Monday, July 25, 2016

Pocket Guide to the Outdoors

I have always enjoyed the story of My Side of the Mountain. In today's day and age, we might cringe at a child forging out on his own to live in the wild. Sam Gribley was well prepared, having read voraciously before he left to understand nature better. In the Pocket Guide to the Outdoors, the reader can experience some of what Sam experiences through quotes, activities, and skill building. The author, Jean Craighead George, is an accomplished writer of nature based books.

The book starts with a letter from Sam Gribley to the reader, extending an invitation to practice some of the skills he learned in whatever setting a child might be in. He gives a great invitation to get involved with nature and our conservation. 

The book is organized by topic, allowing the reader to find what interests him/her most. Within each topic, there is a quote from the book, My Side of the Mountain, as well as skill building information and   activities. I liked this quote on fire, as I would like to work on fire building with my own boys. Topics include camping, shelters, fire, water, fishing, roadkill & bugs, outdoor cooking, edible wild plants, poisonous plants, medicine plants, useful knots, animal tracking, birdsongs, falconry, hiking & trailblazing, finding your way, outdoor fun, outdoor safety, and recipes. 

At the end of the book, there are several recipes for using wild edibles. We have learning more about wild edibles on our Family Nature Bucket List, so hope to explore this more! 

Jean Craighead George writes a letter at the end to the reader about who Sam Gribley is . . . he is the many people in her life who connect with nature in various ways. 

I find this to be a great companion to My Side of the Mountain. While simple, it gives a variety of ideas and skill builders. I would like to watch the older movie again and use the guide to pick out a few activities that each of my children would like to explore as part of this. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tooling Around: A Book Review

Tooling Around: Crafty Creatures and the Tools They Use is a neat look at how animals use tools. It explores the concept of a tool, as there are a few definitions for this, such as "an object that an animal uses to accomplish a goal." Of course, as humans, we use tools all the time.

I like the two page spread with simple two lines of text on one side and a more in depth section on the other side. If I'm reading to younger kids I could just use the simpler side, using the other information as background information with myself. With older kids, I might stick to the more detailed information.
The book looks at finches with a cactus spine, chimps using sticks to get termites, otters using a rock to crack shells, crows using a wire or forked twig for a hook (some local crows will do this), a red deer putting mud and grass to look larger, a bowerbird who builds a nest with paint and decorations, flies that bring a "gift" to a potential mate, dolphins using sponges, squids with coconut shells, and more! None were local to our area, but now I think I will be watching more closely!

At the end, the author has a note looking at the history of tools and animals that use them. Additionally, she shares where the creatures in the book live, additional books related to the topic, websites to peruse, and a bibliography. 

While I really enjoy the book, it's not one I would use with groups as much as it doesn't show our local nature. However, it would fit in well for specific stations or presentations on animal behaviors. It may be perfect for the animal lover kid who wants to learn all about animals and how they act. 

Like animals? Want to encourage children to learn about them through play? Check out this post on 16+ ideas for animal play
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Raindrops Roll: A book review

I love books by April Pulley Sayre. In my experience, they are great read aloud books with carefully chosen words that pack a lot of science and wonder in just a couple of sentences a page. With the short text, it makes these perfect for preschool children; however, I have also read them to adults and older children as well.

This book, Raindrops Roll is all photographs, which makes it different than some of her other books. She took almost all of the photos herself, using her neighbors garden and getting very wet! I like her personal note of thanks specific to this book, naming our local Michiana weather people, her neighbors and husband, as well as others that reviewed the book and made it happen. The book has won several prestigious awards.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Family Nature Bucket List!

Have you made a Nature Bucket List for this summer already? If not, you might want to try it out! A few weeks ago, we sat down and tried an idea we found on Nurture in Nature by Tania Moloney. Find her post here. It has great inspiration and ideas for compiling your own list.

We made this a Family Home Evening activity. One night a week, we try to get together as a family and have a short spiritual thought, activity, treats, and time to talk about our week and where our family is going. It's family time! A few weeks ago, we decided to think of the many natural creations we have been given during this time and make some plans for our summer fun!

We used a few resources, such as our 2015 Michiana Summer Guide, various kids getting outside book, Tania's post, and specifically a new book for us called Go Wild!, as we wanted to to incorporate some adventure and skills we haven't tried just yet. We especially are looking forward to making bowls out of wood and embers. We'll need to blow for a long time!

We started with a big piece of paper we reclaimed from a shipping box and a bunch of markers.

Some kids drew pictures to illustrate what they wanted to do, others helped research or write. We spent time on our WHY first, sharing things like family together time, getting outdoors, exercise, etc. Then we started writing down our lists. At first we just started brainstorming and then we started making different categories. Tania had a few different ideas for this--we did parks/places, sunny days, water, conservation, giving, and learning. 

We skipped the step to decorate our bucket as I use these for all kinds of things and wanted to use it for other purposes later. I let the kids write on most of the clothespins, as they were very engaged and motivated. They became more into it as they wrote more activities. We color coded our activities choosing a color for each type of activity. 

In just a few weeks, we have already had plenty of summer fun from our list! We went to the Indiana Dunes with friends (Silver Beach this time--so much to explore!). 

We pulled garlic mustard (an invasive species) when we visited a cool nature inspired park in Beaverton, Ohio.

We experimented with fire and made s'mores! I'm sure this will be repeated many times. 

We visited Allan Kauffman Park in Goshen, one of our favorite nature play areas nearby. 

