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Friday, January 30, 2015

Fresh Snow!

Although the storm on Monday didn't quite give us the snow amounts we were expecting, it did at least give us a couple inches of fresh snow to explore. As we hiked the property we found lots of different tracks. Each time we came across a set of tracks, the class would stop to determine the animal and the direction of travel. Can you guess who made the tracks below?
The snow was obviously great for play as well! We made snow angels, threw a couple snow balls, and enjoyed the ultimate winter pastime- sledding.
Once we returned to the toasty warmth of the classroom, we continued our lesson on mammals. Last week we learned that bats are mammals and we read "Stellaluna" by Janell Cannon. To continue are study of bats we discussed how they are the only mammal that can truly fly. We examined a taxidermy specimen of a Little Brown Bat and got an up close and personal look at a bat skull. It was so tiny! We could see it's perfect little teeth made for eating insects, like mosquitoes. 
Bats use echolocation to help them navigate and find insects at night. To help them to understand the concept a little better we played a game called "Bat & Moth". In this game there is one student that is the bat, another that is a moth, and the rest are trees. Once the bat is blindfolded, to simulate the darkness of night, the bat calls out "bat!" and the moth returns by saying "moth". The bat catches the moth by listening for the location of the sound and tagging the moth. The class had so much fun playing the game! 
Here we are touching a coyote fur and meeting Willow the Rat!
Next week we will wrap up our lesson on mammals and introduce our next Vertebrate group.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mammal Time!

This week's class started out with an exciting hike along the Bridlewild trail. We found lots of new discoveries including animal tracks and animal scat! We weren't quite sure what type of animal scat it was but we sure found it funny to say the word scat!
We stopped at a log covered with fungus that was frozen and hard as a rock. We found a Beech tree with legs that was perfect for playing. 
While exploring along our hike we found the remains of a White-tailed Deer. We were lucky enough to find the skull- complete with antlers!-vertebrae, and lower jaw. It was very cool to see how nature recycles everything. 
After returning to the classroom, we started our unit on mammals, the first sub group of vertebrates. We learned that mammals are animals with fur or hair, they have live young, and they provide their young milk. 

We will continue our exploration of  mammals next class!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Backbone or NO Backbone? That is the question!

There is so much to discover in nature, even during winter. Just simply walking out the barn doors we found these beautiful ice designs all over the front deck. They were so intricate and unlike any other ice patterns I have seen. We paused to spend some time doing some "ice rubbings". They turned into great pieces of art!
This week's class focused on continuing to build on to our knowledge and understanding of sorting and grouping. To practice grouping in a more practical  application, we decided to build a fire to warm us on this chilly winter morning. In order to build the fire, we had to work together to collect three different sizes of wood: tinder- the thickness of a pencil, kindling- the thickness of our thumb, and fuel- the thickness of our wrists and larger. After collecting the wood, the class sorted the wood into their three respective groups, which we later turned into our fire tepee structure.
We made a couple pit stops along the hike, including the pond, which was completely frozen! We tried to imagine that we were fish hibernating at the bottom of the pond. Brr! We also stopped to count tree rings and sang a few songs on way down Sassafras!
After returning to the classroom, we learned that one of the major ways that scientist group the animal kingdom is by whether or not they have a backbone. Are they a Vertebrate or an Invertebrate? By sorting the animals by this criteria, scientist can take all the animals in the world and divide them into two simple groups. We practiced sorting animals during our exciting "Backbone or NO Backbone" relay race. 
We will spend time over the next couple months diving into these two groups and learning how they sort the animals into even smaller groups. Vertebrates tend to be sorted based on their body covering. To understand this concept a little better we started a project to introduce the five sub groups of Vertebrates and what their bodies are covered in. 
We will continue our project next week! 

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
-John Muir

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Welcome 2015!

Brrr.... Our first class of the new year was a cold one! It was 20 degrees with a wind chill of 5 degrees! But the cold did not keep our little class from exploring the beautiful winter weather.
It was so lovely to spend the morning exploring the snowy landscape. After spending all of December focusing on how animals adapt to the winter, we were able to really understand how tough it is to survive and how important it is to have those special adaptations. 
We were so excited to find all sorts of animal tracks in the snow. We found fox tracks and followed the tracks through the woods, up Sassafras trail, down Betty's trail and into the Woodland Restoration area. 
After we thawed out in the classroom, we began our unit on Animal Classification. To start the unit we focused on learning why and how we group and sort objects. After brainstorming, we practiced putting our class into groups by hair color, eye color, clothing, gender, etc. After a little journal time to document our observations, the class practiced sorting different objects into groups. 
Next week we will continue our study on animal classification!