Friday, September 5, 2008

Starting Off: A Field Survey

Although I haven't put together my "teaching plan" for the year, I thought I'd start off with a survey of what's living in our backyard. This year I left several patches of our backyard unmowed so that they would grow into meadow. I found many of the bugs I used in my summer Bug House library program just in our meadows. There is also a wealth of plants, which I'd like to document before the autumn die-off.

I'm not sure we're up to it, but here's an incentive to find out what lives in your neighborhood. It's called The 100-Species Challenge and it comes from scsour's weblog. The rules are below, and the idea is to photograph each plant species you come across in your area, identify it, list what you already knew about it and then something new that you learned. An entry doesn't count until it's identified, which means it would take me a long time to get to 100! However, I will have the kids help me start photographing the plants we find (and probably the animals, fungi, etc. as well) and start keeping a list.

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant's home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears. My format will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of information I'd like to know. (See below for an example.) This format is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts. This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanquaif the participant can distinguish the two--"camillia" if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge.
You can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like. I'm planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

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