Monday, September 15, 2014

Wildlife is Everywhere!

Wildlife is everywhere- on land, in soil, in water, and in the air. Wildlife scientists study wildlife to learn how they live and interact with the environment. These scientists may focus on one wildlife species or a group of species during their studies. They record observations made with their senses and other tools.

Help your kids become wildlife scientists

Lead our students on a walk in the neighborhood around your school or building or a nearby park to look for wildlife. Tell students that they are using their eyes and ears to watch and listen for any signs of animal life (animal movement, calls, tracks, tunnels, droppings, etc.). Help your students record their observations - drawing pictures of the animals and the places where you found them.
  • Where do you see wild animals?
  • What are the animals doing?
  • How do the animals react?
  • What signs of animals do you see?

Encourage your students to pretend they are trying to observe wildlife in different habitats like wildlife scientists do.
  • Crawl through a small cave to observe a bat
  • Wade through a marsh to get closer to a beaver’s dam
  • Hike through woods thick with trees and vines looking for a woodpecker

Talk a walk outside to practice listening for wildlife sounds. Stop often and have children close their eyes. Ask them to raise a finger when they hear a new sound.
  • How many new sounds did you hear?
  • Can you hear better with your eyes closed?
  • Did you hear any sounds made by wildlife?

Field biologists often get down on their hands and knees to "mimic" the tracks they see to help identify the animal and understand what it was doing at that particular moment. Have your students imitate the movements of wildlife.

  • Raccoon - students get on their hands and knees and move from one spot to another, investigating the path they take
  • Deer - students gather as a group, each looking in a different direction; students walk away then run and jump
  • Insect - pairs of students work together to move all the "legs" at the proper time
  • Bobcat - students get on their hands and knees and slowly move one leg and arm at a time as they stay as close to the ground as possible

Visit the Growing Up WILD website for a printable card you can share with parents to extend learning at home with family and friends.

Music and Movement Connections
Wildlife Charades 
Cut out pictures of wildlife commonly found in Iowa and put into a hat. One at a time, each student pulls a out a picture from the hat. He/she must act out how that animal moves, looks, or acts in nature, while the other students try to guess what kind of animal it is. There can be no sounds, only actions.

This could also be a group activity. Students could work as teams and together act out the animal while the other team guesses what kind of animal it is.

Nature Boogie

Students work in small groups. Show students pictures of plants and animals commonly found in Iowa. As a group, students chose plants and animals and create a series of dance movements (e.g., horse trot, dog shake, bunny hop, frog leap, cat pounce, snake slither, grapevine). Groups perform their dance for the class. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall Fitness Day

Help your students stay active this school year participating in the annual Live Healthy Iowa Kids Fall Fitness Day – register today. Live Healthy Iowa Kids will award 25 - $100 mini-grants to support Fall Fitness Day activities at Iowa schools. Applications due September 12!

The activity options are endless for this fun day - check out these fun nature games that will get your students up and moving while learning about nature and wildlife.

Critter Crawl
Students compete as teams in a relay race. The first student in each line moves like the assigned animal to advance to each station. Each student completes the course.
Station 1 – slither like a snake
Station 2 – hop like a bunny
Station 3 – fly like a bird (flap arms)
Station 4 – walk like an elephant (legs straight, arms straight – extended in front)
Station 5 – gallop like a horse

Thumper in the Thicket
Arrange hula hoops across the playing area. Divide students into two groups: rabbits and foxes. Rabbits start on one side of the playing field and the foxes on the opposite side. At a signal the rabbits hop to the safe place (hula hoop) before getting tagged by a fox; there can only be two rabbits per safe place. If tagged by a fox, they become a fox. At the end of each round a safe place (hula hoop) is removed. Continue removing safe places until one remains.

Snake Tag
Designate one student as the snake tamer. Arrange the remaining students into groups of three or four. Each group forms a snake by holding onto the waist of the student in front of them. The student in front is the head of the snake and the student in back is the tail. Snakes must twist and turn to keep from losing their head. The snake tamer tries to catch the tail of one of the snakes and attach to it. If the snake tamer successfully attaches to a snake, the head must come off and become the new snake tamer. 

