Green Acorns

Connecting children to nature through playful experiences.

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Nature by the Numbers | November 2014

Nature by the Numbers | November 2014

Wow!  I can hardly believe that November is just days away!  October seems a blur to me.  But I love this time of year and won’t let it get away unappreciated.  I am glad that recording in our nature journals regularly keeps us connected with nature and the changes that happen so rapidly sometimes.  It’s nice to slow down, take notice, be intentional.

Have your children been keeping nature journals?  Our monthly prompts seem to be fairly popular so I hope that means “yes”.  I know it can be hard to keep up with sometimes so I hope these prompts help.  In addition to some ideas for your child’s November entries, I wanted to share some resources that discuss the benefits of nature journals (for children and adults alike):

If you’d like more nature journaling inspiration, please check out my Nature Journaling with Kids Pinterest board.

Click on the link below for the November journal prompts…

Nature by the Numbers | November 2014nature by the numbers | November 2014


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Macro Merryment Monday | Discovering new worlds through the details of the everyday

I thought I would share some of my children’s macro shots from the previous week while I try to recover from a respiratory virus.

I’ll be back soon…

snack time

snack time


a cool beetle

inside Queen Anne's Lace

inside a Queen Anne’s Lace

lady bug 1

one lone spot

tree mushrooms lady bug 2



Macro Merryment

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Macro Merryment

My children and I just love heading outdoors with camera in hand on the lookout for interesting, often overlooked, details of the nature we pass by everyday.  By exploring things more closely, whether it’s with a magnifying glass, the macro feature on a camera, or a microscope, intricacies not seen with the naked eyes are revealed and brought to life.  So much can be learned about the subject matter and interest in further exploration sparked.  It can be like discovering a whole new world!

Here are some macro shots from our week…

lichen detailrain drop on blade of grasslate summer pollinatorvine spiralchestnut casing

What did you discover about your world this week?

Fondly, Monique

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Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Can you feel in the air?  Here in Maine the days are still wonderfully warm but cozy slippers and light-weight fleecies are a must for early morning and evening.  The sunny colors of the last blooms have just about gone by and are being replaced by seed pods and changing leaves.

tansyornamental grasslilly seed podfall maple leaf

Whether it’s the cooler mornings of fall or warmer breezes of spring that you notice, the equinox is approaching and the change of season has begun.

This months ‘Nature By the Numbers’ journaling prompts are all about encouraging your child to notice the changes that are occurring and sparking excitement for what’s to come.  Just click the link below to download a copy that your child can  paste in to her nature journal.

nature journaling prompts Sept 2014

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Have a wonder-filled week and happy nature journaling!

- Monique


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Map Painting: A Sense of Place Activity

Map Painting: A Sense of Place Activity


Developing one’s sense of place is something that occurs over time and is woven from many different experiences.  You can, however, help enhance children’s connection to their community, encourage more awareness of the environment, and help nurture their sense of place with some planned activities.  I’m over at Playful Learning today sharing a lovely idea to get you started:  Map Painting

Stayed tuned for more activity ideas for exploring sense of place with children…


Developing a Sense of Place

Developing a Sense of Place

This week I shared a post with Playful Learning readers about nurturing your child’s “sense of place”.  Are you familiar with the term?

During an acceptance speech, Rachel Carson stated that “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.”.  Children’s developing sense of place must begin right in their own backyards.  We must inspire their sense of wonder and nurture their appreciation for the nature in their own environment.

I once read The Great Kapok Tree (a wonderful book) to a group of preschoolers.  I had read this book over and over with my own young children and had some insightful, meaningful conversations afterwards.  I wanted to share that experience with other children.  However, when I paused near the end of the book and asked the group of preschoolers if they thought the man should still cut down the tree, the majority of the children yelled, “yes!”.  I was appalled.  What I realized over the course of my time with them was that most of these children were not engaging in nature.  Sure, they spent time outside – playing, participating in sports, etc.  But they weren’t taking the time to notice, they weren’t touching or smelling, they weren’t interacting, they weren’t developing an appreciation for nature.  Children must bond with their own environment before they can begin to care about others.

I hope you’ll head over to my post here to read more about “sense of place” and how we can all help our children develop their own.



What Makes a Bird a Bird? Learning to Identify Songs and Calls

What Makes a Bird a Bird? Songs and Calls | Activities for introducing children to identifying birds by their callimage source


Have you been waking up to a chorus of song birds each morning?  It can be such a pleasant welcome to a new day, can’t it?   With the exception of the summer that we had a flock of very loud blue jays right outside of our bedroom window, I find listening to the birds’ morning songs a delightful way to start to my day.

