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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Who's Hibernating?

Because our winter weather is cold and harsh and there is not much food available, many animals hibernate to survive the winter months.Their heart beat slows down and their temperature drops and they "sleep" away the cold. After discussing a few of our local animals that hibernate, including Black Bears, groundhogs, chipmunks, snails, bats, and frogs, we went on a hike to find possible winter shelters for hibernating animals. We were very excited to see a fox while exploring the meadow! Using our hands we simulated an animal's heartbeat during the summer months clapping our hands very quickly and using a lot of energy. We slowed our clapping down dramatically to show how the heart beat slows to conserve energy while it is hibernating.
 For journal time they each received a picture of a different animal that hibernates and they had to draw the shelter in which they will spend their winter safe from the weather and from predators.
 After reading "Chipmunk Song" by Joanne Rider about a hibernating chipmunk, we made a little treat for the animals that stay active during the winter-- strings of popcorn and cranberries! Bon appetit!
 Happy Holidays! See you in the New Year! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Time to Migrate!

One way that animals deal with the harsh winter conditions is by migrating. As the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to drop, animals know it is time to travel.  Many animals choose to leave their current home to travel to a warmer place with better food, water and shelter. Animals that migrate include the Humpback Whale, the Monarch Butterfly, Hummingbirds, and Canadian Geese. The Arctic Tern has one of the longest migrations- from the Arctic all the way down to Antarctica! 

To get a better understanding of migration- we decided that our class needed to go on a migration journey. So equipped with a map of Riverbend and our trusty compass we left the warmth of the barn for the northern tip of Riverbend's property where we would begin our journey. Using landmarks along the way, much like how many animals navigate while migrating, we mapped our way to the top of the Stone Story Circle. It was very cold and it had begun snowing by the time we arrived "up north". 
After looking at our maps and making a game plan for our migration down "south", we began our journey. The warm barn with fresh bread was waiting for us. Along the way we stopped at different landmarks to be sure that we were on the right path. 
After our long migration, we warmed up inside and enjoyed the fresh bread they made earlier that morning. 
Examining a map and globe, we mapped out the paths of some migrating animals and learned about how geese fly in a "V" formation to save energy. We had a lot of fun honking like geese as we tried out flying in a "V" formation around the room. For journal time, we practiced writing  migration and sketched our migration path around Riverbend. 
Check out some of the other interesting things we found on our journey! 

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." 
-John Steinbeck

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winter: Who stays active?

In today's class we focused on discussing what happens in nature as we transition from fall into winter. The temperatures drop, the days get shorter, leaves fall off the tree, and food becomes sparse. People adapt to the change in the weather by wearing warm clothes, living indoors in warm houses, and buying their food at grocery stores. What do animals do that are active all winter? How do they survive? What adaptations do they have? To answer these questions we went out on a hike to look for signs of winter. 
We found lots of winter shelters including a large hole at the base of a tree and a series of mole tunnels through the meadow. We examined the pond for activity and learned how frogs and fish will burrow into the mud at the bottom of the pond to stay warm during the winter. 
After reading "Owl Moon" by Jane Yolen, we got a close up look at a Great Horned Owl taxidermy and talked about the adaptations it has to survive during the winter. We learned that animals will grow thicker fur to keep them warm during the winter, some animals live under the snow which acts as an insulator, and some animals will huddle together to share their body heat. We pretended to be foxes hunting in the snow- listening with their amazing hearing abilities for small mammals scurrying below the snow. When we located our "prey" we lept into the air and pounced into the snow grabbing our food below.
We will continue our winter unit all December!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

People of the Forest

The site that is now Riverbend was once a summer village for members of the Schuylkill River band of Lenape Native Americans. The Lenape saw all living and nonliving things of the Earth as worthy of respect.  They lived lightly on the land and relied on the natural resources of an area. 

As we learned more about the Lenape, we immersed the class in their culture--telling stories, playing instruments and singing songs. What a group of musicians we have!
 We learned how the Lenape were mainly hunters and gathers and depended heavily on the river for a supply of fish. When the Lenape did hunt, they would use every part of the deer and the animals that they hunted. The class examined a bunch of various bones and furs and came up with a bunch of great ideas on how they could be incorporated into the Lenape's life. We dressed in deer skin clothes and played games that the Lenape children would have played to sharpen our hunting skills. 
Of course a couple of snow balls flew as we played in the welcomed snow.

Monday, November 24, 2014

And the group grows...

We are so excited to announce that we had a new student join the class this week! We are so happy to to see the class grow.

To start off our very chilly day, we decided to figure out just how cold it was. We put our thermometer outside while we got ready for the morning and were shocked to learn that it was 29 degrees outside!
We made a stop by our class tree "Swampy Jeanne" to make her a blanket of leaves to protect her during her first winter. Mrs. Alison told us a story called "Stone Soup" and we decided that we were going to make our own version of stone soup! We gathered all sorts of ingredients from nature and made a delicious soup before returning to the warmth of the barn for some homemade bread. 

Inside we reviewed the "Tree Factory" activity from last week and enjoyed pretending to be tall oak trees! We read a story about a little acorn that grew into a tall tree called "In a Nut Shell" by Joseph Anthony and then made our very own felted acorns to take home.
 Towards the end of class we started making our Tree Field Guide to add notes, sketches, and leaves to as we identify them this week. Here they are hard at work! 
Check out our Fall themed nature table! It is full of cool items we have collected over the past couple weeks.
"From little acorns mighty oak trees grow."

Monday, November 17, 2014

How old is this tree?

To start off our mild November morning, we took a hike on Riverbend's "Jack in the Pulpit" trail along Saw Mill Run. The class really loves this trail; they find it mysterious because the past couple times we have hiked it the weather has been foggy and wet. It is such an amazing place to visit the trees with its beautiful tall Tulip Poplars and Maples. We stopped a couple times along the way to feel different bark textures and do some bark rubbings in our journals. Due to erosion along the stream , we were able to see intricate root systems. 
 The class loves Tulip Poplar leaves! They call them "cat face leaves" and we just can't resist turning into a pack of cats when we find them, purring and clawing at each other in a fit of giggles.

On our hike, we found a large fallen tree and counted the rings to figure out its age. It was over 61 years old! We wondered about all the things that tree might have seen over the years.
We filled our bodies with warm granola and pumpkin muffins for snack (thank you Jonathon and Amy!) and read "Tess's Tree" by Jess Brallier. An adorable book about a little girl and her favorite tree. After reading the story, we brainstormed why trees are important. They decided trees were important for climbing and swinging, as animal homes, to make tables, chairs and houses, to build fires and for breathing. All very important things!

We met our guest speaker Mrs. Jeanne Angell to learn more about trees and to plant our very own class tree. We planted a Swamp White Oak and they named it "Swampy Jeanne" after Mrs. Jeanne. 
 When teaching about trees it is easy to show children the bark, roots, branches and leaves but to learn about the innards of a tree is a different story. I wanted them to become the tree! To do this we did a"Tree Factory" activity where they use their bodies to act out different parts of the tree. We talked about the heartwood, the xylem, the phloem in addition to the roots, the bark, and the leaves. For each part of the tree there was a sound and hand motion attached that was repeated. It was quite the tree symphony! 

To work on our math skills, we examined tree cookies and estimated the ages of the tree by counting the rings. We imagined that we were trees and drew our life as a wood cookie in our nature journals. 

A day isn't complete with out a little fun in the leaves!
"Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time." 
-Katrina Mayer