Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 25 - 2016-17 Edition

Next week, the class will be planting trees that were obtained through a special program through Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources that donates trees to 4th graders across the state. Being a former 4th grade teacher, I reached out to my colleagues and now, we will be working with 4th graders to add trees to our land.

In preparation of this collaborative event, we spent some time reviewing the parts of the tree and talking about what each part did to help the tee survive and thrive. We also talked about the needs every tree has, even creating a shirt, silly song about it.

"Sun , soil, space, water and air,
                              these are the things trees need everywhere."

We chanted this in the classroom and out the doors as we headed to the land to scout potential planting places.

On our way to our first stop near the inside tree, we found a rodent who had passed on to animal heaven. It wouldn't be our last encounter with the circle of life this day.

At the inside tree ( nd the three subsequent stops), we discussed if this location would be a good place to plant our trees. After debating the pros and cons of one area, we moved on to the next.

Our next stop was near one of our restoration  tarps. We then traveled to the "dead alive" tree for our third scouting stop.  Along the way, the circle of life re-emerged as we found the limb of a bunny right in the middle of the trail.

When we got to our fourth stop, we each picked out our own tree to "sing" our tree needs song to it. We then reviewed why talking, or singing, to trees is OK since it provides oxygen and carbon dioxide for both the tree and the talker or singer. While we were picking out our own tree, one of the students came across a dead raccoon. The circle of life was very busy today.

Nature isn't always pretty, and I am hoping we can visit our raccoon over the next few weeks and see the decomposition process in action. Before wrapping up, we went on a quick search for the "alien" we learned about last week: garlic mustard. I was giddy when the kids independently starting chanting "invasive species gotta go."

After all this tree talk, we needed a break with some natural play. The kids climbed trees, went to their "hideouts" and found fungi. A few also made "leprechaun traps" by creating holes that they  covered with leaves and grass.

Of course, before heading back inside for lunch, we tick checked.

Once we came back outside, we were ready to find our planting spot. With our own individual flag, we used our best judgment to pick a spot to plant our trees next week.  Maybe it will be a bit warmer then.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 24 - 2016-17 Edition

With Spring officially here (though today's mid-30's temperatures might have made it seem otherwise), we focused on a sure sign of Spring: Butterflies. We kicked off the day reading Becoming Butterfly by Anne Rockwell, a story that shows how a classroom "raised" monarch butterflies. We will be doing the same soon with Painted Lady butterflies.

We then used old toilet paper rolls and some markers and created a representation of the butterfly life cycle. Then, as we snacked, we watched a time lapse video of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly through our cool science word of the day: metamorphosis.

We headed outside and went to the "inside"tree to find sign of spring while I was on the hunt for "aliens."

We found feathers, green plants, buds, and even a pair of mandibles, but no aliens.

After calling off the search, it was off to the grass class to learn our new insect song, Head, Thorax, Abdomen. After belting out this newest tune, we took the shortcut to the less muddy grass to learn and practice our butterfly life cycle actions. They are:





Then it was back to hunt for the alien. Now, I don't mean little green martians from the movies. What I was looking for was little and green and from a faraway place. I was searching for something even worse: garlic mustard. I chatted with the kids about how alien invaders, or invasive species, are selfish plants and/or animals that take the nutrients, water, air, and sunlight that our native plants and animals need. It was our duty to get rid of them, But first, we needed to find them.

Though last year's class were excellent garlic mustard eradicators, we were able to find a few spots where the very small plants were shooting out of the ground. We practiced pulling them out by the base to get the root.

We are excited to search for more. Hopefully, we don't find much, but we now know what to do if we do.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 23 - 2016-17 Edition - Retzer Visit #5

Wisconsin threw us another curve ball this week. Back in January, we visited the Retzer Nature Center with intentions of tracking and snowshoeing. However, the fifty degrees and clear trails had other plans. This week, with the Retzer naturalists visiting our school, we were supposed to be on a search for signs of spring. A foot of snow and 20 degree temperatures later, we decided to tweak plans. We ended up with the best of both worlds.