The Hungry Caterpillar
Scatter small balls or cones across the play area. Divide students into small groups. Each group is a hungry caterpillar searching for food. The first student in each group is the caterpillar’s head and the remaining students are the body. The last student carries a ball bag.

Caterpillars must travel around the play area in single file, holding onto the student in front of them. Each caterpillar must collect as much food (balls) as possible within the time limit (30 sec - 120 sec).

Only the head of the caterpillar can guide the body and only the head can pick up the food (one at a time) and pass it back through the body. The food must be passed to each student down the line (as in relay) to where it is collected in the caterpillar's stomach (ball bag).

Protect Your Harvest

Place 4 hula hoops in each corner of the playing area (make sure there is room around each side of the hula hoops for the students to move around them in a safe manner). Choose 4 students to be squirrels. Place a bucket in the middle with four bean bags. Each squirrel grabs a bean bag from the bucket and places it inside one of the hula hoops. Squirrels must stand outside the hula hoop and guard their nut (bean bag). The rest of the class moves around the hula hoops, trying to steal the nuts. Squirrels try to tag the thieves and stop them from stealing their nut. If a thief is tagged, he/she must move to the next hula hoop. If a thief successfully steals the bean bag without being tagged, he/she becomes the new squirrel. The old squirrel joins the rest of the class and tries to steal the nuts.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Autumn Adventure

Lead students on a walk through a wooded area, schoolyard, local park, or neighborhood sidewalk to look for signs of fall.
  • Watch for leaves beginning to change color, and try to match fallen leaves to the leaves still on the trees. 
  • Remind students not to pick anything up; they are to be quietly observing at this time only.

Encourage critical thinking by asking:
What do you observe about the leaves in the tree? 
What do you notice about the ground we are sitting on under the tree?

Dig in the leaf litter under the tree as a group. Try to find evidence of last year’s leaves. You might find very small bits of leaves, leaf stems, or leaf skeletons. Talk about how leaves break down into smaller and smaller pieces until they become part of the soil. 

Have the children lie under a tree and watch leaves falling.
  • How many different ways can leaves fall?
  • How does the wind change the way they fall?

Visit the Project Learning Tree website for a printable card you can share with parents to extend learning at home with family and friends.

Art Activities

Create dried leaf art
Materials: glue; tagboard; crushed or dried leaves; glitter; sand; soil; mixing bowls

Invite the children to crumble the leaves and mix them with the other items. Show them how to paint designs with glue on heavy tagboard and sprinkle the designs with the dried leaf mixtures.

Experiment with leaf stencil

Provide leaf stencils for splatter painting, stenciling, or tracing. Offer paints in the basic fall colors – encourage mixing and blending to create the subtle shades of color that make autumn beautiful.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seasonal Visits to a Special Outdoor Place

Find a special place outdoor where you and your students can observe nature throughout the school year. Visit this same place each season and observe and collect leaves from a variety of plants, including trees. Observe the weather and temperate while you look for animals and insects that live in or use trees and other plants. Help students record their experiences in a nature journal or create a classroom poster. Compare your records for each season – describe the changes, make predictions for the next season’s visit.

Fall Art Projects

Paint with Pine Needles
Gather needles from the ground beneath a tree and use a strong rubber band to create bundles of “bristles.” Attach a stick handle, if desired. Let’s paint!

Leafy Greeting Cards
Have children collect leaves and press them between pages of thick phone books or between layers of newspaper with weight on top. After a couple of weeks, take them out. Give each child their personal collection of pressed leaves. Create “Happy Fall” greeting cards by gluing leaves to construction paper and decorating.

Leaf Prints
Stamp Pads
Paints and brushes
Variety of Leaves

Encourage children to make prints by pressing leaves onto stamp pads or painting them, then pressing onto paper. What shapes and patterns can they make?

Leafy Critters
Use different leaves to create animal shapes.

