{Nature Study} The Giving Santol Tree

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Consciously or unconsciously, we think of trees much as we think of persons. They suggest thoughts and feelings which are also attributes of people. A tree is weeping, gay, restful, spirited, quiet, sombre. That is, trees have expression. The expression resides in the observer, however, not in the tree. Therefore, the more the person is trained to observe and reflect, the more sensitive his mind to the things about him, and the more meaning the trees have. No one loves nature who does not love trees." - L.H. Bailey, 1899
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{Early February: Observing the green buds}

Early this year, we started observing the Sandoricum Koetjape (or what we Filipinos call, Santol Tree) in front of our house. It is also known as Cottonfruit because the seeds look and even feel like cotton.
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{End of March: continued observing the buds opening and turning yellow}
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June arrived and the fruit was ripe for picking and falling from the tree. My children would rush out the door during breaks to find as much of the santol fruit as they could. They became Santol experts! They used sticks to pluck the fruits from the tree or wait for thumps on the floor of fruit readily falling. To get to the cotton-like seeds, they would throw it as hard as they can on a wall or the cement floor. Once they see a crack on the the tough outer skin, they squeeze the fruit to open it up further and take out the velvety sweet goodness! When done sipping on the pit, they would spit it out on the grass, and on to the next santol! Each would have gone through around a dozen fruit or more in one sitting :)
A month or so later, during one of our nature study afternoons, they found a small smooth looking pebble under some soil. They brought it in to study. They couldn’t figure out what it was. It had layers of “skin” and was smooth on the inside. 
{Is it a Santol Seed?}
They noticed several seedlings all over the place during another afternoon of Nature Study. They realized that all these were from the Santol they ate because each seedling had this circular-shaped attached to the growing stem. They were amazed and thrilled! There were literally dozens and dozens sprouting everywhere! They gently pulled out five to observe and, because they ate the seeds and spat them out at different times throughout a month, they were able to see different stages of it's growth.
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I kept quiet (i.e. tried my best to) and listened to their questions and observations.
Some of their comments went...
“Look at the roots.. As the plant grows, the roots become thicker and longer."
“You see how the seed opens up and another stem grows?"
“The brownish cover of the seed is falling off"
“The seed turns to color green."
“The leaves grow in threes"
“The stem grows thicker and becomes greener."
“I wonder if the seed will fall off?"
“Do the tiny leaves look like the big leaves of the Santol tree?
“How does the stem grow in between the seeds?"
“Will we have a lot of santol trees in front of our house???"
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{We took our time sketching what we saw} 
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My eldest son was three when we started nature studies. I must admit that I was not quite sure how this “activity" will have an overall effect on my children. Starting out as an excuse, it eventually became the reason to be outdoors - to explore and have fun! It was a great way to learn and awaken the kids senses without a formal lesson plan. All we did was get out, observed, and sketched. 3-year-old sketches of bugs and plants are endearing in its imperfections. While it was an important part of the activity, it was not about the accuracy of the sketches, but the act of discovering and observing. 
Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun - the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?  - Charlotte Mason
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***Take a look at previous Nature Study posts here.

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