Sunday, March 23, 2014

Growing Up Wild

I'd been looking forward to this Growing Up Wild training for several months. I know the book is highly sought after and is included in the $20 fee. If you can find it, it usually costs more outside of the workshop. In addition to the curriculum guide, it also was good to swap ideas and experience some of the activities in the guide.

I am excited to have this resource. It is centered on 27 nature based lessons for children ages 3-7. It includes the rationale of connecting to nature, developmentally appropriate practices, nature play, nature in the classroom, math connections, language and literacy connections, and healthy kids sections to approach these activities with a comprehensive mindset. It talks of sparking creativity, scientific inquiry, assessing children's learning, respect for living things, responsible collecting, and safety. 

Each activity shares standards and correlations, resources, quick facts, vocabulary building, materials and prep, warm up activities, tips for excellence in early childhood education, activities to take outside, health activities, helping hands to help build on appropriate respect for living things, math connections, take home activities, art projects, music and movement, extension activities, and an snack idea. It's nice to have this all in one place! While the book is oversized and rather large, the suggestion to put it on top of the books on the bookshelf was helpful. It includes many additional resources, such as an index, children's book list, educator resources, federal agencies, organizations and programs, and a list of where to purchase materials. Here is a sample activity on fishing fun. Many of the copy pages are available here, which makes it much easier to print as the books is rather bulky. I also had found this wildlife correlation to holidays previously on the Internet, yet didn't realize it was part of Growing Up Wild. The website for Growing Up Wild has a wealth of other resources if you keep poking around. It is part of Project Wild. 
The training was in the one room schoolhouse at Bonneyville Mill. We started with quick introductions with people from preschools, elementary schools, Wellfield Botanic Gardens, Woodlawn Nature Center, and more. We had a quick walk through the book and started on camouflage! There were pipe cleaners hidden throughout the room we had to find. They really blended in! We also looked at the 10 Core Concepts of the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife.

We also tried hiding an animal--while it was well camouflaged, I quickly found it.

Later, we did an art activity to "camouflage" pictures of animals with different types of paper. I started piecing mine together, having fun with the textures and papers. My friend did the bird on the right with the worm in it's beak. 

This was my end result. We have pileated woodpeckers that live in the woods behind our house.

During a quick break, Krista from Elkhart County Parks showed us a little about owl pellets and how she made modified ones for preschoolers. My son enjoyed doing one like this with her last year at Nature Nuts.

Later, we did some activities on birds. Nancy from Elkhart County SWCD set up activities to show how different beaks are used and even how to make a simple sock puppet. She was one of our sponsors with my Indiana Master Naturalist Training and I've worked with her for the Jr. Indiana Master Naturalist program, too. 

She had a noodle snack ready for us with several utensils to eat our shells, rotini, spaghetti, bow ties, and sunflower seeds. She even brought parmesan cheese and seasonings for us. We tried various tools to see which worked best with the various types of food.

Later, we tried various utensils/tools for foods birds would eat, such as nectar, fish, grubs, small animals, etc. 

We experimented with scoops, eye droppers, nut crackers, etc. 

A strainer (like a duck's mouth) helped to getting "duck weed" out of the water. Then we matched up the birds that had these types of beaks with the tools and types of food. 

After the bird section, we looked through the lesson on plants and enjoyed another snack of different types of plants, like pistachios, carrots, celery, and more. We explored peanuts to see how a plant grows. My son went to a program recently on seeds and plants with Krista recently, so had seen many of these activities before. We had just as much fun as adults with them! 

We also sorted various types of seeds. It was interesting that we enjoyed it as much as our boys have been enjoying it recently. 

Later, we played a game as animals dispersing various seeds around the room. We had tags with pictures around our necks and then dropped post it notes each time we were told to stop, showing the seeds we might disperse through our scat or hitchhiking on our fur. Outside, a good variation is to drop color coded plastic eggs to see how the seeds are dispersed and the range of the animals. 

We even got to make grass heads again--check out the picture of my toddler near the end. He loved exploring this! I also liked this idea of putting various seeds in a portion cup and using them as shakers to explore sound.

Next, we started exploring earthworms, using a KWL (Know, Want to Learn, Learned) chart, though I also like to add an H for How We Learned. 

We used similar Two Way Bug Viewers to explore the earthworms in more depth. We had wet paper towels for our worms to be cozy. We could touch them, observe them, and even got to look at an egg sac (kind of football shaped) up close. I've seen Nancy use these for lots of different programs. I think we need some! We talked about the different characteristics of earthworms, tips on keeping them, and experiences with vermicoposting. Then we were able to "paint" with plastic worms (though another suggested thick spaghetti noodles, too--maybe less expensive)

Here is my finished product! Once I returned home, my toddler was so enthralled by the grass head. He petted it, looked at it from different angles, and looked for the face like the one his brother made has. Loved seeing this exploration and connection.