Getting started – Biology

In 2011-12 we’re going to adopt a nature study approach to biology! We’ll meet on Monday evenings, 7-8:30 p.m., beginning Sept 12. Occasionally, we’ll fall back to either Friday morning or Saturday morning, particularly when there are field trips.

I’d like to encourage all the moms to stay on any evening you wish – either in the family room as a participant, or to lounge in the library and just eavesdrop, whatever you like. But please plan on participating fully the first night. One of the things we’ll do the first night is talk about field trips, so please think about any field trips you would like to suggest or organize and bring them up for discussion. 🙂

Here are the books to order, just as a reminder:

Note: Lyrical Life Science, vol. 1, has been updated recently. Here’s the webpage description and place to download the update:

The Lyrical Life Science books, songs and workbooks pack an amazing amount of content into a digestible and concise format, so I hope that your students will find them fun and enjoyable. I’m looking forward to the concert that we’ll have each Monday night to begin our session! This concert will consist of whatever new song they’re learning as well as the previous song. Moms are certainly encouraged to stay for that! And to have your student audition the song for you regularly as they’re learning it during the week. Should be fun. 🙂 And after the Monday night “concert,” we’ll have a chance to discuss any questions students have about the Lyrical Life Science content before going on to the main activity for the night.

The other main part of the Monday night sessions, besides Lyrical Life Science singing and discussion, will be activities or labs. This year, and next year’s chemistry class, will count as a high school laboratory science class. Often in the fall semester we’ll be using the microscope as a focal point of our lab, associated with Pond Life as a guide to the microscopic critters.

Students will also share their nature journals. The nature journals are even more important to the course than the Lyrical Life Science. The nature journals count as labs in themselves, but they are less structured than most labs and there are very few strings attached. Their chief purpose is to ensure that each student is finding ways to actually experience the living world during the week. Our approach to biology is based on ecology, natural history and habitats, which are all accessible in concrete ways in familiar surroundings. So entries in the nature journal can take the form of anecdotes about animal life, behavior and care (domestic dogs/cats or backyard birds/squirrels or wild animals). Birdwatching will definitely be a frequent topic of discussion on Monday nights, since I’ll try to use birds whenever possible to illustrate biological concepts that we discuss. But during the week, Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study will also provide lots of ideas for nature journal entries, because it gives questions to think about or to look for in relation to many common animals, plants and habitats. So I want our kids to become quite familiar with Comstock as well as whatever field guides you happen to have lying around. Yet the nature journals can be even more personalized than this: they can include drawings, poetry, photographs, etc., so if your student wants to do a creative media project, blog or scrapbook involving living things, then that can be carried out as part of the “nature journal.” It doesn’t have to be words written by pencils on wood-product paper. And entries don’t have to be uniformly “scientific” in style – a nature journal is interdisciplinary and creative. What counts is that each student is finding meaningful and significant ways to experience, appreciate and understand the living world.

And then there will be weeks when we don’t meet on Monday nights, and I hope that on those weeks, one or more of the moms will organize Friday morning or Saturday morning field trips. There are all kinds of places to visit, including Ranger programs at Lake Thunderbird or 1,000 Hills, the water treatment plant, the Osteology Museum, the Sam Noble Museum, Zoo, History of Science Collections, and parks and places wherever you might happen to be traveling or visiting or camping during the year! Field trips will help our students recognize the great appeal and wonder of the living world all around us this year. Share your field trip ideas!

Thanks so much for joining Susanna and me in doing life science this year. 🙂

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