Friday, January 12, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Week 18 - 2017-18 Edition

It was an absolutely perfect time to start our weather unit considering it felt like we experienced all four seasons in a matter of five days. From frigid and subzero to temperatures at the start of the week, temperatures approaching sixty midweek, and rain to end the week, we had it all. We also had the chance to play and learn in it all as well. With it being a whirlwind of the week, I should have taken more pictures. I'm sure next week will provide more opportunity. :)

While it was still winter-like, we made our own winter scavenger hunt. We found lots of tracks, buried nuts, scat, squirrel nests, and lots of other items of nature.

I asked for a silly scat face

Of course, we also had time to play.

This was also the week where we had a special visit from Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources. She brought a variety of pelts and gave us the opportunity to share our smarts about many of Wisconsin's wonderful mammals.

When the weather turned into a January thaw, we did some more hiking and exploring, but seemed to find more joy in mud squelching and puddle jumping. Then, when the big freeze we enjoyed ice skating on the frozen puddles and feeling the crunch of the "crispy" ground.

What will next week bring? Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Birdies & Turties Family Nature Club - What's Ahead?

Birdies & Turties Family Nature Club is back and better than ever for 2018! We look forward to a wonderful year of nature together. Here are a few highlights of the year ahead.

Our Facebook page will regularly share family-friendly outdoor events and information about how to get your family outside in all seasons.

During the school year, Birdies & Turties Thursdays will highlight some of the amazing natural areas that B & T will visit over the summer on, you guessed it, Thursdays.

Of course, visiting nature can't always be planned out in advance, so there will be plenty of "pop-up" B & T events announced all year round.

Nothing concrete yet, but there may be t-shirts. :)

This blog will share pictures and wrap up writing from each event, so please bookmark and share.

Speaking of sharing, if you have friends you feel need more nature in their life, please feel free share the B& T Facebook page with them. Also, feel free to direct message any "must see" nature spaces that B & T should add to our growing list.

Happy Naturing everyone!

Silly Story #1 - 2017-18 Edition

As many of you know, I am an aspiring picture book writer. While I have many drafts in various stages of completion, I have more ideas than I could probably ever dream of turning into stories. Writers tend to see the world through a different perspective so ideas tend to come from anywhere and everywhere.

Starting the nature kindergarten program at my school about three years ago may have taken a ton of time away from my writing (and just about everything else), but it has also inspired so many new ideas. In fact, some of my more recent stories are connected directly to ideas that have sprouted form my time in nature kindergarten.

Also, kindergarten in general sparks idea after idea. With time being an issue, I am always for ways to "work smarter, not harder." One such idea is to try and combine my writing practice with my lesson planning. I think I've found a fun little writing activity that not only entertains and educates my class, but allows me to practice my craft.

With an activity I call "Silly Stories," I have my class review story elements by brainstorming potential elements of a story. Then, I take all their ideas and groom it into a story. Finally, each student gets a section of the story to illustrate, making a truly co-constructed piece of art. :)

Now, these stories may not have the time investment of one of my own picture book drafts and certainly won't win any writing awards any time soon, but they do provide writing practice for me, they do allow for student review and collaboration, and quite frankly, the joy the kids express when I read "their" story to them makes all the work worth while.

Please enjoy our first story of the year. Below are the story elements the class brainstormed and the story I created from their suggestions. Happy reading!

CHARACTERS - Mickey Mouse, nature teacher, talking tree

SETTING -  trail, woods, winter

PROBLEM - teacher is lost on trail, Mickey and tree are arguing

SOLUTION - This was my part. :)

The Picnic Tree

The wind was howling, the flakes were flying, and the temperature was dropping. But nothing would keep Mickey Mouse from exploring the outdoors at Black Locust Nature School.

“Ms. Goldenrod,” Mickey asked, “can we take a walk on the trail?”

“Are you sure you want to go, Mickey?” his teacher replied. “It’s mighty cold out there.”

“Yes ma’am!”

“Ok, let’s get geared up and head on out.”

Mickey and Ms. Goldenrod put on their winter gear and headed to the trail.

The trail wasn’t too far from the school door, but it was still hard to see with the blowing snow swirling around them.

“Hurry, Mickey! If we make it to the woods, the trees should block the wind.”

Mickey and Ms. Goldenrod double-timed it up the hill and through the trail until they had reached Hickory Forest.

They sat down at one of the fallen logs and watched the snow fall.

“It’s so pretty,” said Mickey. “I love winter!”

“Me too, Mickey, but we should start heading back before it’s too late.”

But as teacher and student headed back the way they came, they noticed the winds had blown the snow this way and that, covering the trail in a sea of white and making it nearly impossible to pass.

“We’ll have to take a shortcut through the woods,” Ms. Goldenrod said.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Mickey.

Though the thick woods of Hickory Forest kept the blustery winds out, they kept the light out too.

Before they knew it, Ms. Goldenrod and Mickey reached a part of the forest they had never been before.