Leaf Rubbing
White paper

Have each child place their leaf vein side up on a flat surface, put paper over the leaf, and rub the side of the pencil on the paper over the leaf. Encourage students to explain why the pencil created the pattern it did? Let them trade leaves and do another rubbing – compare the results of the two rubbings.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Aquatic Animal Adaptations

Last week we explored the types of homes animals live in near water. Try these fun hands-on activities to help children learn more about how aquatic animals protect themselves and find their way around under water.

Beaver Tail Painting
Use a rubber flipper cut to the shape of a beaver tail or fly swatters and let children paint/slap with mud.  Discuss how beavers use their tails to slap the water to warn others of danger.  Explore how water habitats aid other animals in protection (e.g., turtle--swim fast and dive where predators cannot follow; ducks--escape land predators by swimming to the middle of the water; frogs--camouflage on lilly pads, dive into water etc.)

Whisker Science Experiment
Place small items in a tub, fill with 2 inches of water.  Provide pipe cleaners and blindfolds. Have children wear blindfolds or close their eyes and use pipe cleaners to “feel” the objects in the tub. Discuss how animals such as beavers, catfish, muskrats, etc. find their way under water using their whiskers

Reading Connections
Arnosky, J. 2002. All About Frogs. Scholastic, Inc.
Arnosky, J. 2008. All About Turtles. Scholastic, Inc.
Arnosky, J. 2000. Crinkleroots Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats. Alladin.
Arnosky, J. 1989. Come Out, Muskrats. HarperCollins Publishers.
Beltz, E. 2009. Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World. Firefly Books, Limited.
Chottin, A. 1992. Beaver Gets Lost. Research & Education Association.
Dennard, Dl, and K. Kest. 2002. Bullfrog at Magnolia Circle. Soundprints.
Dexter, R. 1996. Frogs (Troll First-Start Science). Troll Communications.
DK Publishing. 2006. Duck Pond Dip. DK Publishing, Inc.
Ehleert, L. 2001. Fish Eyes. Harcourt Children’s Books.
Fleming, D.  1998. In the Small, Small Pond. Henry Holt and Co.
Fredericks, A.D. 2005. Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs and Leaping Frogs. Dawn Publications.
Gall, C. 2006. Dear Fish. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.
Gallimard, J. 1998. Fish. Scholastic.
George, W.T. 1989. Box Turtle at Long Pond. HarperCollins Publishers.
Heller, R. 1995. How to Hide a Meadow Frog and Other Amphibians. Groslett & Dunlap.
Jordan, S. 2002. Frog Hunt. Roaring Book Press.
Knudson, M. 2005. Fish and Frog. Candlewick.
Korman, S., and S. Marchesi. 2001. Box Turtle at Silver Pond Lane. Soundprints.
Lavies, B. 1993. Lily Pad Pond. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated.
McCloskey, R. 1941. Make Way for Ducklings. Viking Children’s Books.
Moignot, D. 1998. Frogs” A First Discovery Book. Moonlight Publishing.
Pfeffer, W. 1996. What’s it Like to be a Fish? (Let’s Read-and-Find-Out Science 1). Harper Trophy.
Sayre, P. 2007. Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant. Northwood Books for Young Readers.
Stewart, M., and H. Bond. 2010. A Place for Frogs. Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Stockdale, S. 2008. Fabulous Fishes. Peachtree Publishers.
Stoddard, S., and L. Munsinger. 1997. Turtle Time: A Bedtime Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Turnage, S., and J. Stevens. 1984. Trout the Magnificent. Harcourt Children’s Books.
Wood, A., and B.R. Wood. 2004. Ten Little Fish. Blue Sky Press (AZ).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Habitat Quest

Explore the types of homes animals live in near water.  Walk to a nearby park or natural area, noticing small waterways, puddles, saturated ground created by rain. Collect materials (rocks, sticks, mud, grass) to build aquatic animal habitats. Discuss how animals might use the materials you are finding to create a home.  During your exploration, discuss tools that make your exploration easier--appropriate shoes, long pants, small  bags, bug spray, sticks and basic safety measures: bug spray, adult proximity.

