Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Outdoor Explorations for Early Learners Workshop

June 25-26, 2015
8:00 am-5:15 pm (6/25); 8:00am-3:30pm (6/26)
Mines of Spain State Recreation Area/E. B. Lyons Interpretive Center (8991 Bellevue Heights, Dubuque, IA 52003)
Registration: Keystone AEA

Registration Deadline: June 18, 2015

Registration Fee: $175; 1 Teacher Recertification Credit: Additional $85

This inquiry-based outdoor exploration workshop is designed to help early childhood professionals lead children in age-appropriate, interdisciplinary outdoor experiences. You will be introduced to strategies, skills, and resources (including Growing Up WILD and Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood) to build upon children's sense of wonder about the world around them through relevant, inquiry-based exploration.

Both guides have been correlated to national standards for early childhood education – NAEYC Criteria for Curriculum, Head Start Child Outcomes Framework and the NAAEE Early Childhood Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence. Additional activity correlations have been drafted to Iowa program and curriculum standards – Quality Preschool Program Standards, Iowa Early Learning Standards, Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum and the Iowa Core Curriculum. Activities promote and support developmentally appropriate practice in multiple ways.

Activities are presented with a wide range of options to support children at various developmental levels focused on children ages 3 – 7 years. Participants will interact with a variety of professionals (i.e. classroom teachers, childcare providers, environmental educators) all leading early learners outdoors.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Students Recognized for Iowa State-Fish Drawings

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources partnered with the Wildlife Forever® State-Fish Art® Contest to host an Iowa State-Fish Contest in conjunction with the annual “Take It
1st Place Grades K-3
Outside” Art Contest.

The State-Fish Art Contest uses art to ignite children’s imagination while teaching them about fish and fishing. Entries showcased students’ favorite Iowa fish in its natural habitat. All entries were original hand-drawn artwork. Winners were selected based on portrayal of theme, creative expression, originality, visual appeal, and artistic merit. 

Individual winners:
1st Place Grades 4-6
Grades K-3
1st Place – Emma F., Homeschool
2nd Place – Jonah V., Homeschool
3rd Place – Carley F., Adair-Casey Community Schools

Grades 4-6
1st Place – Benjamin S., Homeschool
2nd Place – Nathan P., Mid-Prairie Home School Assistance Program
3rd Place – Anessa S., Benton Community Schools
1st Place Grades 7-9

Grades 7-9
1st Place – Helen H., Ames Community Schools
2nd Place – Gretchen M., North Polk Community Schools
3rd Place – Carmen A., Benton Community Schools

Grades 10-12
1st Place – Hunter F., Twin Cedars Community Schools

Artists who placed first in their age group are invited, along
1st Place Grades 10-12
with their families, to attend the 17th Annual State-Fish Art Expo held in conjunction with FLW during the Forrest L. Wood Cup bass world championship on August 21-22 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Every participant received a Certificate of Recognition. Winning entries will be displayed during the Iowa State Fair at the DNR building.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Iowa DNR to Release Trumpeter Swans at Four Locations

Trumpeter swans will be released by the Iowa DNR at public events at four southern Iowa parks. Events will be held rain or shine.

May 6:
Lake Icaria Recreation Area, 9:30 a.m., at East boat ramp; four swans to be released
Summit Lake, 1 p.m., boat ramp on south side of Hwy 25; four swans to be released

May 7:
Viking Lake State Park, 10 a.m. at beach; two swans to be released
Lake Anita State Park, 2 p.m.; two swans to be released

The public is invited and encouraged to attend. The event includes a 20-minute swan/wetland presentation, a unique opportunity to touch and view the swans up close, and a historic photo opportunity with the kids. As the largest North American waterfowl, these magnificent all-white birds can weigh up to 32 pounds with an 8-foot wingspan.

Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s.By the early 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states. The trumpeter swans being released are part of the DNR’s statewide trumpeter swan restoration effort, with hopes that they will help restore a wild free flying population to Iowa.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Incorporating Nature into Outdoor Play

Incorporate nature in your students’ outdoor play times this spring. Try these simple ideas from Project Learning Tree’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood.
  • Plant a vegetable or flower garden. Mark “keepers’ with popsicle sticks or flags so your students know what not to weed. Plant fast-growing plants or transplants. Provide child-size hoes and watering cans.
  • Supply magnifying lenses and clear containers to encourage your students to look for small animals in mulch, grass and soil.
  • Encourage your students to play in the dirt – supply trowels, disposable pie plates, watering cans, pie servers and miniature farm equipment such as tractors, plows, farm animals and fence-building materials.
  • Supply branches for your students to build forts and shelters.
  • Stockpile various sizes and colors of rocks.
  • Construct an outdoor sandbox.
  • Fill a shallow wading pool (“pond”) and equip it with fishing poles.
  • Lay a flat board (approximately 2 feet by 2 feet) on the ground. After a week of two, your students will begin finding insects, spiders, mice and other animals under the board. You may need to water the area around the board occasionally.
  • Hang bird feeders near classroom windows.
  • Plant native wildflowers to attract butterflies.
  • Plant native shrubs. Nuts, berries, and other fruit will attract wildlife all year long.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Greening Your Classroom

