Woods and Wetlands 2017

Never Bored

45° and sunny

November 7, 2017

No one could be bored with a woods and swamp to explore.  Today (Tuesday) many of the kids had their new compasses and they practiced using them while also learning to read an old map on our new exploration.

Is it poison sumac?

Before heading out on our new discovery the kids wanted to go explore some more out past the Fairy Tree.  A group decided to make a path between the Fairy Tree and the Boardwalk, (which was pretty easy because of the kids from the Thursday group who already did that the week prior…)   They came back triumphant and announcing that they are, “real men and women,” because they made it all that way!  I contemplated having a discussion about what they think it means to be a, “real man,” or, “real woman,” but I could tell they were just being silly and so I laughed with them and said nothing other than reflecting that I could tell they were proud of themselves.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your point of view,) I found what I think is poison sumac out in the area near the boardwalk where the kids have started making the new path.  We will be avoiding that and learning to identify it asap!

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Possibly poison sumac? Poison sumac differs from the staghorn sumac that we often see growing in meadows in our area. Poison sumac sometimes has white berries. It can grow into a large bush and is described as growing in swampy areas. We did have two students who developed a rash the week before and it does say in the 1978 nature trail book from Lakes that there was poison sumac out near the old boardwalk which is where I found this. I am waiting on positive identification from a forester friend.

The new path:  a map, an old oak, and a mossy wetland

Several of us blew our whistles to call everyone to us so that we could follow the old map to a new location.  I had copies made of the 1978 map of the Lakes Nature Trail so anyone who wanted to follow along on it as we walked was able to do so.  Most of the kids were excited to do so.  Our first stop was at Grandfather Oak.  We noted how old he looks and gave him a hug.  The kids noticed that an animal has or had a den at the base of Grandfather Oak.  Someone asked what kind of animal it was so I asked what kind it could be.  This is a good way to determine what kids already know about their local wildlife.  My guess was a woodchuck, but nobody was home at the moment so we didn’t find out for sure.

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The new woods is both a woods and a wetland at the same time.  It reminds me a bit of one of the planets on the old Star Wars movies, but I don’t know which one.  It is beautiful and decorated with mossy logs, clear water with a leafy floor, and weathered stumps that look like fairy castles.

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Dead tree trunk and a bird’s nest

M. came upon a dead tree trunk barely balancing on its last leg and he wanted to push it down, (because it’s fun for kids to do stuff like that!) but I was so glad he asked first.  I was explaining how dead trees provide food and shelter for birds and bugs, and then someone noticed a bird nest up in one of the cavities of the trunk!  I am sure it will fall down on its own at some point soon, but we were glad to leave it alone for now in case it lasts until spring.  This spontaneous mini lesson on how dead trees are beneficial turned into another mini lesson about how birds do not live in nests except to raise their young! C. (4th grader) was very curious about this and he said that he never knew that because books seem to always show birds in their nests so he assumed that’s where they go at night when they go to sleep.  He thought about it and asked me where they do sleep if they don’t sleep in nests?   I love that he was thinking about it and wondering.

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Authentic compass usage + a handy thermometer

C. (5th grader) and I had a great conversation/lesson about directions.  She thought her compass wasn’t working properly because it was pointing the direction she was sure was east.  Once we established that it was, in fact, north, she was baffled by how her sense of direction was turned around.  This happened again when it was time to walk back and she felt strongly that we should walk in a different direction.  I explained about our sense of direction and how it will improve with practice just like any other skill.  I assured her that I still get turned around in my head sometimes and that is why knowing how and when to use a compass is really helpful.

The sun started to set when it was time to go and we could see it shining brightly through the trees to the… “Who knows in what direction the sun sets?”  This was met with a chorus of ALL of the directions shouted out at me.  Finally I got them quiet enough to confirm WEST and have everyone check their compasses.

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This photo captures him after he had already walked, balancing carefully, along the log and fallen in. He didn’t give up but stood up and climbed back onto the log with a branch for additional support. His feet were wet and cold but the smile never left his face.

We headed back, trying to be extra quiet and respectful as we skirted the edge of a property owner’s lawn.  I have permission from that particular landowner, but will need to get permission from some others now that we are exploring farther afield.

The temperature had dropped by that time and some of us checked our thermometers on the back of the compasses.  It had only dropped by 3 degrees (a quick math problem done by a 2nd grader as we walked,) but without the sun it felt really cold!  Those who had slipped and had boots full of water were starting to get pretty chilly by then.  It may be time for thick socks or multiple layers!

It was a wonderful afternoon of my favorite kind of teaching and learning!

T.

 

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