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Nature Study

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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