree: Marronnier, or Aesculus.
Forgive the less than perfect pictures. Our camera is on the way, and should hopefully arrive sometime this week. To the left, of course, is our now-identified mystery tree, the Horse Chestnut. To the right, our still unknown mystery flower. It’s all over in the undergrowth beneath the large trees. Any ideas? I’ve never seen this before and I’m stumped.
Liam and I made leaf rubbings using sidewalk chalk. The first entry in his Nature Notebook. He was quite pleased with the experience and has asked that the nature walk be the first thing we do for “school” every day!