I thought I might post a little nature activity every day (or so) leading up to The Early Spring Field Day. Just to keep spring nature fresh in my mind and yours. ;)
So for this weekend, I'd like to suggest that it's a perfect time to look around for pussy willows. For one, they are in bloom (or almost, depending on where you live), and for two, they are interwoven with Palm Sunday tradition!
When I was a little girl, there was a small brook running through my parents' backyard, by which a small pussy willow grew. I don't think it's there anymore (the brook has long since dried up), but every year at this time I think of that lovely tree. How I loved to play with those soft pretty catkins ...
"The species most beloved by children is the pussy willow, which is often a shrub, rarely reaching twenty feet in height ... These are favorite objects for a nature-study lesson, and yet how little have the teachers or pupils known about these flowers!" (Handbook of Nature Study)
So, to begin with, we must go on a bit of an adventure to find some pussy willows growing nearby. Bill is taking the boys on their Saturday woods-walk and he thinks he knows where he might find some.
"The best place to look for pussy willows is along the banks of a stream, near wet ditches, around the edges of a pond or marsh, or anywhere the ground stays wet." (From The Beginning Naturalist by Gale Lawrence)
Hopefully they'll find some, and if they do and they're not yet blooming, we'll set the branches in warm water and keep a close watch throughout Holy Week. If the branches are already in bloom, and I am so inspired (i.e. I find the time) I might make them into a simple spring wreath for our front door.
Either way, sketches can be made for the nature notebooks. :)
If you find pussy willows growing somewhere nearby, make a note in your calendar where and when, and then make plans to return through the seasons. The Handbook of Nature Study has wonderful lesson plans for studying willows all through the year.
(Now, I'll give you a little tip. I've seen branches of pussy willows for sale in my grocer's florist department. A walk in the countryside sounds lovely, but if all else fails, commercially grown pussy willow is a fine substitute.)
Here's a charming old poem for the children to learn (or perhaps to use as copywork in their nature notebooks):
"Pussy Willow wakened from her cozy winter nap.
For the frolicking spring breeze, on her door would tap.
" It is chilly weather, though the sun feels good;
I will wrap up warmly and wear my furry hood."
Mistress Pussy Willow opened wide her door;
Never had the sunshine seemed so bright before.
Never had the brooklet seemed so full of cheer;
"Good morning, Pussy Willow, Welcome to you, dear!"
Never guest was quainter, than when Pussy came to town,
In her hood of silver gray, and tiny coat of brown.
Happy little children cried with laugh and shout,
"Spring is coming, coming, Mistress Pussy Willow's out!"
(Kate L. Brown)
And a sweet book to request from the library, or - if you're weak like me - order from Amazon is: Pussy Willow
Now here I'm just planting a seed of an idea, but I know many of us are spending the next several days preparing for our family's Easter holiday. Might I mention that it would be a lucky child indeed who found the materials for a new nature notebook in their Easter basket next Sunday? A set of new colored pencils, and a spiral bound sketchbook ... perhaps even a small sized field guide or two?
However you spend your weekend, at home or afield, I hope you enjoy it and many blessings to you this Palm Sunday!