Early Childhood Programs Blog

Art & Science of the Land: Week 10

November 29, 2018 - Earth Friends, Preschool


Fall semester for homeschool is winding down with only a couple weeks left.  Today we learned about our third and last nature artist for Fall, Nancy Holt.  Holt’s vision was to allow people the opportunity to observe amazing features of the natural world, such as stars, solstices and vivid geographic locations using her art installations.  Generally large enough for people to walk through, her installations were interactive and compelling.  They allowed you to focus on what she felt was a significant geological feature.  In class we looked at images of a few of her more famous installations such as Sun Tunnels in Utah.  Sun tunnels is a large scale art installation with cement tubes that you can easily walk through.  The tubes have holes in them that represent constellations in the night sky.  During two days of the year, the winter and summer solstice, the tubes line up perfectly with the sun, creating a breathtaking image.  To learn more about Nancy Holt and her installations please feel free to explore the links below:



In class today we mimicked Nancy Holt’s installation on a much smaller scale.  We used paper towel rolls cut down to size and a hole puncher to create mini viewing tubes.  First we hole punched holes in any pattern, chose an image at Irvine that we wanted to frame with our tube and then took a picture of it through the tube.  Here is an example of what we created:

The tubes allow us to focus on the beauty of one small spot on the landscape.  At homeschool we are always taking in the grand sites of Irvine’s property, so offering the students a chance to choose on one area to zoom in on gives them a different perspective.  Nancy Holt’s art installations were trying to accomplish similar results.  During our time at the ponds (we jumped ahead to the end of the day, more on the earlier part of class below!) we also listened to some star constellation mythology.  We read the story of Casseopia the Queen of the Night Sky, Leo the Lion and Draco the Dragon.  Next week we continued learning about Holt and star constellations, check next week’s blog post for more insights!

Rewinding back to the start of the day we also got to meet an Irvine animal ambassador.  Our red-tailed hawk here at Irvine is a long time resident.  She is a long lived red-tailed hawk with her age being guessed at around 15-20 years!  Most hawks don’t even make it to their first birthday in the wild.  She is a fantastic opportunity to get a close look at a top avian predator that is native to Maryland (and all of North America).  Red-tailed hawks are one of the most common hawks in the USA and they play an important role in keeping the food chain in balance by eating prey like rats and mice.

After meeting with the hawk we headed out onto the trail.  We traveled down the Vista Loop Trail, stopped at the gazebo for snack and share (sharing something exciting since last week) and then hiking along the very wet boardwalk through the wetland toward the back forests ponds.  We got stopped in our tracks when we came across a huge tree that had fallen in a recent wind storm.  Before climbing over, we quickly brainstormed why the tree fell.  We have had a very wet year here in Maryland.  Wet soil means that tree roots can’t grip as tightly in the ground and add to that high winds and you have a recipe for falling trees.  Conditions like this are dangerous to hike in, which is why we don’t go hiking here at Irvine during high winds and we’re mindful if we’ve had a lot of recent rain.  Climbing over the tree (a challenge in itself!) we looked around for a mysterious fungus we had heard about called Lion’s Mane.  We saw pictures but were hoping to find it along the trail and sure enough we spotted it on a decomposing log after the fallen tree.  *Check out a picture of the Lion’s Mane fungus below*

Next week we’ll continue with Nancy Holt and constellations and explore a new part of Irvine we haven’t been to yet!