 “Green” your classroom with these simple ideas from Project Learning Tree’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood.
  • Set up recycling bins for paper, metal and plastic. Label the bins with words and pictures of the items that can be recycled in your community. Show your students where to find the numbers on plastic containers and teach them what can and cannot be put in the bins.
  • Set aside a separate box for paper that can be reused before being recycled. Regularly use paper from this box yourself so that your students see that it is something that adults do too.
  • Involve your students’ families in saving and collecting recyclables or throwaway items for projects (e.g., toilet paper tubes and empty egg cartons)/ Send home notes with lists of items your class can use.
  • Use cloth bags for your classroom shopping. Use the bags to transport items in and out of your classroom. Explain that you can use the bags repeatedly. Use reusable cloth bags in your dramatic play area when it is set up as a store.
  • Build a simple compost bin outside the school. Place fruit and vegetable scraps from snacks and other compostable materials in it. Invite children to help you add materials and turn the compost. Find more information at www.kidsgardening.com.
  • Be a positive role model by conserving water, closing doors and turning off lights. Explain to your students what you are doing and why.
  • Use reusable plates, cups and utensils for snacks.
  • Plant a tree.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Field Study Fun

A field study plot is an area set aside for making observations over time. By carefully observing and recording a field study plot over a week, month or year, scientists and others can learn about wild animals, their habits and food preferences.

Setting Up a Field Study Plot
Research which plants attract the most wildlife in your area. Whenever possible, use native species which are adapted to local weather conditions and are often attractive to wildlife. You might also select a plant that grows and/or changes quickly to maintain student interest while conducting the field study.

Once you have selected a suitable plant species, find a group of plants of that species in your landscape or plan a space in which to plant them. Rope off a square yard or suitable sized area around the plants (children may be involved in the process) to serve as your study plot. You may have one study plot and work with one small group at a time or similar study plots that small groups can observe at the same time. With older children, you may have plots with different types of plants for a comparison study. If space is an issue, consider using container plants. Spring is a good time to start your field study.

Container Gardens
If it is desired or necessary to plant your own seeds, seedling or plants for your students to conduct a successful field study, there are a variety of container garden options that may suit your needs. Containers that have rims close to the ground will allow more ground dwelling animals to visit your field study plot. Larger containers with more soil generally require less frequent watering and are less susceptible to temperature extremes – but they may be much heavier to carry if you need to bring them indoors.

Follow these basic steps to create a container garden:
  • Select a container such as a clay pot or planter box that is large enough for your plants at their expected size at maturity.
  • Cover the bottom of the container with small rocks. Cover the rocks with a thick layer of potting soil.
  • Plant seeds, seedlings or plants in the soil according to the package or label directions. Check your garden every day and water as needed.
  • You many opt to carry your container garden indoors each evening (to protect it from vandals or large herbivores). Doing this may disrupt some natural cycles of the plant and or animals that use it.
Conduct a Simple Field Investigation
Take your students to your designated field study plot. Encourage students to look for animals at the ground level, on stems, under leaves and inside flowers. Help your students record their observations on a Field Study Data Sheet (from Project Learning Tree’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood). Students can color the printed pictures that match their observations. They may also draw, paste in photos or dictate descriptions of the animals they see.

Visit your field study plot on a regular basis so your students can observe how the plant and animals stay the same or change over the course of a week, a month, a season or even a year. Use a new Field Study Data Sheet to record observations each time so you can compare findings.

Tips for Successful Student Field Investigations
  • Don’t be afraid to share the wonder of discovery along with our students. Watch how an insect moves or notice how a plant’s color appears to change with varying light conditions.
  • Plan opportunities to practice investigative skills with your students – practice sitting quietly, using magnifiers, listening for sounds or recording what they see and hear.
  • Model investigation and discovery as an ongoing practice - provide opportunities for your students to think and allow time for them to process what they have learned and post more questions to explore.
  • Use open-ended question to further investigation – “What do you think lives in this tree?” or “What might have made these holes in the ground?”
  • Encourage your students to ask questions and build on their responses.
  • Don’t expect to have all the answers. It is not important to name every plant and animal seen outdoors. Use your students’ questions as a guide to your investigation. Look for answers together.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Backyard Bonanza

Explore the wonderful world of Iowa vertebrates with your students. A vertebrate is an animal that has a backbone and a skeleton on the inside of its body. People are vertebrates. So are many familiar animals like cats, dogs, snakes, goldfish and frogs.
Scientists group vertebrates into five different classes (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) based on features of their bodies. Visit the DNR Education Classroom Resources website for fact sheets featuring Iowa vertebrates.

Vertebrate Safari
Go on an outdoor safari to look for as many different animals with backbones as you and your students can find. Ask your students what vertebrates they think you will see – record their answers (a Vertebrate Scavenger Hunt worksheet is available on the Growing Up WILD web site). Look with your eyes and listen with your ears. Keep track of the vertebrates you see and compare it with your students’ predictions.

My Favorite Vertebrate Art Project
Stock your art center with a variety of art and craft materials for your students to create their favorite vertebrate. Students could sculpt the vertebrate, draw or paint it or even build it out of pomp oms and chenille stems. Encourage your students to add animal covering materials to the animal (e.g., glitter or sequin scales for fish; shiny paint or painted mixed with glue for amphibians; buttons or similar non-metallic “scales” for reptiles; construction paper “feathers” for birds and bits of yarn or fake fur for mammals. Let the students share their creations with the class along with reasons for it being their favorite.

Vertebrate “Simon Says”
Demonstrate motions to students for the following commands:
  • Fly like a bird.
  • Hop like a frog.
  • Slither like a snake.
  • Walk like a bear.
  • Swim like a fish.
Start by calling out commands in random order and have your students act out the motions. After a few rounds, change a command so that it is silly, such as “Hop like a fish.” Instruct students to NOT do the motions if the command is silly.