Wednesday Walks: Evergreen Cemetery

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

Some time ago an Instagram follower and friend said that she’d love to go on a walk with my family because we see so many interesting things.  That was such a compliment to me and a lovely sentiment.  As I was thinking about how fun it would be to go on walks with her and with you, I had an idea – We may not be able to meet in person but we can share our walks here.  There are SO many amazing things to notice in nature and sharing with others is a wonderful way to enhance our experiences and strengthen our connections with nature and each other.

Are you ready to walk together?  Today we visit Evergreen Cemetery…

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

We don’t often have an agenda when we head out for a walk but today my son wanted to visit this particular location to try to find a rare bird that had been spotted a few days before.  When we arrived, my dad, youngest daughter and I spread a blanket and sat to eat lunch.  My son took off birding.  As I sat I began to take notice of the nature immediately nearby – the pink cones of a large Norway spruce, a clump of pussytoes just starting to bloom, a mallard couple cautiously checking us out, a large patch of Self-heal at the base of a tree.  I grabbed my camera and explored these sights a little.  Then it was time to join my son.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

As we walked along a wooded trail my dad saw a flash of red and we all gathered for a look.  My son recognized the call and then we all saw it – a Scarlet Tanager!  Aren’t they beautiful?  I think it was just as curious about us as we were of it.  It flew closer and perched long enough for us to get a few photos.  It then flew down to a small stream to bathe.  As we stood and scanned the trees my daughter noticed a fairly large hornet nest – something we don’t come across very often.  We also began to notice other birds, like the Blue-headed Vireo pictured above, and found this sweet cup nest in a maple tree.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

As we moved leisurely around the pond, senses now more alert, other things began to catch our attention.  We noticed frogs along the water’s edge holding perfectly still, maybe hoping we wouldn’t see them.  There were painted turtles gathered on a fallen tree to soak up any ray of sunshine that managed to break through the clouds and large snapping turtles thrashing about.  At first we thought they were fighting but we quickly figured it out.  It is spring after all and soon there will be a clutch of eggs.  We also spotted a Solitary Sandpiper walking in the water searching for food.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

The path passes through a wooded area where there were many more birds to spot and plants that have recently emerged.  The most common spring plants we see right now in this type of habitat are field horsetails (Equisetum arvense), Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) and Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum).  Trout Lilies do not produce flowers for the first 7-10 years of its life and spread primarily by underground runners from parent bulbs.  Because it takes so long to produce large colonies, you know when you come across one that they are quite old.  Several hundred years old.  As I stood admiring this large colony blanketing the floor of the woods I tried to image who else may have passed this way and seen the same sight.  The cemetery was constructed in 1854 and there are many civil war veterans buried here.  Would visiting loved ones 150 years ago have noticed?  Who passed this way before the cemetery was built?  Would there have been anyone harvesting the bulbs to dry for winter sustenance?  To consider the history that this area has witnessed was incredible.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

So you see, the things we notice when we are outside are not things out of the ordinary.  They are things that we are surrounded by all the time.  My children and I have simply developed a habit of noticing nature which involves curiosity, enthusiasm, a sense of awe and wonder, and a focusing of attention.  And now I’m so happy to be sharing our nature walks with you.  After all, “A joy shared is a joy doubled”.  Thanks for joining us!  See you next Wednesday for another walk.

Would you like to share some sights and experiences from one of your walks?  If you are interested in having a featured ‘Wednesday Walks’ post, let’s chat!

Fondly,
Monique

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Nature Word of the Month – May 2017

Nature Word of the Month - May 2017: Frondescence

Sometimes, it can seem like we wait and wait for the arrival of spring and then all of the sudden it’s here.  Not when the calendar says it’s spring but when early spring flowers bloom by the roadsides, tree buds begin to break open, and migrating birds begin to return.

Nature word of the month - May 2017: frondescence

I was so happy to see leaves finally popping out last week, I was practically running from tree to tree to check them all out.  This week we noticed that some ferns have emerged and are starting to slowly unfurl.  I adore springtime with all the energy of renewed life in the air!  And now I am happy to have a new word to add to my nature vocabulary repertoire.  I’ll be watching closely for more spring frondescence…

If you’d like to print a copy to pin up or add to your journal, click here to download.

Fondly,
Monique

Create Poetree: 2 Nature-Based Activities for National Poetry Month

Create a Poetree: 2 Nature-Based Activities for National Poetry Month via Green Acorns

It’s National Poetry Month!  You know how I love to incorporate nature into our learning so today I have a couple of nature-based poetry activities for you and your children.