Inquiry questions to encourage further student investigation
  • Where did this water come from?
  • Do you think there are animals that visit this water when no people are looking?
  • Who might find a drink here?
  • Is this a good place for a person to drink?
  • How could this water protect an animal?
  • What animals could live IN this water?
  • What animals could not live in this water but could live near it?

Take Home Aquatic Habitat Set
Blue felt cut to shape of pond, lake or river 
Beaver and Dam 
Beaver-Small rock, paint it brown and add  details with marker 
Habitat-Use items collected in habitat quest--sticks, mud, grass and recycled egg  cartons to build beaver dams. Frogs and Lilly Pads 
Frog: Small green pom pom 
Habitat: Cut out lillypad shape and glue on  bit of white tissue for lillypad flower. 
Turtle Shells 
Turtle: Recycled egg carton, glue green tissue on and use  green pipecleaners for legs, head and tail--prepoke holes  for smaller children 
Rabbit Burrow 
Rabbit:  Cotton ball with pipe cleaner ears 
Habitat: Part of a toilet paper roll. 
Duck Nests 
Duck:  Small yellow pom pom Grass and mud to form nest

Beaver Call
Beaver One, Beaver All
Lets all do the Beaver call F F F F F F F F F F F F F
Beaver three, beaver four
Lets knock on the Beaver Door F F F F F F F F F F F F F
Beaver five, beaver six
Lets all pick up beaver sticks F F F F F F F F F F F F F
Beaver seven, beaver eight
Lets swim through the beaver gate F F F F F F F F F F F F F
Beaver nine STOP
Its Beaver Time Naaaaa na na na  Na-na  Na-Na... Naaaaa na na na  Na-na  Na-Na

The Tired Turtle
(I’ve been working on the railroad)
I’ve been crawling through the mud,
All the whole day long,
I’ve been crawling through the mud,
Just listen to my song
Oh, my house is getting heavy,
My legs are tired and sore,
I am moving very slowly
I can’t crawl anymore.

I’m getting closer to the water
All the whole day through
I’m getting closer to the water
where I can freely move
I’ll swim so fast you’ll hardly see me
and dive and eat and breathe
Oh the pond is where I’d really really love to be

Little Froggy
(I’m a Little Teapot)
See the little froggy, swimming in the pool
The water’s great, It’s nice and cool
when he gets all cleaned up, Out he’ll pop
Squeaky clean from bottom to top.
See the little froggy, On the lilly pad
trying to catch flies, she’s getting sad.
When she catches one, she’ll gobble it up
Back in the water she’ll go kerplop!"

Ten Little froggies
One little froggy goes hop
Along comes another and they just can’t stop, soooo

Two little froggies go hop, hop
Along comes another and they just can’t stop, soooo
(Could use large felt lilly pads to hop in a circle)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reconnecting Children with Nature – Growing Up WILD

This workshop leads you out the door and provides hands on activities and resource materials to help you lead your own nature explorations. Growing Up WILD activities use age appropriate practices and concepts to build on children’s sense of wonder and invites them to explore nature and the world around them. Specially written for children 3-7, activities include sections to address many learning areas: math, science, language, literacy, health living, play, and creativity.

This workshop has been approved for 4 clock hours of DHS continuing education credit.

The Growing Up WILD activity guide was a culmination of work by natural resource agencies, early childhood professionals, and educators. Activities 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 correlations have been drafted to Iowa Early Childhood program and curriculum standards – Quality Preschool Program Standards, Iowa Early Learning Standards, and the Iowa Core Curriculum.

Upcoming Workshop
Saturday, September 6, 2014
8:30 a.m.—12:30 p.m.
Lake Meyer Nature Center (2546 Lake Meyer Rd.,Fort Atkinson, IA 52144)
Registration: Iowa Child Care Providers Training Registry— Click on Search Trainings, then search Reconnecting in the Title.
Registration Deadline: August 22, 2014
Registration Fee: $10 - your enrollment will be complete when payment is received: make checks payable to EPI