Uncategorized, Woods and Wetlands 2018

Woods and… More Woods

The new woods behind Roguewood is without a wetland at the moment.  When Spring arrives there will be a vernal pond, or so I am told.  T. patiently waited for me to catch up in order to show me where the water has been and will be.  In the meantime, we will simply have to discover other wonders of the woods!

L. continues to build on her reputation for being a frog and toad catcher extraordinaire!
This funny critter showed up on a gorgeous beech tree. It was still there when we packed up to go home.  Maybe it was cold.  We were not cold but we were besieged by mosquitos.
J. enjoys using his new magnifier to check out the hairy caterpillar on the beech tree.
Also on the beech tree was a long column of daddy long legs just sitting quietly with their legs tucked in a bit. We wondered what they were doing and why they acted oddly and stayed so still. My theory was that the temperature was too cold for them. One of the kids noticed they were all in a shallow sort of indentation in the bark. Perhaps out of the wind?
One thing this woods has that the others I’ve explored with kids don’t have is wonderful, large standing rocks! It is irresistible to most children to climb up on a rock of this kind. I am always saddened when I see children out and about who are discouraged from climbing on rocks, practicing their balance on curbs, or any number of natural movements that children are bound to make.
We found a new Vine Playground! The wild grapevines are just huge here!
L. tests out the strength of the wild grapevine.
T. was easily able to climb up on top of the vine and bounce on it like a trampoline.
So many cool mushrooms since all that rain we had!
Z. inspects the reddish mushrooms she discovered.
More cool fungi!
Maybe we’ll call it, “Toad Forest.”
Kids sharing, practicing gentleness, noticing a toad’s camouflage, waiting patiently, using empathy!  So much happens that we don’t even realize.
Mushrooms magnified.
I suddenly noticed that most of the trees around this woods seem to be maples. Then I found a variety of nuts such as walnuts and hickory nuts lying around. It turns out there are completely different types of trees than any of our other 3 Woods and Wetlands locations!
The underside of a mushroom is a curious place!
Such tall, straight tree trunks!
We explored most of the woods today just getting to know some landmarks, practicing with our compasses, and taking turns sharing cool things we found with each other.
There is no doubt this is a shagbark hickory tree! At its feet were hundreds of hickory nut shells. We heard and saw multiple chipmunks who are likely responsible for some of the harvest. L. and I discussed trees for some time. He has a tremendous amount of prior knowledge about trees! He solemnly informed me that the older a tree gets the more its bark is split (he demonstrated what he meant) and he made pretty accurate guesses at the age of some of the trees we examined. Estimating tree height is a great way to use math!
More shagbark hickories.
We guessed at what is underneath this mossy mound. L. was sure it was rocks. I thought maybe a decomposing log. Turns out he was probably correct. We found other mounds like this one and were able to see large sections of rock peeking out at the base.
It seemed that every other moment one of us was bending down and exclaiming about some interesting find on the forest floor. I’d like to think the kids are better at it because they’re closer to the ground, but I realize I’m not that much farther away! I guess they are more observant than I am, (or have better eyesight?)
I do not know WHAT this odd plant was, but the seeds appeared to be the sleepy, fuzzy eyeballs of some pink monster. L. tried telling me it was actually called, “the fuzzy monster eyeball flower.”
Poison ivy all over the place! We quickly learned what it looks like!
Poison ivy does have 3 leaves, but it is not always red, not always vining, and there are many other plants with 3 leaves. So we just had to keep looking for it, practicing finding it. Wild berry canes often get mistaken for it but they have tiny spines and poison ivy does not.
We might build a fort next week!
Where to from here?
We learned about and practiced noticing landmarks.
L was very taken with the beautiful pattern inside the walnut shell.
Where to go when the log ends?  Some of us challenged ourselves to a game of, “Don’t Touch the Ground.”
There are plenty of dead branches around for us to build with.
Pretty woods!
This unique tree had large, blade like root tops well above the ground.
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!

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.



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.









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.

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.

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!



Firsts in the Forest

What Came Before

In 2009 I invented a summer class for our local community education group called, “Woods and Wetlands.”  Then, in 2015 I created, “Firsts in the Forest,” for Fridays during the school year.  This was only for my first-graders and I implemented it for 2 school years.  Here is the link to the blog about that.  http://firstsintheforest.blogspot.com/