Aug 30, 2011

Outdoor Hour Challenge: Dragonflies!

It's been a really great summer in Eagles Mere, Pa where we spend so much time in God's Great Outdoors. One of the best things about homeschooling is being able to stay as long as we want (well, almost, as there are school-year related activities starting back home, like it or not).  Last year we chose to begin school while still at the lake to give ourselves a slower immersion into the school routine. This also encourages us to take greater advantage of all the nature studies we can do while here. The town has a very active Conservancy which provides all kinds of outdoor learning for every age. This year we enjoyed some of our old favorites, like building Gnome Homes in the woods,  and new ones like a presentation on eagles with a real live rehab-ed guest.  Gave us a new appreciation for our national symbol when she was in flapping distance!

Wanting a bit of help in doing some nature study on our own, I turned--once again--to Barb McCoy's Outdoor Hour Challenge. I'm so excited to discover the new Newsletters! I immediately downloaded the August 2011 issue and was elated to find the focus on Pond Study. Our lake has an adjoining pond right next to the Conservancy Cabin where we were able to borrow dip nets, containers, and field guides as well as get assistance and insight from our resident naturalist, Irene. We packed our bags with the Newsletter and the notebooking pages, some colored pencils, a magnifying glass, and snacks, and biked on over. (Yes, biked: it's that close!)

Mei chose to focus on dragonflies which are abundant there in summer. There are so many around  the lake that all the kids treat them as friends and probably get their first lessons in the "birds and bees" from the damselflies mating acrobatics. (The" birds and the bugs?")

This day we noticed a new courtship "dance" by some small red dragonflies. The male's tail end held the female at her head, while she would dip her tail end into the water. It seems the female is being fertilized and laying her eggs all at once. This was different from the numerous damsels whose males grab the TAIL end of the female and loop their hind-ends around in a circle for the mating stance. The red ones turned out to be

Golden-winged Skimmers.

Miss Irene has taught a class on dragonflies to the children for years, so every returning child knows how to tell a Damsel from a Dragon. Damsels rest with their wings laid along their backs, dragons with their wings out-stretched! And that a dragonfly consumes hundreds of mosquitoes a day. But not only as an adult, but even as a voracious larvae-eating nymph! Here's a fun site to learn more about dragonflies! 
And of course there is Barb's own Outdoor Challenge page on Dragons and Damsels .
This was perhaps the first time Mei really got into here notebook page, using the How-to-Draw-a-Dragonfly lesson that Barb's newsletter linked us to. On her own she also sketched an Eastern Hemlock on the far shore of the pond, which was a huge step for my reluctant artist.

I'm really grateful for the opportunity we had to sit and soak in an especially gorgeous afternoon at one of our favorite places in the world. For us, this is "The Place of Returning," a feature article in the newsletter. Our prayer is that the vigilance of the Conservancy will continue to protect and preserve this small but important place.

Join me at the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival to meet more dragonfly enthusiasts!

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." --Nelson Mandela



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