Field Journal

It’s funny how, just when I think we’ve had an uneventful week and I’m wondering what I’ll record in my Observing for Learning form (a twice-monthly reporting tool for the SelfDesign program), something fun comes up out of the blue.

Yesterday all the pieces were in place to finally act on a suggestion made by DD’s Learning Consultant a while back: DD started a Field Journal. Those of you familiar with Dora the Explorer and her animal rescuer cousin Diego may know of the concept of a field journal from the latter character’s shows and online games (the Dinosaur Adventure shown here is, predictably, DD’s favorite). My kids are fans of Diego and so the concept of a field journal was met with immediate enthusiasm from DD.

I got a notebook with pages that are half-lined so there is room to draw and write. Yesterday morning I had to clean the kitchen floors and DD wanted to hang out with me so I sat her down at the kitchen table with iPhoto on my laptop, a set of coloured pens and her new journal, and two reference books. I put photos of our recent finds on the screen and she drew pictures of them and then copied out their names (both scientific name and common name) on the lines below. This activity was great – she got to practice writing (hers is getting neater all the time), drawing, and her powers of observation were stimulated by having to copy details from a photograph to paper, and also by having to identify the critter in her books.

As an example, we had this photo from last month’s mushroom hunt. Our new mushroom book, All the Rain Promises, arrived the other day so we pulled it out to identify this specimen. Eventually we decided it must be a deer mushroom (more on mushrooming in a future post), so DD drew a mushroom and wrote “Pluteus cervinus, Deer Mushroom”.

She then found a photo of a stinkbug we’d previously identified as Uhler’s Stink Bug. But when I had her leaf through Insects of the Pacific Northwest she came across Say’s Stink Bug (top photo below ), which looked a lot like ours (bottom photo below). Even I wasn’t sure which was which (note: the book uses a different photo of Say’s, one that looked alot more like our photo of Uhler’s). So the two of us went bit by bit through the identifying information in the book. The pronotum and abdomen are described as “edged with white to pale yellow” for Uhler’s and “edged with light yellow and white” for Say’s. The book describes Say’s as having “three distinct, white spots anteriorly” on the scutellum, but the photo of Uhler’s in the book also showed three distinct white spots. Our photo doesn’t, but perhaps it was a resolution issue.
Both stink bugs have a bright yellow spot where the brown (wingstips?) are. What finally clinched it for us was the fact that Say’s wingtips were much less visible then Uhler’s in the book photos. ‘Course now that I see the above photo of Say’s that might not be a distinguising characteristic after all! Anyways, we’re pretty confident that ours is an Uhler’s, but the process of identification is a good one for honing DD’s observation skills.

DD spent some time with her field journal that morning, going through the photo collection. She had such a good time that she didn’t stop with flora and fauna, but decided to put in some inanimate objects as well. Thus her field journal has a page documenting her recent creative art projects, including the picture frame, treasure chest, and playdoh planets!

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