Archive for the 'Nature Study' Category

Veggie Tales

Here it is…our raised vegetable garden! Planted in the barren soil are lettuce, radish & zucchini seeds. At the left four bamboo posts are sugar snap peas and runner beans. To the left of the runner beans is an eggplant. The three large plants are tomatoes. In front of the tomatoes are three strawberry plants. The two plants behind the tomatoes are pumpkins. And the three plants on the far right are peppers. Marigolds are interspersed amongst the tomatoes.

Last night we fertilized with fish emulsion and bone meal which is in addition to the many bags of manure already mixed in to the soil. After fertilizing, we gathered for a prayer over the garden and blessed it with holy water. St. Isadore, pray for us!


Snow Activities

Here are some science activities we are planning on doing that correlate with our Winter Reading.

Snowflake Imprints

This project is done outdoors during a snowstorm. We plan on doing this several times during the winter, recording the weather conditions and their effect on the type of snowflakes. We will be recording: temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, each time we make imprints.

Materials: Shoebox with lid, Acetate (Grafix Clear Film) cut to fit inside shoebox, Krylon plastic spray (we choose blue), cardboard cut to the same size of acetate, wooden spring clothespins (two per project)

Important: Keep all materials in the freezer for atleast 1 hour before doing the project.

  1. Place acetate on the cardboard and secure with clothespins.
  2. Spray acetate with Krylon. Work Quickly!
  3. Allow a few snowflakes to land on the acetate.
  4. Place acetate in the shoebox and cover with a lid so no more snow falls on the acetate.
  5. Leave outside for atleast 1 hour to allow the Krylon to dry.
  6. When dry, a replica of the snowflakes will be left on the acetate.
  7. Observe replica snowflakes with a hand lens or a microscope.
  8. You may want to classify the snowflakes using Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes.
  9. If you keep a nature journal you might want to draw a picture of your snowflake with a ruler and protractor.

Some questions to ponder: What type of crystals formed? Is there more than one type? How big are the crystals? Are any alike?

Borax Snowflakes

We found this activity at Home Science Tools. They are a wonderful supplier of science equipment for homeschooling families.

Make real crystal snowflakes to decorate your home using borax. This activity takes about 30 minutes of active preparation and then overnight to set.


  • Wide mouth jars – one for each snowflake (can reuse to make more snowflakes)
  • Pipe cleaners (Depending on the size of the jar, you may be able to cut one piece into three smaller pieces. Use the diameter of the jar’s mouth to measure how long the pipe cleaners need to be. Use white pipe cleaners to make traditional snowflakes, or use colored pipe cleaners and food coloring for more colorful snowflakes.)
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Pencils – one for each snowflake (have as many pencils as you have jars)
  • Water
  • One-cup measuring cup
  • Borax such as 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster
  • Food coloring – don’t need this if making traditional white snowflakes


  1. For each snowflake, twist together three pipe cleaners in the center so that you make a 6-pointed star. Use scissors to trim down the ends of the pipe cleaners so they are all approximately the same length and can fit in the jar.
  2. Take a piece of string and tie it to one end of the star. Connect the string to the next point by twisting the string around the pipe cleaner. Continue around until you connect all the points together with the string, making a snowflake shape.
  3. Attach one of the pipe cleaner points with string to the shaft of the pencil. You should use just enough string so that when the pencil is resting on the mouth of the jar, the snowflake can be lowered into the jar and hang suspended without touching the mouth or the sides of the jar. Place the snowflake in the jar to make sure that it will fit and will hang suspended inside the jar. Take the snowflake out of the jar.
  4. Use a teakettle or microwave to boil enough water to fill each of the jars. When adding the water to the jars, measure out how many cups of water are needed to fill the jar. For every cup of water placed in the jar, mix in three tablespoons of borax. This will make a super saturated borax solution. (If using the optional methods below, add the food coloring in with this step.) Stir the borax solution with a spoon until dissolved.
  5. Hang your snowflakes in the jars so that they are completely suspended in the solution. Let your snowflakes sit overnight. Gently remove your now crystal covered snowflakes.