“Hello there!” said an unknown voice.

Mickey and Ms. Goldenrod looked to find the owner of the voice, but didn’t see anything.

“Hello!” the voice repeated.

Still, they saw nothing.

“What are you doing in MY forest?” the voice thundered.

Noticing the voice was louder and angrier this time around, Mickey glanced up and saw something shocking: a huge tree with two eyes staring directly at him.

“Listen here Mr. Tree. This is our forest too!” Mickey said.

“If it’s your forest, then how come I’ve never met you before? I’ve lived here over one hundred years.”

“Well," Ms. Goldenrod said, “we usually don’t come this far. We must have taken a wrong turn on our way back to school.”

“School? Do you go to Black Forest Nature School?”

“Why yes we do!” Mickey said. “I go there to study plants and animals. This is my teacher, Ms. Goldenrod.”

“Well, you should have told me that from the start! Welcome to OUR woods. My name is Thorn.”

“It is beautiful here, Thorn, but we really should be heading back. The snow is getting a bit too deep,” said Ms. Goldenrod.

“Ok, I’ll give you directions, but you must promise to say hello to my cousin, Maple. She’s the big tree right near the school, entrance.”

“That’s our picnic tree,” said Mickey. “She’s a beaut!”

“And, will you promise to visit me again?”

“We sure will,” Mickey said.

“Even better,” Ms. Goldenrod said, “we will bring the whole class. Now we have a second picnic tree!”

Thorn gave a tremendous smile. He also gave directions.

Mickey and Ms. Goldenrod loved telling and re-telling this story to the rest of the class, especially on the warm spring days as they enjoyed a picnic under their new friend.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Week 17 - 2017-18 Edition

The new year is off to a frigid start, but nothing slows down nature kindergarten. Even with the subzero temperatures, we dabbled in a daily dose of nature.

A wonderful winter walk

Each day was  short dose, but a dose nonetheless. A dose may have been to check in on our dens and added food for our animal friends

Another dose was to look for different animal tracks.

Brushing the snow off the fallen tree

Of course, there were many doses of natural play and outdoor exploration.

We even had time to make our own blizzard.

With the temperatures feeling very Antarctic, we were motivated to dig deeper into the world of penguins. Using some fictional penguin stories to review story elements and some nonfiction resources to study features and researching skills. We also watched some penguin clips and practiced a new penguin poem.

We made mosaic penguins and created a penguin glacier above our lockers.

And of course, we took our penguin learning outside.

We practiced our waddle,

pretended to carry our eggs as penguin parents,

and perfected our penguin slide.

Penguin gliding and diving down the hill might have been our most exciting of the week, but with 2018 just beginning, there are plenty more nature adventures ahead.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Zero degrees. . . Plenty of fun!

It's always interesting to gauge people's reactions around this time of year. For many people, the frigid temperatures that come along with winter in Wisconsin bring jeers rather than cheers. Many complain about what they consider a winter wasteland while I am trying my best to instill the love of this beautifully bitter time of year.

With other things, attitude is half the battle. The winter season brings with it many complaints and frustrations, so embracing it for all it can offer can be a battle in itself. For me any my kindergarteners, it is all about consistency. Daily outdoor time (even in less than zero degree weather) is essential. Building up endurance and tolerance for the cold is important but not as difficult to achieve if you are flexible.

For example, in nature kindergarten, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Being prepared with proper gear makes a world of difference. While we may adjust our schedule and have more limits on our outdoor time, we will go outside. There's just too much opportunity and fun to be ignored.

Don't believe me? Just see a sample of our activities below and be prepared to follow us in our winter adventures all season long.

Winter explorations

Winter climbing and winter den checks

Snow angels

Monday, January 1, 2018

A truly NEW Year

A new year brings new opportunity and a new outlook. For me, it also means a new Tales From the Trails.

This blog has transitioned from being a way to document my love of nature and share my natural experiences and has morphed into also sharing professional stories from my nature kindergarten career and volunteer experiences from the Ice Age Trail and the Retzer Nature Center, two of my homes away from home.

Well, the time has come for Tales From the Trails to morph even more.

Here's how.

Whether it be Tyke Hikes on the Ice Age Trail, weekly updates from my nature kindergarten classroom, or exploration excursions with family and friends, Tales From the Trails will continue to showcase these outdoor adventures.

However, it will also document the trails taken in my classroom as I continue to expand the nature kindergarten program I began a few years back. I will more specifically detail the resources we use, the activities we complete, and the results of our work with and within nature.

Additionally, it will also share more insight in journey to become a published picture book author. Just like a trail, this journey has twists and turns, ups and downs, and you occasionally get lost along the way.

Finally, a few of you may remember my original blog, Dadventures. In it, I shared stories from my childhood, stories from my classroom, and stories from fatherhood. Occasionally, I may throw a blast from the past entry from that blog on this one.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2018! I hope to see you here and out on the trails. :)