Why should our children learn about and read and write poetry?  Poetry is a wonderful form of creative self-expression.  It can be a way to connect with the world and with others and a way to process emotions.  It encourages the writer to carefully consider the use of words and the reader to consider their interpretations.  Poetry can be used to foster the skills of observation and to heighten the use of imagery.  And often, poetry has rhythm that kids can relate to.

Now on to the activities…

Grow a Poetree: Nature-Based Poetry Activities for National Poetry Month

Grow a Poetree

This activity is an open, relaxed way to create poetry.  Similar to using magnetic poetry.  Print the provided activity pages and cut out the leaves.  For young children, you may want to fill them in with words yourself and leave them out as a provocation.  My eight year old used a combination of words I filled in and words of her choosing.  I have also provided a list of words for inspiration for your child.

There is no need to have a poem already worked out when choosing the words.  That’s the fun of it!  Think about nature-related words, move the word leaves around until you like the order, and place them around your tree.  Inspired by our walk around the neighborhood earlier in the day, here is what my daughter created:

Flowers grow
Buds turn into leaves
Birds sing, Sun shining
Melting snow drips

Think about other ways you might adapt this activity for your child.  Perhaps she would like to string the word leaves onto a garland and hang it up.  It could be used to decorate some branches in a vase or even temporarily on a tree outside.  Have fun with it!

Create a Poetree: 2 Nature-Based Activities for National Poetry Month via Green Acorns

Shape a Cinquain Poetree

Cinquain is form of poetry that is composed of five lines.  The most common version we see in more modern poetry was developed by Adelaide Crapsey.  In this form each of the five lines has a set number of syllables: 2,4,6,8,2 respectfully.  There is also a framework for the number of words on each line: 1,2,3,4,1.  These patterns lend themselves well to create shape poetry.  We thought it fit perfectly with our “poetree” theme but feel free to use any shape you’d like.  Maybe a flower or a fish or anything that you’ve been noticing in nature lately.

Think about what you have been noticing in nature lately, something you enjoy doing outside, or your favorite plant, animal or outdoor location.  Or maybe there is something you saw in a book or something from your nature collection that has sparked your imagination.  Use that to inspire a topic for your poem.  Simply follow the format provided on the printable to create your own cinquain.

Here is my son’s:

Moon
Bright, Round
Shining, Waxing, Waning
Sun of night
Satellite

I hope you enjoy these poetry activities.  If you are looking for more poetry inspiration, I share some of our favorite nature-related books in this post.

Poetree Printables

Fondly,
Monique

Noticing Nature – Nature Prompts: March 2017

Noticing Nature - Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families_ March 2017.jpg

Marcescent Plants

The nature word of the month is “marcescent” so your challenge is to take notice of the marcescent trees in your area.  Add some sketches of the leaves to your nature journal or take photos and display them on your nature shelf.  Don’t forget to add the date, the location you found the tree, and the type of tree (if you don’t know this would make a wonderful investigation activity).

winter shades of green

Shades of Green

Year after year my children and I are amazed at how many shades of green we notice during the winter months, even when there is a thick layer of snow covering the ground.  I shared this colors of fall color wheel as part of the October nature prompts and since it was so popular, I thought I would create one to use for a shades of green nature hunt.  How many can you match?  If you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, going on a green nature hunt is a perfect activity to tie in to the day’s fun.

Download the Shades of Green color wheel, print it on card stock (for durability you could also laminate it or glue cut out wheel to an empty cereal box), and get hunting!

Winter Tree Bud Nature Hunt

Did you know that usually by mid-summer deciduous trees have formed their buds for the following spring?  Winter is a great time to get out and observe the variety of buds as they are easy to spot on the bare branches.  You might be amazed at the variety of shapes, sizes, colors and arrangements.

You can find some helpful resources in the ‘Identifying Winter Trees‘ post but here is some terminology to know before you head out:

Arrangement

Like the branches of a tree, its buds also grow in certain arrangements:

  • opposite –  structures (branches, buds, leaves) grow in pairs from opposite sides of the twig at the same level
  • alternate – structures grow singly from the twig without another leaf directly across the twig
  • whorled – three or more structures grow from the same level on the twig

The scales of a bud, if present, also have unique arrangements:

  • imbricate – multiple scales that overlap each other like shingles
  • valvate – 2 to 3 scales that do not overlap
  • naked – there are no scales covering the leaf bud

Shape

If you’d like to learn the specific names of the various shapes that tree buds, this is an easy to understand resource with drawings and matching photos.

