Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tyke Hike #36 - Pike Lake

Unfortunately, I was unable to lead this Tyke Hike, but as the picture above shows, I had a wonderful reason to miss. Pretty soon, a new Tyke Hike co-leader will be hitting the trails.

A fellow volunteer and official Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter Secretary, Kevin, led the hike. By the way, he is also the unofficial chapter photographer, historian, organizational expert, and all around chapter liaison. Special thanks to him for providing the hike details and the photos.

After a week of record highs, Old Man Winter came back and brought chilly temperatures and blustery winds to Pike Lake. That didn't scare away fourteen hikers who came to trek to the tower.

The freshly fallen snow made for a picturesque winter scene. The trees also did a decent  job of protecting the hikers from the wind gusts.

The crew enjoyed a walk to the tower, though the wind and cold had most decide to avoid the climb. The group headed back from the tower ad enjoyed a new perspective of the trail. I am looking forward to resuming my Tyke Hike participation on Saturday, March 25th at Lapham Peak. Hopefully, I will see you there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 21 - 2016-17 Edition - Retzer Nature Visit #4 - Fine Feathered Friends

Our good friends from the Retzer Nature Center joined us on the Timberwolf Trail to learn about and search for birds. We met all together first to discuss bird adaptation, including feathers, methods of flight, and feet.

Children had hands on explorations with various feathers and many had the opportunity to practice different flight styles, including swooping, gliding, and soaring.

Then, we branched off into two groups.  First, we listened to Jane Yolen's classic Owl Moon. The children were quite good owl callers.

We looked closely at an owl specimen to see talons, feathers, and wings and talked about how these amazing creatures use these features as a bird of prey.

Then, it was off to the classroom to get up close to a prey bird, a ring-necked dove named Gracie. While it is not native to Wisconsin, it is a relative of our mourning dove, a regular visitor at the school bird feeders.

It was time to head outside. We went on a bird scavenger hunt, looking for evidence of avian activities with occasional stops to listen for our feathered friends.

We searched up and down and all around, heard a few species (chickadees and mourning doves), and enjoyed our time in nature.

When all was said and done, we had a bag of bird evidence, a list of things we encountered, and many memories to enjoy and use for future investigations.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 20 - 2016-17 Edition

The last few days have thawed out our land, but today, Old Man Winter made a return. It didn't stop us from completing a diverse set of activities. When planning our session with the class I made mention of five words: mud, seeds, birds, search, and play.  We did them all and had a great time doing so.

MUD - Kicking off our morning with Robert Munsch's silly story, Mud Puddle, we were ready to get muddy. While yesterday's sloppier conditions would have been ideal, we worked through the more tricky conditions and used water to warm up the ground and make some mud. Then, using sticks as paintbrushes, we created mud paintings. The results were awesome. This will definitely make another appearance come spring.

SEEDS - We then reconvened at our oak tree classroom and broke into trios to disperse previously collected seeds from our nature center partner. In no time, the kids were sending seeds throughout the land. From milkweed to bergamot, goldenrod to coneflower, seeds were everywhere.

BIRDS - With Spring on our minds, we read Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's Every Day Birds and chatted about how we would be learning about all the birds we hope come visit sooner than later. Though Groundhog Day was last week. I stated to the class how I believed the return of the robin is the real sign of spring. So, in an effort to find other avian friends and signs of their existence, we went off into the woods.

SEARCH - Besides anything bird-related, we also kept our eyes open for dropped antlers. While quite unlikely, it is the time of year when old antlers make way for new ones. No antlers were found, but we did see nests, tree cavities, possible woodpecker holes, fungi, and lots of new trees to explore.

PLAY - For natural play, the kids have free reign of the land. Today, they split into two groups. One group was working on breaking the ice. The others worked through their own stick championship games, normally played by the entire class as part of math time.

When it was time to head back in, we did our routine of lining up and getting a chance to use our outdoor voices to count up and make sure no one was left behind.

While our nature day is usually reserved for Wednesdays, daily interactions with nature are a staple of our classroom. We usually " end the day with natural play." Some of the pictures from earlier in the week were too good to not share. Enjoy!

Mud soup

 Vine Tug of war

Learning outside is awesome  (and exhausting)!

Jumping in puddles. . . .yes!

Anybody out there?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mequon Nature Preserve - Winter Frolic

Embry and I enjoyed a chilly but fun-filled day at the Winter Frolic, hosted by the Mequon Nature preserve.

Peter & Lily 

We kicked off our day with a horse sleigh ride through the prairie.

Even drones love nature

Then we headed to the lumberjack competition. Even a drone wanted in on the action. Here, pairs of representatives from four amazing local nature centers (Mequon Nature Preserve, Riveredge, Schlitz Audubon, Urban Ecology Center) competed in various lumberjacking activities.  We didn't stick around so see the whole event, but we did visit back later to see the end result.

I may have to create one of these for our school's outdoor classroom.

We then headed back to the education center to warm up and visit some of our favorite animals. Embry even put on her "owl eyes."

Blanding's turtle, one of my favorites

Back to the winter wonderland we went. The first stop was at the pond for some ice fishing. Though she didn't get even a nibble, Embry didn't seem to mind.

Then we headed to the "little tower" before the fine fragrance of a campfire lured us into making some roasted marshmallows.

With the gooey marshmallows warming us up a but, we took the tractor ride over to the big tower to see some Malamute friends and a dog sledding exhibit.

It was hard to tell who loved the other more, the puppy or the child.

Up the tower we went to check out the telescopes (a tradition every visit) before tractoring back to the petting zoo.

As they each approached, Embry made sure to notify the animals that she didn't have any food.

Chilled to the bone, we returned to the education center to visit more animals.

We then wrapped up the day with a few nature-based crafts. We walked away with a vibrant leaf print, a bird bag of nesting materials, and a nature mobile, which is already hanging in Embry's room.

This was our first Winter frolic, but it most certainly won't be our last.