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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Things to do in your backyard this week!

Build a Fort
Build your own outdoor hideout!

Large sticks
Old sheets or blankets
String or rope

The sky is the limit! Create a fort by leaning your sticks against an existing structure, such as a tree or play set, or create a fort by leaning the sticks together like a teepee. Use ropes or string to help hold sheets in place. Use an old blanket as the base.  Make it your own! A backyard fort is a great place to hide while you observe birds, write in your nature journal, read a book, or just sit and think!

Make Rain Music
We have been getting our fair share of rain across Iowa this year! Celebrate and put the rain to use by making your own rain music!

Rain (supplied by Mother Nature)
Metal pots and pans

The next time it rains (should be soon!) set up metal pots and pans on a deck or your yard where they will get rained on. Listen to the rain music!

Make a Bug “Movie”
Set up a white sheet and a light after dark and watch backyard bugs gather to star in your after-hours “movie”!

White sheet, pillow case, or large white paper or cardboard
Clothes pins or other way to hang sheet/paper
Flashlight or lantern
Insect repellant
Paper, sketchbook, camera or way to record your observations

Hang your sheet outside in your backyard at a height that everyone can easily see it (so about head/shoulders height of the smallest participant). Hanging it on a clothesline, on a deck etc are good ideas.

Set your light source (flashlight, lantern, or even old lamp with the shade removed) near your sheet. Turn off other light sources (such as a yard or deck light).

Wait for insects to show up! Observe, count, record, and enjoy the “night life”!

Dig a Pitfall Trap
Build a simple pitfall trap to learn about small creatures that live in your yard!

Small container with steep sides (such as an old yogurt container)
Trowel or small shovel
Several small rocks
One larger rock
Flat piece of wood
Vegetable or fruit scraps

Choose a spot in your yard to dig your trap. The soil needs to be soft enough so that you can dig down several inches.

Dig a hole the size and depth of your container. Place container in hole and fill in around it. You want the top of the container to be level with the ground.

Add the vegetable and/or fruit scraps.

Place four small rocks around the trap and cover with the flat piece of wood.  Place the larger rock on top to hold it in place. There should be about a one inch gap between the ground and the wood.

Leave the trap overnight. In the morning check your trap to see what critters you have found! Look carefully, they may be hiding. After you have identified and observed your critters let them go somewhere safe (such as under a bush).

Make a Nature Bracelet
Explore your yard and make a nature bracelet with the things you find!

Masking tape (or similar tape)

Tear a piece of tape to wrap around your wrist, make it big enough so it can slip on and off.  Wrap the tape into a bracelet keeping the sticky side out. While wearing your bracelet explore your yard and decorate your bracelet with tiny treasures you find such as flower petals, small leaves, seeds, etc. Create your own beautiful masterpiece!

Make a Nature Mobile
Make a mobile from nature objects you find in your yard!

Two sticks
Yarn or string
Nature objects such as flowers, feathers, pine cones, acorns etc.

Gather items from your yard that you would like on your mobile.

Tie the two sticks into an X. Tie the objects onto your X and viola! Hang your mobile where you can enjoy your nature objects!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Trees For Kids Grant available for Fall

Trees For Kids grant program is designed to provide hands-on educational opportunities for Iowa youth by planting trees on school grounds and other public places. 
The grant pays up to $5,000 in tree and mulch cost, and provides educational tree planting demonstrations to participating adults and youth. Applications are now available for this fall. 
This past spring, 21 schools and/or communities received more than $68,000 to plant over 1,000 trees around the state from the Trees For Kids grant. 
Over their 60 year lifespan, these trees will save more than 480,000 kilowatt hours of electricity by shading buildings and more than 98,000 therms by slowing down winds and reducing building heat loss. 
Those trees will help reduce flooding throughout by intercepting over 45,500,000 gallons of storm water and will reduce over 4,910,000 pounds of atmospheric carbon dioxide through CO2 sequestration and decreased energy production needs and emissions. 
Trees planted around schools and in neighborhoods have also shown to give youth increased levels of concentration, lower levels of aggression, lower levels of obesity, and fewer symptoms of ADHD. 
Communities are made more livable by having a healthy, diverse tree canopy.  To download the grant application, go to:  http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/Forestry/UrbanForestry.aspx

For more information, contact Laura Wagner, Trees for Kids Coordinator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, at 515-281-6749.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nature Photography for Kids

Create Your Own Backyard Field Guide
Kids love cameras and kids love nature. Combine the two and you have with a wonderful project to fill your summer days.  Last week we explored our backyards with Backyard Exploration, this week we are going to expand on that and make our own backyard field guides using photography.

Allow children to be the lead on the project and follow their interests. Do they want to create a backyard butterfly field guide? A tree field guide?  The sky is the limit (literally - maybe they want to create a cloud guide!). Inventory the plants and animals (or what they have chosen) in your backyard. Photograph each plant and animal and take notes about where you found it, how it feels, smells, and other observations.

Once you have photographed the subjects you want to include download the pictures to your computer. Go through the photographs with your children and decide which photos to include in your field guide (you will most likely have several photos of one subject; pick the best quality photo of each).

With your children identify each subject that you are going to include in your backyard field guide. If you do not have field guides they can be checked out from your local library. There are also many on-line field guide resources.  Allow children time to look through field guides to get an idea of what they look like, and what information is included in each. Decide what information you are going to include in your backyard field guide.

Create your field guides by printing pictures and descriptions and creating a journal. An old notebook or photo album will work. You could also create a photobook through a website such as Snapfish and have an actual book created and mailed to you. You now have a field guide for your own backyard!

Want to expand your field guide? Create a field guide for your neighborhood or community, your favorite camping site, local park, or a vacation trip!

Camera Basics
Teach children the basics of operating a digital camera. For young children teaching them to point and shoot may be enough. Older children may want to learn about the different settings.

There are several kinds of children’s cameras available; however, they generally do not take quality photos. You can get a cheap “adult” camera that will take better photos for the same price. Base your decision on the age of the children and how much “rough and tumble” action the camera will see - kid’s cameras are built to withstand drops, and rougher handling. You can also allow children to use your camera with supervision or purchase disposable cameras for each child.

More Fun Nature Photography Ideas for Kids
Photography scavenger hunts: colors, shapes, alphabet (i.e. tree branches shaped like an A etc), insects, leaves, etc…
Themed photography walks: butterflies, beetles, birds, trees, wildflowers
Personal photo book: allow each child to review their pictures and print off or create a personal photobook of their favorites.
Nature Journal: Add your nature photos to your nature journal.

Castella, K., and B. Boyl. 2006. Discovering Nature's Alphabet. Heyday Books.
Criswell, S. G., et al. 1996. Nature Through Science and Art. McGraw-Hill Companies.
Hass, R. and P. Michael. 2008. River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things. Milkweed Editions.
Lepp, G., and K. V. Lepp. 2010. Wildlife Photography: Stories from the Field. Lark Books NC.
Sweet, T. 2010. Fine Art Nature Photography: Advanced Techniques and the Creative Process. Stackpole Books.

11 Simple Tips for Kids: Nature Photography

National Geographic Kids: Photography Tips for Kids

Nature Mom: Kids ‘n Cameras: Five Tips for Introducing Children to Photography