Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 2 - 2017-18 Edition

You can learn a lot from five minutes of tree climbing. We kicked off another week on the trail discussing trees, observing trees, and yes, climbing them. A few minutes of observing kids around a climbing tree offers a plethora of information easily transferrable to the classroom.

Our focus this week was on parts of the tree. We want to learn about the parts of tree so we can better understand how we use them and why we need them. We sang a special Leaves, Branches, Trunks, & Roots song to the tune of Head Shoulders, Knees, & Toes and then found each part and discussed them.

We reviewed that discussion with a chant.

Leaves help the tree EAT.

Branches help the tree GROW.

The trunk helps the tree STAND.

Roots help the tree DRINK.

Hard work requires a break to play, so off we went to the rock pile and the hidden forest. In what tends to happen, play tends to turn into what others may consider work. Children were digging put the rock pile  and children were clearing the forest floor of logs and branches.

Play also tends to lead to new discoveries. Whether it be of the big variety or maybe a collection of nuts, time in nature always produces spontaneous activities that motivate, engage, and entertain the participants.

We then sought out a new part of our outdoor learning area, heading to the land we call the inside tree. Essentially whole practicing our climbing skills and tree construction skills, we also inspected a fallen tree with a hollowed out trunk we can go inside.

Through our play, our more structured activities and the spontaneity of the outdoor classroom, we connected tot he natural world and dug deeper into the world of trees. The digging continues next week.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 1 - 2017-18 Edition

Year three of nature kindergarten has been off to a nature-filled start. With even more of an emphasis on getting outside  and exploration through play, we made sure to get to know our outdoor space right away.

First Day. . .First Hike

A good chunk of our first few days dealt with boundaries and safety. Hammering down the expectations of our class and adhering to those expectations helps let us all know that our outdoor classroom is  to be respected. Practice makes progress so we practiced playing and exploring outside.

We brainstormed safety expectations about the rock pile. We practiced.

We explored around the fallen tree and learned about how to enjoy it. We practiced.

We found sapling forest and talked about taking care of it. We practiced.

We discovered the inside tree and discussed how we might use it. We practiced.


We also reviewed one of our early math lessons about comparing lengths by finding, sorting, and comparing different sticks.


Longest, Shorter, Shortest

Of course, we also enjoyed running down the hill on our way inside. I expect this to once again become a tradition.

We were also lucky enough to receive a hatching butterfly from our associate principal. After a few days of watching the chrysalis complete its amazing transformation, we released our monarch, Elizabeth, on a milkweed plant on the trail.

If the first few days of nature are a sign of things to come, year number three will be bigger and better.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Introducing. . . . .Birdies & Turties Family Nature Club

Hello everyone!

My family loves nature and loves friends. Why not combine the two? Jillian and I proudly introduce Birdies & Turties (yep, that's the spelling), our family nature club.

We look forward to finding friends and families with a similar passion for getting together to enjoy nature as one big, happy family.

Our idea of a family nature club is to regularly schedule get-togethers on the calendar at various locations throughout the area. It's all about connecting with each other and with nature in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Birdies & Turties will have our inaugural event at a time and place to be determined in October. Please LIKE our Facebook page to stay updated. More importantly, consider joining the club and getting back to nature.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact Peter at p_dargatz@yahoo.com.

See you in October!

Glacier Hills County Park - Hubertus

With tomorrow being the official start of my twelfth year of teaching, it was great to get out to the trails one more day with my family. We decided on visiting a new park, Glacier Hills County Park in Hubertus. Embry, a self-proclaimed "nature-ist" wasted not time finding her first wildlife, spotting three different insects in the grasses and shrubs next to our parking space.

We took a trail connected to the lot and started our new adventure. As usual, Embry took on her hike leader responsibilities and set the pace on this beautiful set of trails.

Early in the hike, encountered a bench with a special section that stored a notebook for visitors to record notes and observations from their visit. Embry made sure to write her name and put the "clue" back in the "mystery box." For a good chunk of the remainder of the hike, she searched for new clues.


 Along the way. our little "nature-ist" spotted many critters. From bugs to turkeys, woodpeckers to frogs, it is always a proud moment to see her notice and get excited about the natural world around her.  She is an especially talented snake spotter and a gorgeous garter snake in the grass. I was thankful the serpent was nice enough to stay still for a picture before slithering off at warp speed

After watching her newest reptile discovery slither out of sight, she lifted her spirits with some log jumping before heading into the pine forest. Here, an even more exciting adventure was waiting for us.

Anytime my family runs across a stick shelter, we are going to play with it and add to it. Today was no exception.

Needing a bit of a break, we came across a deserted cabin and a pump. Embry desperately wanted to try it out but she didn't quite have the strength. . .yet. The next time we visit this amazing park, I have a feeling she might be able to muster enough energy to get it going. I guess we will find out then.