Learning on the Farm {Nature Study}

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Farm Learning

Strawberry picking season is my absolutely favorite. This spring has been so rough for our family- I had started to let myself feel bad about all the things we missed out on while I was laid up in bed. Then, I got an email that this weekend was the LAST weekend for strawberry picking at our local farm.

We’ve been trying to be more purposeful with nature studies, using Blaze New Trails from The Giles Frontier as a family curriculum. This program is so wonderful at encouraging me as a mother to look at our experiences outdoors with more purpose. Before we headed out the door to pick berries,  I opened up the teachers manual and checked the table of contents to see if there was a section on berry picking.

Of course there was- this program covers everything from state and local parks, beaches, backyard nature studies, nature walks, butterflies and birds, trees and flowers, farms and farmers markets, raising chickens, and so much more.

Once I had looked over the assignment, we headed out the door. Reading it in advance makes it easier for me to ask the kids leading questions while we are out and about and helps me stay focused on the educational activities we had planned while also exploring nature.

On the car ride over to the farm, we talked about what we were about to do. I asked the kids how they would know which berries were ripe and ready to pick, and which ones needed to be left behind on the plant (the ripe berries would be red). We talked about what we thought would taste better- ripe or unripe berries. We talked about the life cycle of a strawberry plant.

Then, at the farm, we stopped to talk to the farmer about the rules. They spoke with the kids about respecting the farm and the plants. They reminded the kids to not climb over the plants- walk on the aisles instead. When you pick the berry, you pull it softly, and if it doesn’t come off easy, the berry probably isn’t ready to be picked. They showed us which section was ready to be picked today, and off we went.

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This is a whole-family curriculum, meaning its lessons are adaptable to many different ages. The conversation based activities work very well with the little kids. As we picked, we talked. We made estimates of how many plants were in each row, and how many rows of berries they had. Then, Bug did the math to determine about how many berry plants we were talking about.

The kids looked at the plants and the soil and the berries. They got dirty. Peanut squished his toes in the mud, and squished a berry in his hands, and took a bite or two out of the berries he was putting in the basket.

We walked the berries back to the berry barn to purchase them and talk some more with the farmer. The curriculum had interview questions to ask, so Bug lined up to ask them more about growing strawberries. We learned that the plants will produce berries for 4-6 weeks, and will keep growing more berries as they are picked. We learned that this farm doesn’t use pesticides unless they end up with a serious bug problem, in which case they treat only the plants that are affected. We learned that the weather this year (rainy and dreary in the DC area) caused them to lose almost half their berry crops, and that weather is often a much bigger problem for a farmer than pests are.

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When we got the berries home, Bug was able to apply our adventure to his math lesson for the day. He measured the strawberries, and converted cups to quarts and pints. He calculated the total cost of our berries, counted how many berries per pound, and then found the price of each piece of fruit.

Then, we ate them all. The curriculum suggested we make some jam, but we ate the berries before we ever got that far. Next time. Next time we’ll make jam.

Learning on the Farm

In case you missed it- Blaze New Trails helped me turn a trip to the farm into a complete lesson. When you head to the farm, you can:

  1. Have a Math Lesson: Estimate the number of plants, calculate the cost of the fruit you picked, and practice equivalencies.
  2. Have an Art Lesson: Draw the plants, check out the colors on the plants, examine textures, make homemade ink
  3. Have a Science Lesson: Learn about how the plants grow, learn how farmers rotate crops, and how to manage pests.

This is just ONE lesson in Blaze New Trails. You can follow weekly lesson plans and work through this program in 42 weeks, or do like I do and jump around as the urge to get outdoors hits you. There are organized lesson plans, that put the program in order for you, with poems, copy work, worksheets, lap books, and of course, hands-in-the-dirt out in the woods fun.

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One lucky OPC winner will receive Blaze New Trails to use with their kids. Use the entry form below to enter to win!

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69 Comments

  1. I am so happy that I found this section! I will be beginning our first year of homeschooling my 6year olds next month. I’ve been looking for ideas but especially for when we go on vacation.

  2. My boys have just joined Cub Scouts, so they are very excited about the idea of camping. I hope we learn to enjoy it as a family (I have a not-outdoorsy hubby), because I think it outdoor time is so valuable for kids!

  3. We enjoy trips to the creek in the foothills. So pretty and a wonderful escape from the heat.

  4. My favorite is swimming in the pool! I hate being hot so that’s the ticket to enjoyable outdoor time in the summer.

  5. I’ve got four boys, so their favorite outdoor activity is digging! LOL. But as a family we’ve always loved the beach. I recently moved to landlocked Idaho, so we need to find something else.

  6. Our favorite activity is “playing” in the garden. The kids love to pull weeds, but I think it is just an excuse to dig in the dirt for worms. 🙂

  7. I grew up gardening and preserving food as well as was blessed to grow up learning many old ways that were already lost to most of my peers. It is my hope to pass these along to my granddaughter now.

  8. Outdoor activities are one of the best ways for a family to share, learn and play together. 🙂 We love a little bit of everything.

  9. We love visiting our city’s botanical gardens in each season to see the different blooming plants.

  10. I love to be outside when the weather is actually nice, basically fall, winter, and spring (early) where I live. I like to read, blow bubbles, hang up clothes, ride bike, hike, go for walks

  11. My fave outdoor activity is time spent outdoors watching all of out desert wildlife with my three boys.

  12. Rockclimbing is a favorite summer outdoor activity for us. We are an outdoor family, this study seems like something my kids would love! Thank you for the chance to win.

  13. We love camping as a family. Camping, hiking, swimming and just being outside – it will never get old.

  14. I love gardening, hiking, canoeing, camping… I really can’t pick just one favorite outdoor activity. 🙂

  15. I love my garden. The watering, the checking under leaves, watching the little fruits and veggies change from flowers, to little green nubs, to actual food.

  16. I have to admit that my favorite outdoor activity is sitting in a comfortable chair under a shade tree sipping sweet ice tea!

  17. I’m looking forward to a little later in the summer (I know it’s technically still spring!) when the fire flies come out at dusk.

  18. We are always outdoors when the weather is nice. My kids love to look for grubs and earth worms, and explore our field on our 11 acres for bugs or animal tracks. They come in dirty every time, lol…so bath day is almost everyday! It’s worth it. We are big on traveling so camping is one of our family hobbies and National and State Parks are usually on the agenda for exploring wherever we are.

  19. First I love to watch and listen for wildlife by my home- hiking and gardening sometimes vie for favorite!

    1. Sorry – forgot to mention that my favorite outdoor activity is gardening. But we all enjoy hiking too.

  20. I love so many outdoor activities – hiking, biking, camping, snowshoeing, working in the yard/garden, playing with my girls in the creek or at the lake, kayaking, etc.

  21. Love all the ideas they had for extending out a lesson, and that it got you to go out to a berry farm! Seems like such a great way to do a little different “schooling” for the summer, especially. Thank you for sharing about this curriculum!

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