We started our spring discussion by hearing Ms. Janet read the story Mud, by Mary Lyn Ray. Then of course, we had to enjoy the mud. Mr. Larry brought in some magic mud he found by a natural spring. With it came a sure sign of spring: skunk cabbage. I think the class enjoyed the sight of it much more than the smell.

We then traveled back to the regular classroom to hear another springtime story, 999 Frogs Wake Up, by Ken Kimura. After talking about the life cycle of frogs, we were able to see some tadpoles. A large green frog tadpole and three African Clawed Frog tadpoles were enjoyed by all.

After our spring learning, we went outside to snowshoe for signs of spring. It might seem strange to look for signs of spring in a foot of freshly fallen snow, but we did it and we did it well.

Though getting 100 kindergartners in snowshoes can be a bit tricky, we managed. Once ready, we hot the trails and found coyote tracks instantly. The coyote has been a  frequent visitor to the trail camera lately so it was very cool to see his tracks. The kids were amazed that he followed the trail just like we do.

The kids enjoyed finding the snow crusts that had formed with the recent freeze and thaw cycle we are having.We heard lots of birds, saw a few buds from the trees and saw many tracks, including coyote, birds, fix, squirrel, deer, bunny, and of course, leprechaun.

After heading back in and thawing out ourselves, we resumed last week's owl pellet activity. Today, our goal was to take the bones we had unearthed last week and use them to piece together the prey of our owl friend, It worked very well with our science unit of the human body as we talked about how we might feel if we "coughed" up the food we couldn't digest. the kids also loved identifying the bones and figuring out how to make the skeleton.

Another great learning experience with our Retzer friends and a snowshoe spring day  in the books. Until next time. . .

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 22 - 2016-17 Edition

Two Wednesdays. . .first Wednesday of paternity leave. 71 degrees and clear skies.

Last Wednesday. . .still on paternity leave. Cloudy, cold, and about 4 inches of snow.

Today. . .back from paternity leave. 40 degrees with 60 mile per hour wind gusts.

Welcome to Wisconsin folks!

Still, spring was in the air. Not wanting my students to be blown away, we spent a chunk of our morning thinking spring.After reading And Then It's Spring, by Julie Fogliano, we brainstormed things that reminded us of spring and created a SPRING foldable. From rain to baseball, planting to bike riding, and green grass to trampolines, all students had a plethora of ideas to choose from when creating their own foldable.

Then, we zoomed in on a sure sign of spring - birds, We reviewed our bird field guides and introduced a new classroom job, the bird buddies. This job is two-fold and shared between two students. First, the bird buddies must check our classroom bird feeders and see if seed or suet needs to be added.  Secondly, throughout the day, they are in charge of checking the feeders for any birds. If a bird is found, they can sue the field guides, provided bird magnets, or an adult to help them identify the bird and add it to our "Birds We've Observed" poster. We also shared the newest addition to our classroom - the Bird Photo Booth. I haven't set it up in our outdoor classroom yet, but we reviewed the website and are looking forward to meeting our bird visitors up close and personal. Feel free to check out and see what it is all about.

As we have studied birds and been lucky to have a few bald eagle sightings, I have noticed their special interest in birds of prey. So, we took that interest and turned it into action. After reviewing a short video about owl pellets and then watching a real barred owl cough one up on a video, we dissected our own pellets. The excitement about finding bones was amazing. Not wanting to spend all our time inside, we postponed the "pellet put together" until next week, when we will work on piecing together the bones we found.

It was time to head outside and fill our feeders for the first time this year as a class. Hard to see in this picture, but we have eight feeders outside our classroom windows that dispense seed and suet.

During natural play, we tried to avoid being blown away. It was gusty and a bit chilly, but time outside is always well spent in nature kindergarten. Next week, our friends from the Retzer Nature Center will join us as we talk about nature "waking up."