Optional: Try these methods to make your snowflakes even more unique!

  • Use colored pipe cleaners and food coloring to make different colored snowflakes. Use three pink pipe cleaners and one drop of red food coloring to make pink snowflakes, or green pipe cleaners and several drops of green food coloring – you get the idea. You may also want to try using yellow pipe cleaners and blue food coloring to make a greenish tinted snowflake or use different colors of pipe cleaners. Have fun making several different color combinations.
  • Make different designs or patterns with the string and the pipe cleaners. Make two circles to connect the pipe cleaners or try zigzagging between the points. Use thread or thin string for more intricate patterns.

Melt Snow

  • Weigh a quart size jar. Record weight.
  • Fill jar with clean snow. Weigh jar. Record weight.
  • Predict and mark where the melted snow water will come to on the jar. Measure with a ruler and record prediction.
  • Cover containers.
  • Predict how long it will take for the snow to melt.
  • Check on containers periodically until all the snow has melted. Record time.
  • Record weight and water levels of the melted snow in thier containers.
  • Discuss the results.
  • Now test the melted snow for purity. Pour the melted snow through a clean coffee filter.
  • Pour distilled water through a clean coffee filter.
  • Discuss results.

Snow Imprints and Snow Melt were adapted from Project Seasons.

No Snow? No worries. How about a Blizzard in a Bucket? Not up for a Blizzard? Try this, Instant Snow in a Test Tube.

Phew! Pepe le Pew!

We spotted skunk tracks today while leaving Little Flowers.

How did we identify them without a field guide?

The smell gave it away! Phew!

New Nature Blog

We have a new blog, All of Creation:Exploring the Natural World with Wonder. It is an online nature journal chronicling our adventures in the natural world. We are starting with our nature studies from two years ago and working our way up to the present. We hope you enjoy it and marvel in God’s creation with us.

Dissection Time!

On our visit to the Nature & Science museum, we were able to witness a live dissection of a sheep’s lung! Check out the pictures to the right. Very cool!

BTW-The sheep the children are riding were not hurt.

Snowflakes, Materialism and the Power of Beauty

We checked out Ken Lebbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes from the library and as I took in the beauty of the photographs of the snowflakes, I was reminded of this thread at 4 Real Learning concerning the origin’s debate.

As I beheld nature’s tiny ice sculptures, the power of their beauty awakened my person, filling my heart with wonder. Inspired by beauty, my faith rose to the One greater than I, who out of Love created these beautiful & perfectly ordered love letters to his beloved children, knowing that one day they would have the capacity to see what once was only seen by the Artist.

As I investigated further taking in the text, I came to understand that it is true, no two snowflakes are a like. Each is unique to itself. My intellect was now engaged and seeing this truth, I knew it applied to people as well. Each person is a unique mystery unto themselves both in spirit and in body. I continued reading and discovered that it is a myth that all snowflakes are perfectly symmetrical. Often snowflakes will collide in the air while the are being formed and as a result will become asymmetrical. I found it curious that although the asymmetrical snowflakes are pretty, they aren’t nearly as beautiful as those that are perfectly formed.

I once heard that St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church said, “That a frog is more beautiful than a rose because it is more ordered.” This took me back, it seemed that once again I disagreed with possibly the greatest mind who ever lived. I have learned however that I should always hear St. Thomas out because he usually is right. When I disagree with him I know it warrants further study, although that study is seldom easy on this brain. I’m not nearly as logical or educated as the Angelic Doctor.

So, I wondered, why is something that is more ordered more beautiful? My guess is that beauty reflects Beauty and when we look at creation it is ordered just like the one who ordered it. It caused me to wonder how anyone, especially scientists (Dawkins for example) who know most about the order in the universe, don’t see this.

Perhaps I’m a simpleton, but as I was contemplating the mystery of the snowflake, I found myself reflecting on  the mystery of life and more precisely the mystery of beauty. How does beauty and order come from chaos? And for what purpose? What purpose does beauty serve in evolution? None that I can think of. You don’t need music or art for survival but you need it to be fully human, to be fully “evolved”, to be fully alive.

