Friday, September 21, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Week 3 - 2018-19 Edition - Continued

Despite much rain and even  more mosquitoes, nature kindergarten had another successful week. Besides the butterfly garden planting described on this week's first blog entry, we had plenty of time to explore outside.

Even our turkey friends are getting used to us being out there.

We started the wrap up process of learning tree parts by taking our nature backpacks out and drawing some observations of the four main tree parts by studying our beautiful oak tree classroom.

After checking in on our puffballs, we agreed that decomposition is still going strong.

Branching out is an important part of nature kindergarten, so the class had some play time where they could choose between two different locations: the natural play circles and the fallen tree forest.

Even our more traditional station choices had a tree twist.

Our tree parts finale was the creation of our own tree using materials from nature. The class decided to use rocks from the rock pile, larger sticks, and already fallen leaves to make and label our own tree on the forest floor underneath the oak tree classroom.

Once our tree was complete, we finally took some time to discuss and practice the play expectations of the rock pile. It was definitely an exciting place to discover.

And of course, we enjoyed the "running of the kindergarteners" down our hill. Not as dangerous as the running of the bulls, but just as exciting.

Here are a few samples of the over twenty species of plants planted in our young butterfly garden. Besides doing a little non-fiction research into these varieties, we will be moving towards adding a new element to the garden through a new service project next week. Looking forward to showing that progress next week and moving on to tree needs and our study of leaves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Week 3 - 2018-19 Edition - Butterfly Garden Day

The makeover of the Timberwolf Trail is underway. One of the next steps of enhancing the trial and outdoor learning area is the addition of a butterfly garden. Working with Mr. Joe Meyer (coordinator of the Laudato Si Project ttp://, much time was spent planning and preparing for the events of this week. Much more planning and preparation ahead as we continue the project with a a partial prairie restoration.

Mr. Meyer visited the kindergarteners this week to talk about the importance of prairies, We learned about the absolute power immense prairie plant roots,

the butterflies that are crucial to prairies and will be frequent visitors to our garden,

and the animals that once roamed the prairies of Wisconsin.

Each class had a section of time available to do some prairie plat planting. We were lucky enough to release our newest friend as well.

Once outside, Mr. Meyer showed us some tips and tricks to getting our plants in the ground. Then, it was planting time!

We don't forget about the cleanup either.

The end result is a beautiful beginning to what is sure to be a bright and butterfly-filled future.

Over the next few weeks, nature kindergarteners will continue taking care of the growing garden by watering and bordering the garden with rocks. We will also be learning more specifics about the diverse plants that we planted.

Let the learning (and growing) thrive!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tyke Hike #60 - Eagle

Seven hikers, a handful of toads, and about 3,267,768 mosquitoes survived high temperatures and an array of North Face Endurance runners to wrap up another tyke hike on the Ice Age Trail.

Walking first through the woods, we escaped mosquitoes to face the scorching sun. Luckily, some amazing oaks and an adventure walk to the natural spring kept our minds off the heat.

Up and down, we traversed the trail, encountering many long distance runners along the way. They too felt a sense of relief when we approached the woods that held the highlight of the hike: Brady's Rocks.

This outcropping of rock (part of the Niagara Escarpment) offers plenty of fun climbing opportunities and nooks and crannies, perfect for toads, bugs, and other critters.

Chapter extraordinaire Kevin provided a brief history lesson on the Brady family before we headed back.

There were plenty of spectacular views and nature sightings on the much faster-paced return, thanks to our mosquito friends.

Even with higher temperatures and annoying insects, any time on the trail is time well spent.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Week 2 - 2018-19 Edition

One of the best thing about nature kindergarten is the flexibility that comes with it. Sometimes Mother Nature throws you curve balls (or puffballs) and you have to roll with it.

We kicked off this week with a special opportunity. A fellow teacher found some amazing puffball mushrooms in her yard, so she knew who to call. not wanting to miss out on an opportunity, we gladly had them donated to our classroom for some scientific observation. The pumpkin-sized one was nice, but as their faces showed, the kids really enjoyed the one that was the size of a bean bag chair.

Learning about and getting experience with mushrooms is OK. Going on a  Fungus Find hike is even better.

No puffballs, but lots of fungi was found. We also had the opportunity to discuss and practice walking off trail.

This week, we also started our first official PBL, or project-based learning unit. While also including plenty of time for place-based opportunities and natural play and exploration, our unit will focus on trees and our essential questions is How do trees make the world a better place for all living things? Of course, before we learn the why, we need to learn the what so the last few days and into the future , we will be learning the ins and outs of trees.

We started by investigating some great picture books and making connections to our own lives. These books taught about the main parts of the tree and the life cycle of a tree in very engaging ways. After reading , we reviewed the parts of a tree in an an action song by singing Leaves, Branches, Trunk, & Roots at various speeds (think Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes).

Then, we felt the urge to create and practice the life cycle of a tree with our class-created actions. We also made voices for each stage. Here they are.

Seed (whispered)

Sapling (high-pitched kid voice)

Adult tree (boisterous and deep)

Old Age Tree (quieter and crackly)

Decomposing Dirt (said like Timberrrrrrr)

After briefly looking leaf-dropping and leaf-staying trees, we found our first forest friend, an American Toad.

hen, it was time for our puffball party. While discussing how scientists use their senses to learn about many different topics, we put that into practice by touching, smelling, and observing our mushrooms (no tasting or hearing this time). Then it was time for a few puffball experiments.

After heading outside and making a few predictions about what is inside a puffball, we had to pulverize one to find out.

Since that experiment was more of a short-term one, we decided to do same puffball placement around the hidden forest so that we could observe what happens to them over time.

Every day, we take some time to play as it offers so much in terms of whole child development, especially when in nature. Today, as we entered the trail, we wee greeted by turkeys. We observed and wondered about why they were there, what they were doing, and where they would go next. Fun and lively discussions!

Then, it was off to the natural play area.

We played, climbed, balanced, pulled, and found some new nature friends, including a cicada and a woolly bear caterpillar. While my teacher brain allowed me to spout off some facts about each new friend, the best experience was letting the kids do their own learning through their own interactions.

Our tree study continued as we looked into the main parts of the tree. Starting from the ground (or below the ground) up, we discovered what roots do through a simple straw experiment.

We also talked about trunks and went out to find different sized trunks along the trail.

From small,

to medium (and with a cavity just for fun),

to huge. :)

It's always great seeing another class enjoy nature as well.

Of course, we had to check in on our puffballs. Decomposition has begun!

It is also great to see students enjoy our classroom nature center during their choice time. I can't wait until more of our work and choice time is outside. Plus, being a Friday, our snack story for the day ends up being told by our good friend, Nature Cat.

Only two weeks in and I know this year is going to be special. These kids don't let anything stop, even the ridiculously awful mosquitoes. While many people are holding on to summer for as long as possible, I look forward to Fall for many reasons, but mostly because of the absolutely amazing nature kindergarten adventures ahead.