Charlotte Mason via the Ambleside Online curriculum is probably my biggest influence in the area of science education, at least for now, the Primary Years. Add that to the face that my son LOVES all things animal and I had my direction. This is full of rabbit trails. For instance
- One day while driving to the library we saw two vultures on the side of the road feeding on a skunk. At the library, we found a book by Sandra Markle to learn more about vultures. This happened to be one of a series of books on predators which were pictured on the back of the vulture book and Samuel wanted to read all of them in the series.
- Samuel wanted to go see the armadillo at the zoo recently, which is a new exhibit, which led to 15 minutes of observation followed by checking out various books from the library to learn more. We're still doing this one, so I'm not sure where it will lead.
- We have a wonderful zoo in our city and a zoo membership which allows us to go see one specific animal or just visit one area of the zoo without having to spend all day there just because we paid the enormous entrance fee. We visit 2 or 3 times a month, maybe less in winter or more in summer. Along with this is visits to other zoos while we are on vacation. We have been to Atlanta, Palm Beach, Cincinnati, a private zoo in the Myrtle Beach area, as well as 3 aquariums (Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach and Newport). If he doesn't decide on a new animal to learn more about from these visits, I use them to choose.
- A few years ago, Samuel started what he calls a Zoo Book, but which I kind of designed based on Stanley's Great Big Book of Everything (for those who remember that Disney show). I started with a 3 ring binder and page protectors. I print out pictures of animals we take at the zoos we visit. Samuel picks the animal and we do a scrapbook style page with Samuel dictating the facts we journal. The first ones were very simple, but now he wants me to read aloud the wikipedia entry and then he picks the facts he thinks are most interesting. He still dictates the journalling, so he is learning a little bit of narration there.
- Nature Walks - We live in condo coummunity, but we share a border (tree line) with a horse farm. We visit this regularly and try to notice new things and things that have changed. There is also a park a little farther away that we visit a few times a year with a scavenger hunt (like this one from Hearts and Trees) in hand. I may start a nature journal with Samuel soon as he is just now beginning to like to draw.
- We own a bird field guide by Stan Tekiela. He has several field guides by state (The titles are "Birds of state name") and the best thing about this bird book is that it is organized by color. I only know a few birds by sight, so when I see a brown bird I don't know, I just go to the section of brown birds and look for a picture to match. It's awesome. I just typed his name in at amazon.com and he also has some other field guides and nature books that are probably worth checking out. If I had seen one for Wildflowers of Kentucky, I would have snapped it up in a minute. Anyway, Samuel is still having some issues with being still and quiet enough for bird-watching, but we try it sometimes.
Of course, if any other science topic arises that he is curious about, we would take a side trip to experiment or learn more about it. I can see adding in some astronomy and earth science in coming years, but for now, this is what we do.