Saturday, March 21, 2015

6 Plus Ideas to Celebrate a Natural Easter

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I have a HUGE binder full of Easter activities and regularly do neat activities with the kids each year. Favorites include making Resurrection RollsEaster Story cookiesResurrection Eggs (that I made with the young women from my church about 14 years ago--I still use the same set each year!), and a 7 day "walk" leading up to Easter. Here is a round up of some nature based Easter activities we have done in the past, as well as links to additional ideas. How do you celebrate nature and Easter? Feel free to comment below! 

1. Natural Dyed Eggs -- This is a fun approach to a traditional activity at Easter time. Using natural items to create our dyes is a perfect way to explore nature while still doing some of our time honored traditions.

2. Easter Garden -- Growing an Easter Garden helps us focus on the spiritual side of what happened during Easter. We represent the tomb, made a cross and a hill, and grew wheat grass as well, watching as Spring makes changes in the natural world.

3. Easter Nature Walk -- This neat scavenger hunt combines scriptures to look up, along with specific items to find in nature, such as an example of death, a thorn, and more! I find that in our area, we need to wait as close to Easter as we can to find the variety of colors and other items on the walk. See our local Easter Nature Walk at Wellfield Botanic Gardens here.

4. Nature Easter Basket Ideas -- While candy is great, we can only eat so much! Our children typically receive a couple of small presents, like small toy animals, a field guide, or tool to help them explore nature more. Then we can use these on our nature explorations as well! Go Explore Nature has great ideas here. Find some ideas for items and activities to learn about animals, on my post 16 Ideas for Animal Play. These suggestions would be great to include in an Easter Basket.

5. Visit a local garden or petting zoo. One of the garden centers near us (Linton's) offers special activities at Easter, which include an egg hunt, viewing ducklings and chicks, a visit to their petting zoo, and more.

6. Enjoy a sunrise! Many churches offer a sunrise service.  You can also head out on your own. Take time to reflect and be outside early in the morning.

A word of caution . . . some people are tempted to buy a rabbit or chick to experience Easter. I would truly consider the long term effect of adding a pet to a home just to celebrate a holiday. Try visiting a petting zoo or such instead.

For additional ideas, I found the following:
Easter Science Ideas--This is a long list with ideas for egg experiments, carrots, and Easter candy.
Good Friday Nature Walk--I like that this has spaces to sketch what you find.
An Easter Scavenger Hunt--Nice way to look for symbols of the holiday.
The Legend of the Dogwood--Explore the spiritual side of these great blossoms.

Shared with Outdoor Play Party! Check out their fun adventures!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Finding Nature in Art at the Midwest Museum of Art

I went to a meeting at the Midwest Museum of American Art recently. I had been to see this annual exhibit of work done by local high school students as part of a tour with my preschooler a couple of years ago and was amazed with what the students had done! It's back! Read about our prior experience here. It also includes several quotes about nature and art--I love this intersect!

As I walked through the current designs, I found several that reflected nature, such as this contrasting log.

I also really liked this fox made of sticks and metal. A photo included a face covered in flowers.

A photo with fall leaves lined the wall.

Upcycled art portrayed flowers and plants!

A night sky is depicted well.

These birds are beautiful! I felt like I was looking out my window!

These cherry blossoms reminded me of my time living in Japan, going to Cherry Blossom festivals!

This creature was stick again. It reminds me somewhat of the twig sculpture up at Fernwood by Patrick Daugherty. What a neat experience to be involved in the process! This butterfly cam off the wall and the picture!

Other drawing depicted trees. I felt like I was right there!

I love seeing the creativity of these students. To create art that includes nature means that students are getting outside and noticing nature! I love this! 

Like Nature and Art?
A blog series on Nature and Art: 30 Days of Nature Art.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

16 Ideas for Animal Play

Play is an essential part of learning! I host a regular Nature Play session, but have also been thinking more about how children learn about animals in their backyards and communities. I've done field trips with 5th graders wondering what an opossum is or not knowing other basic animals, like a raccoon. There have also been studies about how young children can identify over 200 logos yet fewer than 10 flora or fauna in their backyard. That's disturbing. However, we can give children opportunities to learn more about the natural world around them!

Winter Scavenger Hunt!

It's so great to see the tower at Ox Bow Park done! It looks like it's closed in this slippery weather, but will be fun to explore once all this snow and ice melt. We recently went on a Winter Scavenger hunt through Elkhart County Parks. We had a Bingo sheet we marked off as we hiked. It was fun to keep our eyes open for specific things!

We also stopped at various places along the trail and were given a few pictures that we needed to match up with the terrain. Some were a little difficult as things look different from 2-D to 3-D. We worked in teams to investigate and find the right spots! We also found these curious little tracks. It looks like it is from a small mammal with a tail. There is a hole through the snow nearby, so it may very well have gone under the snow where it is warmer. Krista, the naturalist, guided us to observe, but didn't tell us exactly what it is. It's most likely some type of mouse?

