The Talking Stick Blog

News, Updates, Program Recaps, and Homeschooling Information

Nature, Writing, Literature: Winter Twigs and Germantown Flora



Winter Twigs and Germantown Flora

January-March 2014

Our winter workshop has included snow, research, snow, speculations, observations, and a little more snow. For the past several weeks, we enjoyed reading True Lies: 18 Tales for You to Judge by George Shannon. In each story, a character communicates something that is interpreted differently from what is literally said. Our group was very savvy in their determinations of the lies in the "truth."

In January and February, we researched and wrote I-Search papers. This format of research writing encourages the researcher to personalize the final report with an explanation of his/her research process and reflections about what he/she learned. We began by brainstorming interesting questions in broad categories such as American history, botany, and time.


In the weeks that followed, we discussed how to look for sources in print and online, how to judge the merits of a source, the issue of plagiarism, methods of notetaking,  and documenting sources. All along, we discussed the process of research and whether we continued to pursue our original question. Did our question change or did we add more questions to investigate? Questions included: how do octopi camouflage themselves, do raccoons hibernate, what is the history of event planning, did Agatha Christie really disappear like they said in Dr. Who, what plants did Lewis and Clark observe, what is the history of rollerskates, how were children affected during the Great Depression, and what is the history of gymnastics.

You can read some of our papers here:
Event Planning (PDF)
Raccoon Hibernation (PDF)

A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed playing a collaborative story game. Pairs and trios were given a word and asked to begin a story using that word.  Then the draft was passed to the next set of writers, and every group was given a new word to incorporate into their new draft. The draft then passed to the next group who concluded the story using another new, random word, and all drafts returned to their original writers who read the results aloud.


We got outside to observe the different parts of a twig and to practice identifying winter trees by their twigs. We enjoyed examining them closely with Private Eyes and making sketches.




Last week, we were treated to a song by Zoe, one of our participants, who is currently working her way through the rounds of a songwriting competition. We hope that her song about the unfortunate lives of homeschoolers takes her to victory. If you want to hear her song, click here, and if you want to vote for her, please click here.


We looked closely at an exhibit in the parlors of the Cope House: The Flora of Germantown, botanical illustrations by Alois Lunzer from The Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States by Thomas Meehan and as included in The Flora of Germantown by Edwin C. Jellett (link to Awbury website). We determined our favorite flowers by appearance and by name and are looking forward to searching for some of them on the grounds once the snow melts.


This activity was followed by a flurry of topical writing prompts, beginning with a) start a story in which a plant is a major part of the plot b) in honor of Mardi Gras, begin a story or poem that involves masks and/or parades c) spring arrives in 16 days; list everything you look forward to--include all your senses d) in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, list all the places you wish to go, in order of urgency e) in honor of a new Cosmos premiering, write a piece defending your opinion of whether alien life exists.  You could hear the pencils and pens scratching busily for over half an hour through these prompts, and many interesting new independent writing projects emerged afterwards.

On the subject of seeing Awbury flowers when the snow melts, Denis Lucey, the Landscape Manager at Awbury, will be giving a talk and walk on Saturday, March 15 from 1-3:00.  He will discuss snowdrops and other plants found on the grounds such as hellebores, aconites, and adonis-skunkcabbage, and the woody shrubs daphne, mahonia, winter viburnum, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle, and spring witch hazels.  The cost of the event is $15 and you can register at