And we picked up ice cream at The Chief while playing in the trees. 

It has been a great experience. I feel like these are all things we would be doing anyway. However, there is more buy in from many of the kids. We pulled it out this evening to look at our week and what activities we might do this week. We are using it to document what we have done as we look at the clips we put in the bucket as we finish them. We plan on printing one to two pictures for each activity and writing a card to remember our excursions, putting them in a Project Life book to remember our Family Nature Bucket List Summer! This could be extended year round or recycled. I know many of these are favorite activities for our family. It reminds us of our traditions and encourages us to get outside as a family, spending time in nature together! 

It's currently strawberry picking time, so we will tackle that clip tomorrow. It's an activity we enjoy. Find our strawberry pursuits and tips here. Imagine that--with 4 growing boys, many of our excursions involve food! I was surprised how much they want to forage for food, pick berries, and cook over fires! We will be eating well as we go through the summer! We look forward to more Family Nature Bucket List items! Thanks, Tania! 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Children's Discovery Garden

While visiting Dayton, Ohio, we stopped by the Children's Discovery Garden, part of Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark. Unfortunately, this section was closed for some repairs, but I talked to the attendant, explaining we'd driven a long way as we had heard Five Rivers Metro Parks is a leader in Nature Play. She checked with her supervisor and was able to give us a tour of the space, including details we might not have noticed otherwise.

There were animal topiaries throughout--this engaged my son! You can see him here trying to "pet" the bear!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Russ Nature Preserve Playscape!

I LOVE natural playscapes--they are definitely a happy space for me! Add kids and a little energy and stumps and logs become magical! I found a blog post about this space while looking for natural play spaces in the great area around Dayton, Ohio. We had fun at several places, such as the US Air Force Museum, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, and the Children's Discovery Garden in Dayton. My husband was in town for Hamvention--a gathering of ham radio operators from all over the place. We tagged along for the hotel, pool, free breakfast, and new places to visit. While the other places were cool, the Natural Playscape at Russ Nature Preserve was my favorite! If you are in the Michiana area, it took us about 3.5 to 4 hours to drive there. It was a nice little get away!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Feathers: Not Just for Flying A Book Review

Related post from Inside Outside Michiana: Bird Books and Activities

I really enjoyed Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart. I am always looking for books for early childhood that are engaging and teach concepts. This fits the bill!

The illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen were colorful and detailed, allowing the reader to understand the diversity of feathers in animals. 

Another detail I really liked is that the author really helped make the concepts relatable to the audience. For example, she shows that some feathers help birds float, shows a picture of a person in a kayak, and reinforces it through the text by saying they "float like a life jacket". We have many mute swans (unfortunately--invasive in our area), so this is a bird my children can easily understand. A variety of birds from around the world are included. I like focusing on local birds; however, it is good to see the diversity of birds around the world. Here are some roles of feathers from the book:
  • blanket (Blue Jay)*
  • cushion (Wood Duck)*
  • shade (Tricolored Heron)--I wonder if the herons in our area do this, too. 
  • protect skin (Red-tailed Hawks)*
  • soak up water ((Pallas's sandgrouse)
  • clean up messes (American Bittern)
  • distract attackers (Dark-eyed Junco)*
  • hide from predators (Northern Cardinal)*
  • make high pitched sounds (Club-winged Manakin)
  • attract attention (Peacock)*find on farms nearby
  • dig holes (Bank Swallow)*
  • carry building supplies (Rosy-faced Lovebird)
  • help birds float (Mute Swan)*invasive
  • plunge downward (Anhinga)
  • glide (Emperor Penguin)
  • sprint across snow (Willow Ptarmigan)
  • lift to fly (most birds)

There is a section that shows the various types of feathers that can be found on a bird, as well as the primary functions of each. Feather types included are filoplume, briste, down, semi plume, contour, and flight. 

At the end of the book, the author shares a note with her journey in making the book come to life. She shares that she found an article in a birding magazine several years ago and clipped it out. She liked the concept and began researching the topic in more depth, using her own nature journals, reputable Internet sites, and lots and lots of books on birds and feathers. She shares the process of sifting through the information to make it engaging for children. She went through many drafts and edits, spending 3 years on the text. When I step back to reflect on a book that seems simple enough for preschoolers, it really includes a lot of information in an engaging way. 

I might use this book in many ways to help extend the learning and help it come to life. For example, I might find actual objects that are mentioned (like the life jacket) and pictures of the birds for a matching activity. Or we might use the objects as we read the book. I also would like to have various examples of  the feathers mentioned. These would need to come from domesticated birds and/or a place that has educational permits to have feathers like this as examples. I would set up a station to explore feathers in the wind tunnel as well. If we had examples of the different types, it would be interesting to see how they all react. I personally would focus on birds from our area in the follow up activities. While I focused on this as a book for younger children, the literary examples, similes, and information can be appealing for a wider audience. I saw a suggestion in the reviews at Amazon to adapt the Fashion a Fish activity in Project Wild Aquatic. Find Melissa's Pinterest Board on the book here. Lots of great information! Her website links to a reader's theater, teachers' guide, story time plans, and so much more! Love it when authors give additional tools to use the book. There are math, language arts, and art activities. The Classroom Bookshelf  has a plethora of activities for various grade levels, including related books and a wealth of website suggestions. 

Related post from Inside Outside Michiana: Bird Books and Activities

I found this book at my local library. This post may contain affiliate links