Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 32 - 2016-17 Edition

I am not sure if we will ever see the sun again. It has rained for what seems like 100 days in a row. However, the clouds and rain don't dampen the enthusiasm of nature kindergarten. Today, we searched our land for fungi.

After reviewing decomposition and connecting how fungi "use" fallen trees in a more positive way than how invasive species use the land, we went for a fungi walk. I asked the students to yell, "There's a fungus among us!" whenever they found one.

They yelled a lot.

We found mush more than fungi. Even in our outdoor classroom for the last 170 school days, we still find more every day. Today, we found oak apple galls (something I had never heard of), an American toad, a new fallen tree, a huge "jackpot" spot for garlic mustard, and even golf balls.

We also found and described trees that were at different levels of decomposition. We noticed the new fallen tree was already pretty hollowed out and much of what had fallen was already well into the decomposition process.

Hard to believe there's' only a few more days with these budding naturalists left. We will certainly enjoy every minute of it.  And maybe, just maybe, the sun will finally joins us!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Weeks 30 & 31 - 2016-17 Edition

As we approach the end of another school year, this nature kindergarten has been working hard to take their knowledge and experiences and work to improve their outdoor learning area and extend their nature service into their community. We have done so many an amazing things the last two weeks.

First, our classroom obtained a birdfeeder photobooth which takes pictures of the birds that land to feed on it. With opinion writing on our minds, we worked to create opinion pieces that expressed where students thought would be an appropriate spot to place our feeder. Then, after sharing our writing, we placed the feeder outside. Throughout the last few weeks, we have moved the feeder and explained the reasoning behind the new placement.

Pulling garlic mustard is becoming a routine part of our outdoor time. We took the garlic mustard pull show on the road as we hosted two events out in the community. First, nearly thirty people met along the Hartland Segment of the Ice Age Trail. A few days later, on a much more humid and buggy night, about a dozen people met at our high school to work on a trail being developed. Overall, many, many bags of this invasive species were collected.

Besides doing work, we also took the time to have some fun. One new activity was our bug hunt. After learning about insects, we went out and tried to find as many six-legged friends as possible.

When it was time to get back to work, we spent time working on our trail's newest addition: a sugar maple tree donated by a local landscaping crew. Every day. we take some time to help this young tree out by giving it a drink.

One of the highlights of our work was a project that was a year in the making. Last May, my previous class chose a spot and placed a tarp on the land in two separate locations. these tarps would kill the grass and jumpstart our prairie restoration. This year, my class moved the tarps to a new location and even helped discard some tarping that had been tattered and torn, most likely by some strong winds.

Once the fresh ground was once again exposed, it was time to fill it up with recently acquired prairie plants. From milkweed to blazingstar and butterflyweed to coneflower, we hope to see a vibrant prairie plant patch soon.

To help with the planting process, my class was trained on how to prepare the ground for planting, get our plant in the ground, and secure it intuits new home, They took that training and helped kindergarteners from other classes plant nearly 100 new prairie plants.

After a few weeks of taking care of the land, it was time to play. And play we did!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Timberwolf Trail - Week 29 - 2016-17 Edition - Retzer Visit #7

On our second to last trip to the Retzer Nature Center this school year, we focused on life in the water. From ponds to streams, we chatted about the water cycle and how it impacts ecosystems at the center.

Starting off together, the class got a preview of the day and a review of some important information. It wasn't long before the four classes split into their groups and headed to their first watery learning area.

My class kicked off at the basin, a man-made area meant to keep runoff out of a natural stream. Here, we discussed salamanders, cattails, fairy shrimp, before meeting the smallest painted turtle I had ever seen.

Then, after a quick walk through the woods, we arrived at the woodlands stream.

Here, we used spoons, ice cube trays, and magnifiers to closely examine a variety of macro invertebrates caught by the Retzer teaching naturalists

Next up was the pond. On the way, we found a duck egg in the grass.

The class was trained on how to get "the good muck" so that we could search for life. We certainly found a good deal of it.

Besides a variety of invertebrates including damselfly larva and dragonfly nymphs, we found leeches, a small green frog, and even a fish. Most impressive was that no one fell in.

Our final stop was the prairie stream. Though it was a bit muddy getting there, it was a nice place to wrap up a day of learning about life in the water. It was a small area, so only a few students enjoyed it at once. The rest were given nets to sweep for insects. Though some were distracted by a patch of garlic mustard, I was happy to see them take an interest in pulling it and helping the center get rid of this invasive species.

After four wonderful stations, it was time for a nice outdoor lunch before some natural play.

On our post-lunch hike together, we went up to the vista overlook, stopping to look at area that had a prescribed burn earlier in the season. We talked a bit about why people use fire to help restore the land and talked about how much different this area would look like during our final visit in June.

Then, we wrapped up another wonderful nature day with some tree climbing, shelter-building, and natural playing before stopping in to the center to say goodbye to our animal friends and heading home.