Friday, July 29, 2011

Nature Study: Sunflowers

For over a month now, we have been walking down to the park about two to three times a week.  There are two routes we can take.  We started down one for a couple of weeks and then decided to switch.  When we switched the kids discovered that there were two large stalks growing right next to a Jacaranda tree on the sidewalk.  At first they thought they were just saplings of the tree, but upon further inspection of the heart shaped leaves they were very excited.  Almost every walk since had to be on that street.  Almost every time we drove through the street there was mention of the plant and the differences it was going through.  We've watched the stalk get bigger, fuller and taller.  The kids were right, they were Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus):

We decided to draw the two flowers in our nature journals before they dry.  After our walk, we came home and discovered some things about the flower:

The flower consists of a flower head attached to a very thick course like stem.  The leaves are also very thick, heart shaped and have toothy like edges.  I'd say from the time we started our walks, it took the flower about six weeks to mature to this point.  The most exciting discovery for them (because drawing it for their nature journal required deep observation) was that the head is actually made up of thousands of florets:

My kids absolutely loved this.  We had not looked at a sunflower this closely before.  It was amazing to look at it and discover these pretty little flowers inside a flower.  And of course now they understand what part actually is the sunflower seeds that they eat.   I actually found it interesting  to learn that there have been attempts to mathematically explain the formation of the florets inside the flower head.  Can you see that beautiful pattern? Just amazing!

My seven year old kept saying she felt she was drawing a Mexican sun.  Her specific term really made me curious so we thought we would look up some history.  And she was right.  The sunflower is native to Central America and first seemed to be domesticated in Mexico.   Certain indigenous groups recognized the flower as a symbol of their solar deity.  She probably remembered items around our home that we have collected over the years with the symbol of the sun (that specifically were made in Mexico and Central America) and how much they looked like what she was drawing.  I just love those keen observations and connections they make on their own.

Our visit with the sunflower could not be complete without a few buzzing bees around : )


Charlotte Mason in the City said...

Don't you just love sunflowers?! I really like how you discovered the flowers by chance and then developed so many connections to them. Life is good!

We had a couple of sunflowers outside our building mysteriously growing in a tree pit. One day, someone came along and chopped them off! We were so disappointed!!

Enjoy your visits to the flowers - and thanks for sharing them with us.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Welcome to the OHC! Thank you so much for sharing your sunflower story and I love hearing how your children came up with some connections and discoveries as part of their sunflower study.

Thanks again for sharing your link with the OHC.

Phyllis said...

I love this post. Your photos are wonderful and I love your narration of your children's discoveries. Your sunflower is so tall and has such a big head on it! Beautiful.

Kristin said...

Great post! I love the Mexican sun connection! Beautiful pictures too. Enjoyed discovering your study on the OHC carnival.

Susan @ learning ALL the time!! said...

Sunflowers are my favorite flower, aside from daisies :)
We really enjoyed studying sunflowers up close when we studied them last fall. It was amazing to us, as well, to discover all of the florets in a sunflower head.
Wonderful pictures!

Hodgepodgemom said...

Wonderful study! Great photos of a gigantic sunflower - wow. I think we could just keep on learning more and more about sunflowers.

Grace'n'Chaos said...

Thanks Ladies, it was fun participating in the OHC : )