Birds communicate for many of reasons: locating each other, warning of danger, and marking the boundaries of their territory are just a few.  The variety of their vocalizations is quite astounding.  It can seem overwhelming to learn to identify a bird by it’s call but it doesn’t have to be.  Continue reading to find out how to introduce children of any age to identifying bird calls…

Marsh Wren, Hill Road Marsh, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California

Children have such a keen ear and are able to distinguish differences in pitch and tone at such a young age.  They also seem to have an innate sense of rhythm.  Of course, like with anything else, the more exposure they have and the more variety there is, the stronger their abilities become.  You will find this to be true with learning bird calls.  So, let’s get started!

Who Said That?

Play an auditory matching game with Audubon plush birds.  Start with introducing two of the plush birds whose songs are quite different from each other, like a Robin and a Great Horned Owl (a melodic versus a rhythmic).  Play the recorded song while the child is looking at the corresponding bird.  Talk about the sounds and patterns you hear.  After your child has become familiar with the calls and the bird that made each, hide them behind your back or in a bag.  Play one recording at a time and ask your child to identify the bird.  Feel free to add additional birds.  Just introduce one at a time and stay within your child’s comfort level so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming.  Now let your child hide the birds from your view and ask you to identify the bird.

Make a Sound Map

Print off this simple sound map before you begin.  Head outside and find a sit spot in your yard.  Sit quietly for 2-5 minutes and observe the different bird songs/calls that you hear.  You can listen with your eyes closed to help you focus better on just the sounds.  When you are done listening, record the approximate location that each bird call was coming from in relation to where you are sitting.  If you know the name of the bird you can write that.  You can also just draw a symbol such as an open bird beak or a musical note.  Remember, the purpose of this activity is to train your ear.  It is not a drawing exercise.


Clap, Run, Wave: Using Your Body

There are several developmental approaches for teaching music to children that uses body movements to represent rhythm and pitch (have you ever heard of Eurhythmics or the Kodaly method?).  This is a great way to reinforce the concepts kinesthetically and you don’t need any special training to incorporate it into your practice of identifying bird songs.  Listen to some bird sounds and decide with your child how best to represent them.  For example, you might represent a morning dove’s song by waving your arms like a conductor’s.  The movements would be smooth, rise and fall in correlation to the change in pitch, and be small or large to indicate duration.  A Northern Cardinal’s call could be represented by claps that match it’s pattern.  Maybe your child could wiggle about or run in place at a speed that matches a Robin’s song.  Get the idea?  Create your own interpretation and have fun!

Disclaimer:  My children thought this activity was quite silly and getting them to give it a try did not go over so well.  They did enjoy watching me make my interpretive movements, however.   They were open to clapping and tapping out the rhythms of various calls at least.

Drawing Sound

Spectrograms are visual representations of sound indicating duration, pitch, and intensity.  Spectrograms are one tool used to help scientists study animal communication.   Show your child some examples (there are some here and here) before beginning.  Then listen to some bird sounds either in your yard or on a site like All About Birds  or Audubon Birds.   Try to choose some simple calls to begin with, such as a Great Horned Owl or a Chickadee.  Talk about the sounds you hear: short versus long notes, increase or decrease in pitch, rhythms, intensity, etc.  Now put pencil to paper and draw out the representations.  For example, short notes could be indicated by dots, longer notes by dashes, trills by wiggly lines.  Here are some examples from my children:


Cornell’s  Lab of Ornithology has a great interactive game called Bird Song Hero that you should really try.  Exploratorium also has a similar interactive game that is more appropriate for younger children.  These are both worth checking out.  They are great tools for training your ear.

Stop, Look and Listen

Take advantage of birds’ active time of day (dawn and dusk are great) to observe birds and the sounds they make.  Sit quietly, listen for bird songs and calls, and look in the direction that you hear them coming from to try to catch a glimpse of the birds making the sounds.  This is one of the best ways to match birds to their sounds.  It does take patience and time but is well worth it.

If you are not having luck getting a good look at the birds, referring to a book like Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song can be very helpful.  Locate the birds found in your area and especially birds seen in your yard and play their calls.  Listen for familiar songs and make note of the bird that makes it.

The more you practice, the better you’ll become at identifying bird songs and calls.  Most of all… have fun!


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