There were many people on the hike, tromping through the snow. We had just come from inner tubing, so had on boots, snow pants, etc. I actually was getting a little hot! It was sunny and there was no wind--perfect for winter explorations. I always say to get outside on these days--drop everything else! I thought this jumble of trees had interesting textures and lines.

We matched things ups a few different places along the way, finding tracks, playing in the snow, and observing how animals interact with their environment. To the right, you can see a line of small holes drilled, where the yellow bellied sapsucker had been drilling.

Snowballs were fun! Actually, just playing in the snow was wonderful! I sat down on some of the banks of snow--comfy and easy to fall right back into the snow. At the end there was another scavenger hunt, with clues tied to various places nearby. This really motivated the children to dash to the next spot! We had a three for--three scavengers for one price of free! Thanks, Krista! The children deciphered the clues to find the next clue. At the end, there were books related to nature as prizes, with most groups getting a book to take home. An added bonus!

I was on a date with my 5-year-old. We stopped by for an ice cream on the way home and read our book while we had a little one-on-one time together. The books i just a lovely little compilation of trees. 

My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America (Sharing Nature With Children Book) (affiliate link)

We looked at various trees. He really has gotten to know many through his interaction outside and observing as we go. In the picture below, we found the heart shaped Redbud leaves and he made a heart too. Cute! Thanks for another great program, Krista and Elkhart County Parks! See some of our other adventures there at the link above.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Stomp, Stomp, Roar, Roar! Dinosaur Nature Play

We started up Nurturing Acorns, a nature based preschool program at Woodlawn Nature Center, again this week. Our topic was dinosaurs and fossils. We started by making cute little dino hats. Simple costumes like this can be great for little ones to explore nature and engage in animal play. Watch for a post on animal play soon! See it from the back here. We used this basic tutorial from cutting tiny bites, yet just used a stapler instead of glue. Additionally, since we have so many two-year-olds in our group, we had many items precut. Older children were welcome to cut their own and change it up. Each tail ended up a little different, which is always nice! We also had some literacy activities, with letter rocks, alphabet sheets, and dinosaur words.

Dinosaurs, Fossils, and Archeology, Oh My!

A couple of summers ago, I toured local summer reading programs with a presentation on Digging into the Past, looking at dinosaurs, fossils, and archeology. These are a few resources that might be helpful in learning more about them.

This short video shows how a paleontologist finds fossils. Paleontologists first study the rocks in the area in the office, looking specifically for sedimentary rocks. Knowing how old the rocks are helps the scientist know what animals to expect. When out in the field, they do a lot of walking (and then more walking), looking for clues in various sedimentary rocks. Once they find an interesting spot with fossil evidence they may spend more time in that area. This video shows how paleontologists identify fossils. After fossils are found, paleontologists decide whether they will excavate the find. If they do, this is how the remove the fossils and add a burlap and plaster jacket after getting proper permits. The process continues! The Museum of the Rockies has a great collection of videos that document each step along the way.

Where we live near the Great Lakes, the whole area was covered by water during the times of the dinosaurs, so no dinosaur fossils have been found near our area. Indiana, however, is known for a few fossils. The crinoid is often found near Crawfordsville. This looks like a flower and was once thought to be a plant, but was actually a sea animal. Falls of the Ohio State Park is also an area known for fossil hunting. Fossil collecting is no longer allowed; however, there are opportunities for education in this area and to see the fossils in their natural setting. There is another area near Toledo where it is okay to collect fossils from the Denovian time period.

This game helps understand the differences between archeologists and paleontologists. Archeologists find information and discoveries about how PEOPLE lived in the past. They may consult a geologist to understand rocks and geology from a particular time period (as paleontologists might), yet they do not look for dinosaur bones and other fossils. Check your knowledge on archeologists at the True or False Archeology Game.

The magazine DIG also has great resources on archaeologists at their DIG website

Archeologists often find artifacts and try to understand how they might be used. They even compare them to the tools we might use today. Here is a Prehistoric Tool Matching game to try from Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Inner Tubes and Disc Golf

What a gorgeous day not too long ago. We knew we had to get outside of the house and the boys had an inner tubing date with the Pay It Forward 4-H Club. The group has great leaders. They typically do service projects and learn how to help in their community, yet this weekend they were taking the kids inner tubing for a fun afternoon! 

To inner tube at Ferrettie Baugo, you pay an entrance fee at the gate (currently $4/car for in county or $5/car for out of county). It is just over the line into St. Joseph County Parks. Pay for tubing at the front gate, too, getting a tag to give permission and access to the tubing hill. I asked about the lower age and the gate attendant told me 3, so we did not get a pass for our youngest, who is only 2. Our tag said it's not recommended for under 3. While he was interested, I was happy taking turns entertaining him on the sidelines. It was great to be outside for a longer time.