Perhaps beauty is the evidence of the Uncaused Cause. Beauty can not be explained away by materialism. Perhaps beauty is objective rather than subjective. Perhaps we’ve been lied to; maybe beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps we men have lost our objectivity and hampered our faculty of reason to see this truth. Or perhaps post-modern man has just come to disdain that which is truly beautiful– a reasonable effect of a materialist worldview that voids life of any significant meaning.

While pondering this, I was reminded of a book I picked up months ago but somehow  never started. It somehow got lost it in the shuffle of life. (Really I think I just have ADD and can’t stay focused on one subject for an extended period of time, but that is another post that will probably never come to fruition; remember I have ADD.) The book is written by Thomas Dubay, SM (a contemplative priest) and is titled “The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet”. 

Here is an editorial from Amazon on Dubay’s book:

 “The physicist who knows nothing about Scripture and the theologian ignorant of calculus may yet see eye to eye on the remarkable power of beauty to manifest the presence of truth. It is this probative force of beauty that drives Dubay’s impressive reflection on how the perception of harmony instills a sense of conviction among honest seekers in both science and religion. With the help of testimony from a wide range of scientists, Dubay discerns a pattern of elegance and symmetry uniting everything from the astrophysics of the cosmos to the biology of the cell. Disdaining the crabbed literalism of creationist science (which he dismisses as fallacious), Dubay uses the metaphysical intuition of beauty to challenge neo-Darwinian dogmatists who deny the existence of design in our curiously fine-tuned universe. Non-Catholics may protest that Dubay overextends his argument when he concludes with a defense of Catholicism as the supreme depository of truth and beauty, but readers need not endorse Dubay’s Catholic orthodoxy to benefit from his philosophic insights.” Bryce Christensen

So it seems, I’m not the first to see the connection between beauty & the origin of creation amongst popular scientific theories! (I have to admit, I didn’t think I was. The connection seems quite obvious to me.)  I am excitied to hear what theologians and scientists have to say concerning the mystery of beauty. It should be a great read. I’ll try to keep you posted along the way!

Winter Reading

Here are some of the books we are reading that are perfect for Winter.

Chapter Books:

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis

For more Narnia reading see Family Bookshelf.


Picture Books:

The Snow Queen, Hans Christian Anderson

The Hat, Jan Brett

The Mitten, Jan Brett

The Big Snow, Berta & Elmer Hadar

White Snow, Bright Snow, Alvin Tresset

The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story, Neil Waldman

Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin

My Brother Loved Snowflakes; The Story of Wilson A. Bentley, The Snowflake Man, Mary Bahr


Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

Robert Frost [Poems] [Sound Recording] Read by Robert Frost/ New York: Random House Audio 2003


Snowflakes in Photographs, W.A. Bentley

The Snowflake: Winter’s Secret Beauty, Kenneth Libbrecht

Ken Lebbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes, Kenneth Lebberecht

Craft Resource:

Snowflakes for all Seasons, Cindy Higham

Animal Tracks & Clues

Picture Books:

Tracks in the Snow, Wong Herbert Lee

Moose Tracks!, Karma Wilson

Stranger in the Woods, Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick

Snow Comes to the Farm, Nathaniel Tripp

Children’s Non-fiction:

Who Lives in the Snow?, Jennifer Berry Jones

Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints, Millicent E. Selsam

Who Pooped in the Park? Rocky Mountain National Park, Gary D. Robson

Crinkleroot’s Book of Animal Tracking, Jim Arnosky

Tracks in the Wild, Betsy Bowen

The Woods Scientist, Stephen R. Swinburne

Resource Books:

Project Seasons; Hands-on Activities for Discovering the Wonders of the World, Deborah Parrell

Animal Tracks: Petersons Field Guide, Olaus J. Murie & Mark Elbroch

Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs, Paul Rezendes


Tracks, Zoboomafoo (Okay so it’s not reading but it is fun and educational!)

Rocky Mountain Catholic Home Educator’s Conference

June 21-23, 2007

The Glory of God is man fully alive! -St. Irenaus

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“Every experience of beauty points to infinity.”

-Hans Urs von Balthasar
August 2019
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