While running around Manderson Landing during lunch the other day, the munchkins discovered a crop of dandelions growing on a sunny hill. After filling their fists with dandelion pluckings, they brought them to me like gold- the kind of gold we take home to study and explore.
Micah pretends that the teeth on the dandelion leaf are her own, while Max studies the layout of the petals, from the smaller inner petals to the longer outer petals. As further evidence of the unblemished pretension of our lives, the nasty fingernails of children who play in dirt are evident for all to see. I hope that my parenting is not judged on the basis of my children's fingernails, but, then again, I hope my parenting is not really judged at all. Wishful thinking in a world where judging often precedes thinking? Perhaps.
The leaf is always a good place to work on identification. Dandelion leaves do not grow on the stalk of the flower. Instead, they grow around the base of the flower in a "basal rosette", which means that they all come out of the center.
We read the My Forest Kids story, "Dent de Lion", a narrative account of how dandelion leaves slowly "took" the teeth from pompous mountain lions. Micah enjoyed it while Max got reflective and mused, "Weeeellll, sometimes maybe I act like a mountain lion...." Don't we all? The illustrated handouts and fact sheets came with the My Forest Kids packet, and I can't help wishing I could find more of them because everyone loved them.
There weren't many big white puffs a-bloom, but the kids managed to find one decrepit old fuzzball which we used in our study. Micah and Milla tore off pieces from the puff and we noticed how each little brown seed is attached to a piece of white fluff. I explained that this is how the dandelion disperses its seeds along with the help of its friend, the wind.
Then we stared down the long, hollow stalks of the yellow flowers at which point Max suggested that you could "smoke or blow bubbles" through the dandelion stalks. Laughter, experimentation, and antics ensued.
Soon, Max was jumping at the seams to start writing in his nature journal, so we touched on habitat and talked about dandelions love lots of sunlight and wide open pastures or meadows where the wind can easily pluck and disperse their seeds. As Milla ran around the yard seeking more lion teeth, a very interesting conversation took place.
"I just want to tell the dandelion that I am a good friend too because I like to blow it's seeds all the time."
"Ha- that's your crop Micah! You're a dandelion farmer."
"I am NOT a farmer, Max! I have to grow up and then I'll be a farmer."
"But I thought you said you would be a cleaning lady and keep my house and mom's house clean for us."
"I will, Max. But I'm a GIRL so I can do anything I want.
And I can do EVERYTHING too because girls can do many things and everything.
Besides, you don't know anything."
Max laughed uncomfortably and went in search of a pencil and paper while Mademoiselle Micah, her face aglow with a strange radiance, embraced the smugness (and mystification) of an argument about identity.
Max was super-enthused about his nature journal profile and insisted that I scan it to share with "family and friends all over the world". Since his handwriting was legible, I promised to do so. His favorite part of journaling is usually asking the questions, and he tends to get so absorbed in one or two that he never bothers to make a long list and instead focuses on trying to theorize or discover an answer.
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My Forest Kids: Dandelion in PDF