Outdoor Nature Explorers: Maps and Compasses class at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Shakopee was a hit! The picture above is an orienteering map I created for students to find their way around to several locations to collect code words. Learn more about orienteering here.
I learned about Slooh recently and have been enjoying looking at celestial objects through their many telescopes in Chile and the Canary Islands. Here are a few of the pictures I took.
At Hidden Falls Regional Park
Cottonwoods are one of my favorite trees! They wave to you, they make a gentle happy sound, and hidden in each twig is a beautiful star!
I was out walking in my neighborhood and passed a small pond and saw this! At first I thought maybe a car had hit the bigger tree here. But that pencil-shaped smaller tree is a definite sign of beaver activity. I have seen muskrats in this pond but never a beaver. So I asked some National Park Ranger friends about this and they confirmed that this was done by beavers. They can live in very small bodies of water even near busy streets!
Today in Animal Engineers class, we looked for spider webs outside the school and inside. We had some amazing finds! We knew that the outdoor classroom board was going to be our first stop. At Oak Grove Elementary, there is an outdoor classroom area with a chalkboard enclosed in a cabinet. We have seen spiders in that cabinet before and found some nice webs today with a deceased daddy long legs still in one of them.
Another great spot to look was the under side of the outdoor benches. These webs took up almost the entire under side of the bench. It was very cool!
Inside the school, we asked a few people where we could find some spider webs. One student directed us to a nearby corner web with a live Daddy Long leg. We found more webs in windows and underneath one teacher's desk. I am not sure how this student knew that there was a great web underneath her teacher's desk but she was right!
Keep an eye out at your own school and home for spider webs.
Here is a link to some spider info from Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine about tour local spiders.
Outdoor Nature Explorers has been using pelts and replica skulls on loan from the Minnesota Safari Club to learn more about our local wildlife. The students were fascinated by the coyote and beaver teeth. The carnivore coyote has sharp pointed teeth while the beaver has flatter molars for chewing soft branches and twigs from willow and birch trees. We were also interested in the nasal cavities. The larger the sinus area, the better the sense of smell.
The scat samples helped us identify coyote scat at Eagle Creek Elementary in Shakopee.
Outdoor Nature Explorers kicked off at Eagle Creek Elementary in Shakopee. We started out by sorting creatures into different categories. One student wanted to sort by where the animals live - in the air, in water, and on land. Another way we sorted was by coverings - fur, scales, feathers, and not sure. Then we sorted by mammals, fish, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Each of these animals lives nearby either on land or in the Minnesota or Mississippi Rivers.
Then I told my students that we will look for these same animal pictures outside around the school. I have another set of images but instead of the animal name a different word is printed.
As we discover each hidden picture outside, we record the word in the appropriate box on our recording sheet. When all of the words are located and recorded a riddle is revealed. Unfortunately my riddle was not all that great!
Here it is:
How can you tell the difference between two trees?
You listen to their bark.
I admit, it is not that funny and my students did not think it was either which I then found funny. But they were very good sports and enjoyed the hunt anyway.
We lost the mosquito picture. It could still be in its hiding place or it blew away. It could turn up or someone will make an interesting discovery!
This activity was inspired by a post from Heyer Learning and I tweaked it to fit my group. I am so happy that more teachers are taking their students outside. The kids love it and the learning really sticks when students are active and engaged.
I made a Quizziz with the same animal pictures. Test your skill at sorting animals into their classes. Click HERE to play.
During nature class this week at Oak Grove we enjoyed sitting in a stick fort and reading the picture book, The Great Indoors written by Julie Falatko. Each year, the animals of the forest spend a week in a human house and enjoy the amenities available like indoor plumbing, electricity, and kitchens. We loved that we read this outside while the animals in the story were inside. Click here to go to page to reserve from the Hennepin County Library System.
Minnesota is home to about 140 species of dragon and damsel flies. No matter where you live in Minnesota (or the midwest) chances are you will see one sometime during the months of July, August, and September. I happen to come into contact with them most often at our local outdoor pool.
This summer I attended a teacher workshop at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in East Bethel, MN. The reserve is a large prairie area where researchers from the University of MN study human impact on changing ecosystems.
One researcher, Ami Thompson, studies the Common Green Darner dragonfly. She can be heard in one of the three podcasts about dragonflies posted this past July by Three Rivers Park District. You can listen here.
More to come!
The finch family near our front door has flown away. Ducklings and goslings are walking and paddling with their parents. Blossoms exploded out of thin air. Spring is finally here!