Once you have reviewed this vocabulary, print off the ‘Tree Bud Bingo‘ sheet (we like to laminate ours for repeated use), grab your Bingo marker and see how many different tree buds you can spot.

winter tree bud bingo

You can build on this activity by trying this longer-term tree bud observation.

First Day of Spring Sit Spot

The first day of spring is March 20th and it’s the perfect time to (re)establish the routine of visiting a sit spot.  A sit spot is simply a special place in nature where you are comfortable sitting quietly and observing the nature around you.  It should be a spot you can access easily and regularly and have these qualities.  Right in your own backyard is a good place to start.

Once you and your child have found your special sit spots, spend some time just sitting quietly and observing.  Start with at least 5 minutes and slowly increase the time each visit.  If your child is quite young, sit with her.  Ask questions like: What sounds do you hear?   Do you notice any smells?  What’s the weather like?  Is there any animal activity?  What does the ground feel like?  What do you notice about the plants around you?  With practice, your child will become familiar with making these observations for herself.

Make sure that the sit spot is easily identifiable so that your child can return to the same spot each time.  Try to visit the spot once a month.  This will provide your child the opportunity to observe the changes that occur in nature throughout the seasons.  Through this practice, your child will feel a personal connection to the nature all around, will develop a strong sense of place and will have a sense of wonder that will be carried throughout her life.

Follow on Facebook and at Instagram to see what we notice from our sit spots on the first day of spring.

Download this month’s nature prompts here and print and hang them up where you can easily see them.  We post ours on our home-school morning board and review the prompts regularly.

Have fun noticing nature!

Fondly,
Monique

Nature Word of the Month – March 2017

Nature Word of the Month - March 2017: MARCESCENT

Have you noticed that some trees seem to hold on to their leaves throughout the winter?  We often notice how the golden and coppery colors stand out among the surrounding bare trees or against the backdrop of green conifers.  It’s common especially for oaks, American Beech and Witch Hazels.

Now is the perfect time to take notice of which trees and shrubs still have dried leaves or flower corollas clinging on, before the new spring growth casts them off. And because there are a limited variety with this trait, these trees should be fairly easy to identify.

Next time you are out, take notice of the trees and have fun pointing out any marcescent ones you see.

Fondly,
Monique

Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine’s Day

Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine's Day

OBSERVE

Look for hearts in nature: You might be surprised where you may see naturally occurring heart shapes – a patch of lichen, a rock, a hollow in a tree.  Keep a lookout for them whenever you are out.  You never know where nature hearts will reveal themselves.

PLAN

Creating a Bird-Feeding Haven | Green Acorns

Show your nature love by creating a wild-life friendly habitat.  These are great projects for your own yard or a local school/community garden:

MAKE

Leave some nature love notes: Linda shares a simple Valentine activity that encourages children to get out and notice nature.  They will be connecting with the nature around them as they create lovely heart land art.

Bring it inside: Make some nature hearts to hang around the house.

Pine cone fairies:  Spread the love with these adorable fairies.  There are nice examples and tutorials here and here.

Cupid’s arrows: These arrows could also be made with leaves instead of feathers and bits of bark for the tips.  Get creative with whatever natural materials are on hand.

Do

DIY heart bird feeder

February is National Bird-Feeding month.  Show your fondness for your feathered friends by making some hanging bird treats and learning more about common backyard birds.  This is a wonderful resource.

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins February 17th.  Consider participating in this citizen science activity and help researchers “learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them and the environment we share”.

I hope some of these nature Valentine’s ideas spark your interest and that you’ll enjoy trying some of them out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Fondly,
Monique

Nature Word of the Month: SUBNIVEAN

Last winter, after warmer temperatures had melted the top layer of snow, we noticed a network of tunnels throughout our yard.  We soon realized that they were created by either mice or moles.  It was a fun discovery!

A couple of months ago my husband started reading Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich to our children.  He got to a section that talked about the subnivean zone and the kids realized that the tunnels we had seen were evidence of subnivean life.   My husband was fascinated and suggested that I use it as one of my nature words of the month.  Well, this is the perfect month.  I hope you enjoy exploring the subnivean zone!

Nature Word of the Month: SUBNIVEAN | via Green Acorns

Learn More

  • Northern Woodlands has a great article about these shelters in the snow.
  • This article by the National Wildlife Federation is very helpful and has a nice graphic.

Resources to Inspire

Fondly,

Monique

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