Wednesday February 28, 2007

The idea of a time dedicated to Nature Study has troubled me from time to time.  It sounds like such a good thing, but it always felt forced and unnatural to me.  I don’t know why I let myself be concerned with this.  I have boys.  We live in the country.  Nature study happens, for us, naturally!!  My older son will quite often have The Encyclopedia of Tracks & Scats outside with him while he is trying to identify an animal’s foot prints or its droppings.  The boys will often run in to consult one of our bird books to identify a bird they have just seen.
Of my two boys, though, the younger is the true naturalist.  He’s the boy that will pick up the frogs or the bugs to check them out.  He’s the boy that would stand close enough to the snake in the fence for a picture.  I’ve never been squeamish about letting him bring his finds into the house.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I’ve never been squeamish about letting him bring his non-living finds into the house!  He’s brought in snake skins.  Hanks of fleece that our sheep have shed.  Rocks and shells.  Leaves and flowers.  Bird feathers of all shapes and sizes.  Even bones.

A couple of years ago Copper went out in the winter and knocked down all of the paper wasp nests under our eaves.  We had sprayed them liberally with wasp spray during the summer, so bringing the nests inside with the pupa still in their cells was kind of cool for my son.  He was showing these to a young lady one wintry afternoon, and he said, “Hey, Mom! They’re wiggling!”  Yikes!  Apparently the wasp spray had not killed the developing wasps, and they were waking up in the warmth of our house!!!!!  The nests went back outside!

Last year we bought the Triops eggs and food at Wal-Mart and hatched those.  That’s a fairly cool experience, though they have a very short life span.  He told me yesterday that he wants to grow them again this spring. Joy.

We’ve even set up habitats and allowed him to bring live critters in to observe for a few days and then release.  Then there was the night that the three millipedes somehow escaped the habitat.  I moved things very cautiously for days after that.  I was just sure I was going to pick up a piece of paper or move a book and see one of those yucky things curled up underneath.  SHUDDER!  We never did figure out where they went.

However, having this young naturalist under our roof and still wanting to maintain a clean, orderly home,  creates a bit of a dilemma.  Initially he was given one shelf in the book case where the science and nature books are kept.  He could display his items there.  When the collection became too large, he was given a small wicker basket to hold things.  Then he brought home about a million sea shells and shark’s teeth from his great grandma’s house.  Aye yai yai!  We had shells displayed hither and yon all over the school room.  If there was open space on a shelf, a large conch shell, or several smaller shells, would be left to fill the gap.

As I was working on the monthly & quarterly chores in the school room on Tuesday, I decided to get a handle on all of his junk stuff treasure.  Now, all of his treasures are housed on one shelf, but in two lined wicker baskets and one glass container.  He can access them whenever he wants to examine his treasures, but they are no longer scattered hither and yon in the school room.

I’d love to buy him a display table for his nature finds.  Ideally, I think it would be a very cool project for Copper and the thirteen year old to build for the little guy!  I like the idea of having lots of drawers to house his finds, and his always being able to put one drawer under the glass on the top for display purposes.  His collection would be better protected, stay cleaner and organized enough to keep me happy.  Until then, we’ll find ways to manage with baskets and other containers we have on hand.

Finding the balance between encouraging your child’s interest and keeping your home in order can be a difficult thing.  Do you have any young naturalists in your home?  What ways have you found to allow them to display and keep their collections?  How about other types of children’s hobbies?  What ways have you found to keep your home reasonably tidy and still allow for the messes that a collection can make?

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27

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2 comments to Wednesday February 28, 2007

  • My second son, age 7, is also a budding naturalist. We’re going to have to buy a new Audobon insect guide because he’s worn his out!
    He keeps his collection of “inert” objects (rocks, shells, leaves) in plastic shoeboxes in his room. He usually puts them on top of his dresser so the littlies don’t get them.
    Other more special collectibles and/or live critters are kept in the school room in empty spaghetti jars. He used to have a very cool pop up bug habitat I got from a teacher store, but he wore that one out too dragging it all over the neighborhood with a new find every day.
    I also let him take digital pictures of his captured animals and after some encounters with poisonous insects he’s not allowed to touch them until we’ve identified them. Here’s a pic of that one:

    I also have some clear Sterilite drawers we keep things in on the school shelves.

  • What a great collection your son has! I really like the idea of the basket storage! Benjamin has a small rock collection but I can see him turning into more of a naturlist when he’s a bit older.
    Grace and Emily have LOTS of collections. For awhile Grace was collecting rolled up hershey kiss wrappers. Emily and Benjamin would give them theirs so over the course of a year she had a big pile. When they started overflowing her jewelry box (where she kept them) I announced “no more garbage collections!” LOL