Tag Archives: botony

Tiny Worlds

We have been ramping up our microscope use lately as we’ve gotten into our biology year.  The kids have been studying plants at the Botanic Gardens and with a friend and we’re about to turn our attention to biomes, ecology, and then genetics.  In the meantime, we’ve just been peeking through our microscope more and more lately at little things.  We’ve looked at bugs, pollen, plant parts, dust, mold, onion cells, blood cells, and various other things in recent weeks.  Wild orchids have been the best winner.  The picture below is of the drawing BalletBoy made after looking at the insides under the microscope.

Our microscope is the Celestron 44104, which was a gift from the Husband’s parents several years ago as we got started on our homeschool journey.  I did some research before I wish listed it and I’ve been very happy with it.  The price is even less now than when we received it.  And I’m hoping to add this attachable digital camera before the year is out, which will let us capture what we see.  I think that will just make it more fun.

We’ve found a number of microscope books useful.  First of all, we’ve had the Usborne book The World of the Microscope for awhile.  It has diagrams, explanations, and simple starting projects.  It’s a decent first book.  On recommendation, I also got the older book Adventures with a Microscope by Richard Headstrom.  I love the style of this book, with its talkative narrative and explanations.  We haven’t done many of the projects yet, but it’s really great at suggesting what to look at with the microscope as well as how to mount and dye.

The book we’ve actually found most exciting was a large picture book called Hidden Worlds by Stephen Kramer, which covers the work of scientist Dennis Kunkel, whose amazing images you can see on his website.  This book does many things.  It introduces the importance of microscopy and shows different ways it can be applied in a way children can understand.  It also explains different types of microscopes and their uses.  Most importantly, it is a biography of a scientist who has an enthusiasm that comes through the narrative so clearly that it’s catching.  Both boys came away from this book wanting to look under the microscope more.  I highly recommend it.

The Life of Trees

I know I haven’t been as vigilant about science posting.  Still, we’ve been at it, studying plants, including taking advantage of the National Botanic Garden’s new homeschool classes, peering in microscopes at onion cells and flower pollen, measuring trees and, as always, reading books and watching videos.

By far the best tree books we found were the four Tree Tales by Barbara Bash.  Each book covers a different tree in a different place: the saguaro cactus, the douglas fir, the baobab, and the banyan.  The books show a tree’s whole life span and how the tree fits into its ecosystem, both as a home for animals and, in some cases, a useful tree for humans as well.  These books hit the sweet spot for me with science books.  They were long enough to feel substantial, but not so long that they were overwhelming.  They were narrative instead of blurby.  And, so rarely these days, they had a beautiful writing style that was both informative and evocative.  The author’s background is as a calligrapher, so even the lettering was lovely.

For videos, we greatly enjoyed Climbing Redwood Giants, which you can find on Netflix streaming here.  The kids were captivated by just watching people climb these enormous trees.  Can you imagine that some animals live their whole lives inside them?  In case you don’t have Netflix, there’s a clip from the film here on Youtube: