Homeschooling

Ecosystem Study in UP – A Homeschooling Lesson Idea

My two kids closely studying a growth of moss on an old tree near the UP amphitheater using their magnifying glass.

One of the perks of living close to the campus is the number of green space where kids can explore, play, and learn about the ecosystem. My kids have great textbooks in Science, I have collected these from my book hunting days at thrift book shops like the Booksale and Chapters and Pages. Some of my books I have bought during my visit in Australia years ago (mostly geology books), while the rest were ordered from Amazon and Book Depository. However, I would say that for kids their age, nothing beats real experiments and exploration.

The UP campus is the safest place to do basic ecosystem study. It is open to public thus, no special permits are needed, so long as you don’t go there in a big group and start pinching snails and scraping off moss. In fact, I don’t recommend you do. When you do this study, please try not to disturb the plants and animals by poking at them or taking living samples. Below are some of the suggestions when doing a similar study:

  1. Bring tools with you such a ruler, notebook/worksheet, pencil, magnifying glass, and sample holders. For the latter, I made small pocket envelopes out of parchment paper and tapes. We planned to collect leaves that have fallen out of trees. We didn’t collect moss as we didn’t want to disturb the symbiotic relationship with the soil and trees. Same is true with tree fungus. We did collect 2 clover leaves because I plan to dry press and put them in resin.
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We used this scale ruler that I normally use when taking photos of rocks. A ruler with white background works well when taking photos of specimens. In this example, we put the ruler on top of this dry Antipolo tree leaf to show how big these leaves are.
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Here’s a photo of the garden snail we saw in UP Town on the same day we had our ecosystem study. Basing on the picture alone, whoever will look at picture of specimen will have an idea of its size. Rulers are important!
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Magnifying glass, preferably big ones are indispensable tool that you can use during an ecosystem study especially when studying small organism such as clover leaves, ants, moss, algae, fungi, etc. In addition, a big magnifying glass allows my digital camera to capture the small species.
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This flower is so small, about 1-2 centimeters across so we had to use this magnifying lens to look at the stamen and petals.
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We are using Ecosystem Study answer sheet by Nove Tan but you may also design your own. We’ve also taken leaves that fell on the ground rather than off trees for lesser impact. We put each leaf inside paper pockets for further scrutiny at home. I used parchment paper for this so that we can easily write the name of the specimen and also to easily put them in between pages of the books for dry pressing/preservation.
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As previously mentioned, we use this Ecosystem Study worksheet by Nove Tan to describe the plants and animals observed. I asked my eldest to also draw the flowers and plants and try to identify the parts.

2. Before going to UP, it’s best to know the weather update so you can prepare your rain gears, umbrella, and the appropriate clothing. Since we also visited the campus lagoon, we also applied anti-mosquito lotion on us so we don’t get bitten by mosquitoes and other insects.

3. When you’re homeschooling, documenting your child’s activity through photography is part of building his/her portfolio. I exclusively use my phone now for social media, important business calls and texts to save on battery power so I brought my all-weather camera with me to take photos of my kids’ activity. If you’re curious, I’m using Fujifilm XP 140 which is a waterproof and shockproof camera. Below is the photo of the camera that I snagged off Google.

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4. Part of experience of doing an Ecosystem Study is interacting with species that land on you (kidding!). I was lucky to have such an experience with a baby grasshopper that landed on my bag and walked on my arm. It was really cute. I made it walk on my palm and happily returned it to a leaf. He stayed for a while on the leaf and stared at us, giving us enough time to look at it through the magnifying glass and take photos.

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My youngest used this magnifying lens to look at the baby grasshopper.
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The cute baby grasshopper on my arm.
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I happily returned this baby grasshopper on a leaf. He must have been happy to be back to his home that he stayed for minutes to stare at us while we took photos.
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My eldest taught his brother what to look for in the leaves of trees using the magnifying glass.

UP campus has a park where some of the native trees were planted. This small park is positioned right between UP Film Center and Theater, proximal to the bell tower. Each tree was labelled with its common name and scientific name. We used our magnifying glass to look at the flowers and leaves to try to see the different features. We then took samples by picking up leave from the ground and putting each on parchment packets. Below are some of the photos of the native trees:

After we were done with the native trees, moss, and the baby grasshopper (the only insect we were able to observe up close), we then started looking at the ground to observe the weeds. Below are photos of a weed whose name I don’t know and the ever famous clover leaves. I asked my kids to look for 4-leaf ones but sadly we didn’t see one.

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We looked at some of the weeds and were happy to see another insect, a winged one showing vibrant colors of orange, light yellow, and bluish black. We don’t know the name of this one but we intend to find out soon.
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Blades of grass growing alongside these clover leaves as viewed from our magnifying glass.
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We were passing Kalayaan dorm on the way home when we saw this nice growth of mushrooms.
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A closer look at the mushrooms. I forgot to put the scale ruler but these mushrooms are at least 10 centimeters across. I found similar species under trees in the lagoon.
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I decided to detour a bit so I could show my kids the huge balete tree growing right on this tree at the backside of the old UP swimming pool. Strangely enough, this balete tree is one of my favorites in the classroom despite the species’ scary reputation.

Finally, for the reason that my kids really showed interest in plants, it is lucky that I scored a book entitled “Science with Plants” by Usborne during a recent sale by Chapters and Pages. It is old but gold. Our next project is to build a terrarium for our condo. Stay tuned!

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Our current reference book for plants.
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Our next project.

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