Biology and nature study - Narcissus Pseudonarcissus {Daffodil}

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If you are familiar at all with Charlotte Mason Education, she regularly recommends parents to spend time learning things so they can easily pass on that knowledge to their children.  It makes the lessons go smoothly and creates a general flow to the day when the lessons come from a place of knowledge instead of hurried research.  As I study and invest myself in different schools of thought on home education I have noticed that this need for the parent to be competent in the information is a running theme. 

Maria Montessori talked about practicing the lesson many times until you had gotten rid of all the unneeded words in the lesson’s introduction.  The simpler the language, the easier the child would understand.  You go through the motions on your own as many times as you need to eliminate the unneeded dialog to introduce the materials so the child can begin learning each lesson as independently as possible.  Which of course, means you need to know not only the in the information, but the questions to ask and the answers that would be acceptable without stumble or fact-checking.  And so a well versed teacher is required. 

Rudolph Steiner (the father of Waldorf Education) puts a great emphasis on continued education and enlightenment for the parents and teachers in his educational philosophy.  Self work is a requirement of his teachers and the parents of students as well.  This school of thought doesn’t focus as much on the information in the lessons, but on the rhythm in which the lessons and stories are given.  It is already a requirement that they know the information so the focus on the form and rhythm of the delivery is easy and seamless for the students.

Now I can’t say I do this all the time.  In fact, in my personal philosophy of education (brushing off my tie and kempt mustache - ahem) I think it is a good thing for the kids to see this process quite a bit.  The fact that adults do not know everything is a reality.  ‘I don’t know’ should be said often and honestly.   Humbling ourselves in front of our children is the first way we show them that they have as much value as we do and they have the power to solve problems just as much as we do.  However, there is merit to having knowledge of where to find information before presenting a lesson.  And even more merit in having that information at your fingertips when you introduce said lesson so the ‘I don’t knows’ are few and they always are followed by ‘bring me that book and we will find the answer!’.

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That is what happened today with our lesson.  I picked a tiny daffodil from our back yard.  The very first one.  I placed in a tiny jar and put it on the table.  I got out my nature study books, including the Handbook of Nature Study.  We usually start a nature study lesson with the name of the subject and the scientific name.  There was no scientific name to be found for ‘mini daffodil’.  None.  In none of the books.  I looked and looked as my kids waited.  Stumped, I finally consulted my ‘magic phone’ and finally I discovered there IS NO scientific name for a mini daffodil.  They are classified in the same genus as the larger variety with the same attributes.  They don’t even have their own common names.  So if we have a “King Alfred” daffodil it would be called a “Miniature King Alfred”. 

Color me humbled.

Ok.  So moving on through the lesson. 

Day 2:

Yellow Daffodil

Narcissus Pseudonarcissus

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Handbook of Nature Study – pg 551

Daffodils are in the Narcissus family of bulb plants.  They have a crown which holds the pollen and stamen of the flower.  Some varieties have a few flowers to a stalk, but our variety only has one so that is where we focused our research.  They are a true bulb flower, which stores it’s food underground for the flower to feed on all Spring and then the process begins again in Summer when the flower dies back and waits for the next Spring.

The coolest part of this lesson was collecting the pollen.  It took some doing.  The anthers were not ready to give up the pollen from this flower yet.  It is very early in their season.  (In comparison, the crocus is halfway through it’s season and so they are giving up their pollen readily.) 

The first thing we noticed when we got the pollen on the slide was how DIFFERENT it was from the crocus pollen we saw yesterday! 

Same 400x magnification –

Top: pollen of the “Crocus Vernus”

Bottom: “Narcissus Pseudonarcissus”

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Would you have ever thought two plants so similar could have such a different pollen make-up?  We were shocked and thrilled!

Daffodil Pollen at 40x

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Same at 400x

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I truly look forward to waiting until we can see the daffodil pollen in a few weeks to see if it matures and looks more similar or if these plants really are as different as they seem.  It’s always interesting to see the different adaptations for different species although the life cycle and time of bloom are so similar. 

Happy Homeschooling!

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