29.1.14Posted by Jeanne
Who ever knew carrot flowers could be so interesting? We didn't mean to let the carrots go to seed, of course, but that's what happens when you're away from home, and when we did, we couldn't help but study them. To start with, the blossoms are the fragile lace-like caps, so familiar on Queen Anne's Lace, which is really wild carrot anyhow, and they're just so beautiful. The thing that makes them fascinating to study, though, is the amazing fruiting cluster that results when the flower starts to wither. There are days of wonderful learning to be had here!
This year, in AO7, we're attempting to do without a formal science curriculum, preferring to adhere as closely as possible to the type of science Charlotte Mason used in her schools. That means no text books, but it certainly doesn't mean a whole year of little bios of scientists either. The students in Mason's schools studied a rigorous science course composed mainly of books that actually seem quite dry and text-booky to us today. The main difference between them and Apologia type courses, though, appears to be in the emphasis on sciences that could be observed. Observational skills pervade Mason's philosophy, and the science streams seem little different. Students continued nature study. The had special in-depth studies on subjects that interested them, they studied botany and geology and astronomy, the science of the things that they'd been studying for years under the heading of nature study.
I'll talk a lot about what our AO7 science looks like in upcoming posts, but I will say that a major emphasis is on in-depth nature study, a subject that we are calling Botany. This study of carrot plants fits right into that. So what makes botany different from our ongoing nature study? Well to start with, this is teacher lead. I decided what we would study, not Jemimah. We do more reading and more research. It is much more involved too. We started this study this morning; it is likely to continue for several more days.
Today we focused on the flower. We observed it. We drew it. We looked at it with a magnifying glass and a hand lens. We counted the petals and observed the size of the individual florets - bigger at the outside of the clusters, smaller in the centre. We counted the petals - 5, the sepals - 5, the stamens - 5. They are pentamerous plants. We observed the way the florets were arranged - in clusters, or umbrels. We used correct terminology, something that we didn't do in early years, noting that the whole bloom was called an umbel, the clusters umbrels, and that the plant family was until recently called Umbelliferae because of this umbrella likeness, along with parsley and coriander, which also grow in our garden. The terminology is not the dry list of names common to High School science. Rather, it becomes a language useful for talking about what we're observing. There are no lists of long words here, for which Jemimah is grateful!
Tomorrow we will look more at the flower and them turn to the fruiting cluster. Isn't it an amazing thing? Then there are the scary looking spiny seeds to examine after that.
The weather has been in the ridiculous range up here the past few weeks, and nature study outside has been impossible, This botany study, though, is equally good inside as out, and we are learning lots!!
Incidentally, a friend asked on FaceBook if Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study were useful in Australia. I, personally, wouldn't be without it. Although I regularly do further research on the Internet, the HoNS is a wonderful introduction to such a variety of subjects. It is a big, chunky, ugly looking book, and mine has pretty nasty, poorly reproduced little photos - are they all like that? - but I use it all the time. Despite the fact that woodchucks and chipmunks and skunks and raccoons are pretty thin on the ground in my neck of the woods, and that almost all our birds are different, we still have plenty of things in common with the US - domesticated animals, insects, invertebrates, garden flowers, cultivated cropping plants, trees, and minerals to name a few. I think it is a must-have book, wherever you live. Do you agree?