With the explosion of Spring surely about to happen, I’m proposing changing our Spring observation challenge to something more open-ended. I’m wondering about a Spring Scrabble. Some of us have had fun with our Spring Bingo challenges, but the listing of only 25 limited possible observations doesn’t work so well with such a wonderful outburst as the onset of Spring. I did broaden the list of clues, giving each of us more opportunity to include our actual observations, beyond just those prescribed. That has led me to this new version!
So I’m playing around with a formal Scrabble board of 15*15 squares, and the box of tiles, all face-up and available. As I see something new, I put the name onto the board. Then I build up each following observation, using the available remaining tiles, tallying my points as I proceed.
Turns out to be a lot of strategy required! I started with Mourning Cloak, a great long word when combined, resulting with 72 points because it spanned a triple-word square! (It actually spanned both a double- and a triple-word square — but I didn’t count the double …) Wonderful! But my next observation, Dutchman’s Breeches, had too many letters fo fit onto a scrabble board … So I invented the rule of being able to use the Latin genus and/or species name. Dicentra fit more easily. For Red Trillium, I just used Trillium. Great, because it fit onto the beginning of Mourning Cloak and gave me another double word square. However, as I soon realized, I had buried too many letters off against the edge of the board, and couldn’t easily use them later … I used Latin Equisetum for Horsetail, which seemed wise as it enabled me to use the Q, combined with another double-word square benefit. Mallards became the Latin Anas. Leatherwood worked better as Dirca. I couldn’t find a place to fit in Earthworm or Lumbricus or even worm (as a category), so I invented another rule that allowed me to skip one or two observations. Bufflehead became duck, though because I’m missing one of the letter Cs from this game, I had to substitute in a blank. Salix for Pussy Willow let me use the X which was great. But it meant I had two Ss nearly side by side and not available for anything else … Red Fox was great, as it picked up the X from Salix and gave me another double-word score. But I couldn’t fit in my next observations of Coltsfoot / Tussilago, nor Dandelion / Taraxacum, nor House Finch / Haemorhous because I had run out of available letters and possible attachments … The great long high-scoring first few words left too many letters stranded along the edges, so lessening possible attachment spots. But I loved the challenge of trying to invent something new!
- Use observations in order of time. (Or not …) I put mine into a sequence on paper first. Putting them on the board in any order would require some advanced planning, and would make it a different challenge. Perhaps better!
- I laid out all the Scrabble letters face up and sequenced them alphabetically.
- Use common names, or Latin, or categories. (Wikipedia is a great place to learn Latin names — and so so so much more! iNaturalist is another fine source.)
- Allow skipping one or two observations.
- Playing this with a partner, taking turns in sequence, would be a great option!
- Instead of using a formal 15*15 grid, use a piece of graph-paper and a pencil and just keep spreading out unbounded. See how big you could make your open-sided pattern! Or challenge yourself to see how tightly you can build your observations together!
- Above all, get out and observe, and have fun!
Let me know how you improve this challenge!