11.20.2014

Veering Off Course

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that learning can be very fluid. Being the type A that I am, I always have a plan. However, I very rarely have a time limit and we never have to worry about veering off course. In fact, we change course quite a bit, usually because we've stumbled on to something that is too fascinating to file away for later. The latest example of this was what I've been referring to as The science we learned from Squanto.

Scroll down for more Mayflower resources.
For several years, I've been using a Peanuts episode to provoke discussion about events leading to what we all think of as the first Thanksgiving. This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, is a surprisingly accurate account of what the experience must have been like for the pilgrims. It's lighthearted enough for early learners, but it doesn't gloss over the hardships of the journey (though it completely glosses over the annihilation of the Patuxet people). 
Every time I watch this flick, discussions always take a different path. Last year, a group of first graders turned it into a math lesson, using the counting up/counting down method for  determining how many voyagers actually made it to the new world. Before that, a group of 2nd graders turned the discussion into an issue of wants verses needs, analyzing what the pilgrims might have taken with them on the journey.

This year was my first time watching it as a home educator and there was one part that really jumped out at me. Squanto taught the Peanuts, I mean Pilgrims, that the best time to plant corn is "when the oak leaves are the size of a mouse's ear." Since I've always stayed away from the Native American content in the program, I hadn't really given that quote much thought- until now.

The Patuxet understood that plants and animals take cues from local climate, using their observations of seasonal changes to make astute agricultural decisions. This is something we learned when we investigated Squanto's instructions for the Peanuts  pilgrims. We also learned that this adage is a principle of a modern-day science called phenology.
Have you ever heard of phenology? 

 And just like that the course of investigation changed from pilgrims to phenology! By the end of the day, we were official citizen scientists, signed up to document our native plants and animals for the National Phenology Network. The organization calls on amateur naturalists to join its Nature's Notebook program to help scientist gather valuable information on plant and animal phenology.

Nature's Notebook is a national, online program where participants record observations of different plants and animals, generating long-term data sets- in the name of scientific exploration, discovery and decision-making. Once signed up, members can scroll though the online database of species to select plants and/or animals specific to their own backyard or community. Finally! There is a reason for letting that scurry of chipmunks live in the chicken run!

Oh yeah, back to the Mayflower. Here are some other resources... 

See ship and learn what the voyage was like with Scholastic's Voyage on the Mayflower  

Take a look at the inside layout with this cutaway diagram of the Mayflower. 

Check out the History Channel's movie Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower or view it here with a subscription to the Streaming Digital Media Library.

My favorite books about the Mayflower, 
 

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