We've been doing science a la Charlotte Mason nature studies this summer... just exploring and investigating anything and everything we find. A few weeks ago it was lightning bugs. This past week we learned about tent caterpillars and cicadas.
When we went to my sister-in-law's house (kind of out in the country) we found these caterpillars building this huge silky nests in the trees... they were all over. After some investigation we found out they were Eastern Tent Caterpillars. The interesting thing is that they leave their nests once a week to get food. After asking some people about them some folks think they can completely kill a tree, but after reading I found out they can somewhat defoliate a tree, but not kill it. They are mostly just aggressive feeders and (I think) cool to watch!
The next insect we discovered was later in the week at the library. It was lying dead by a hug fountain and my daughter spotted it. We could tell it was a cicada, but I never had any idea there were so many types of cicadas. I'm pretty sure that this is a 13 Year Cicada (otherwise known as the Great Southern Brood!)... which means these started out as larvae under the ground when this year's graduating high school class was in kindergarten!
It is getting to the point where we find something interesting, stop right where we are and pull out the iPhone to Google our discovery. I'm also carrying the Handbook of Nature Study in my van as a great reference. Surprisingly, I've tweeted pictures of what we find and can have an answer back in minutes of what it is. How cool is that?
So much of our learning is spontaneous, interest-led and, I believe, more meaningful this way. After all, did the really great inventors and innovators of our time spend their lives tied down to books and assignments? I think not!
What have you been doing for science this summer?