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TheNatureSchool has moved house

Stock image by healingdream from FreeDigitalPhotos*net

TheNatureSchool has a new host, NetworkSolutions, and its own domain name: TheNatureSchool.net . It is still running a wordpress theme.  This will be the second to last post at TheNatureSchool.wordpress.com. The next post will be a simple post to redirect anyone from here to there.

I will leave the blog up here for a period of time to allow anyone who was following me here to find me there.

Moving forward I plan to have a more structured approach. I have two primary goals for the remainder of 2010:

  1. to improve the quality of the content and
  2. to increase my readership.

I began TheNatureSchool in January, in the middle of a school year, because I knew that I needed to take action to move myself forward along the course of doing Nature and Environmental Education. After several years applying for jobs in the field, without successfully securing one, I knew that I needed to stop waiting for that ship to come in and start building my own ship. TheNatureSchool blog is the beginning of that ship. With the wordpress.com blog I got an idea of the frame, now I am working to make sure that frame is solid so that I can rely on its support as I continue to build the TheNatureSchool.

Next week, July 4th, begins a 4 part series that follows the phases of the moon from waxing 1st quarter to full. The series will have a variety of lessons associated with different subjects to use in school, camp or just for fun. I look forward to watching the moon with you.

Join me!

Sound and smell

We are a sight dependent species. Although there are other species, and eagle for example, who could make our quality of vision seem paltry, we rely heavily on site. Further, in this technologically miraculous age, we often have gadgets in front of our faces and or covering our ears. We forget to connect with the world around us.

One of the fundamental skills of an astute person is the ability to observe and the ability to connect seemingly random observations. Here is a simple lesson that will help kids look past seeing and practice observing the world using two other senses. The activities help students make connections between themselves and the observation and between the observations themselves.

Objective: Make and use observations using the senses hearing and smell. Practice verbal or written communication about these observations.

Materials:

  • Cloth or a bandana for a blindfold
  • A journal.
  • Plain paper and crayons or colored pencils for drawing if you want.

Activity

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit. Place the blindfold over the child’s eyes. Have the child sit, quietly and without talking, and listen. Time them for two minutes. At the end of the two minutes have the child journal for two minutes about what they heard. Encourage the child to be specific, instead of writing “I heard birds” encourage the child to write I heard a bird that sounded like a squeaky door and a bird that sounded like a trilling flute.
  2. NOTE: The time and level of complexity should be adapted to meet the age of the child. Very small children may need  a shorter time. They can say or draw what they heard rather than write about it. For them, you could ask what the bird song sounded like. Did it remind them of a sound? Did it remind them of a color? Maybe a certain bird song sounded blue and another sounded yellow. Encourage whimsy and fun.
  3. Have the children share what they have heard with each other and with you.
  4. Have the child repeat the exercise and this time try to have them identify where, on a circle, that the sound may be coming from. Have them listen for two minutes and write or draw for two minutes.
  5. Have the students sit and attend to the things that they are smelling. Perhaps they smell the dampness on the air. Perhaps they smell the grass that someone is mowing somewhere down the block. Perhaps they smell the earth they are sitting on or the warmth of the sun or the faint fragrance of a flower. Perhaps they smell your perfume mixed with the bug repellent and the blanket they are sitting on. Perhaps they smell nothing. Again, give them two minutes to search the smells out and then two minutes to write or draw them.
  6. If you wish, repeat this exercise by having the child try to locate the direction the smell is coming from.

Extensions;

  • Have the children write or tell a story about what they heard and smelled and what it might be like to live in a world where your were more dependent on these two senses than on site.
  • Have them  find out if there are things that have to live that way.

This lesson is adapted from an activity in: Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell. More information is found here.

Raggedy garden.

My butterfly garden is a small affair. And, as it is transitioning from spring to summer it is also a ragged affair. The spring plants, which do well in the cool are looking weedy and brown. The dill is going to seed. And if I don’t give it constant attention, it threatens to be overwhelmed with grass.

The other day I was about to get that seedy dill out of my garden and I noticed something on it. A closer look revealed that it was the chrysalis of a Black Swallowtail butterfly. So, the weedy seedy dill remains. And I wait and watch. I am excited.

The summer plants will have to wait.

A short post…..

In a perfect world, I’d be a week or two ahead of myself with posts so that it would be easy to keep to the schedule. I, however, have not yet created a perfect world. I had started a post about the Gulf Oil Spill but at the moment it doesn’t have a point and is nothing more than a rant. If that were the purpose of this blog, there would be nothing wrong with a rant. Ranting is not why I started this thing. I may still do that post but, I hope, that I can go from a rant about the terrible thing that is into, so how can we come to care enough about what might be to actually take steps to make a difference before we create a catastrophe like the Gulf Oil Disaster. And, how can we teach young people how to do the same. I haven’t written that post yet, at least with regards to the oil in the gulf. Its time will come.

I guess, since I wasn’t really prepared, I’ll do a short inventory about the state of the garden. The cool weather flowers have just now reached a point where they are nearly fully past. This is a delight because last year they were gone in February. I need to think about what to replace them with. I am open to suggestions.

  • What hot weather plants do you like that will thrive in the hot, muggy, salty Gulf air?
  • What are your favorite summertime butterfly flowers?

And, speaking of butterflies, I have a major butterfly nursery going on under the eaves of my house. I think I counted 12 Monarch chrysali. (What is the plural of chrysalis, anyway?) One appears to be on the verge of breaking. I have taken to watching it several times a day so I don’t miss it. As of this typing, it is still not open. I will make a point of capturing, in photos, any that I do see and posting them here. It’s the next skill I need to master anyway.

This year has been a lean year for hummingbirds. Any of you other gulf coasters having a similar issue? Last year was a banner year so it was a tough act to follow but I don’t think I have seen 4 hummers, total, at my feeders for all of May. That is unusual.

The night blooming jasmine is getting set to bloom. I am hoping that will bring some of the hummingbird moths and perhaps a luna moth or two. I’ll let you know.

  • And you, what’s the state of your garden?

I haven’t been out too much this week.

For one thing it has been finals week at my school and I have been in full prep mode to wind down the year. For another the wet warm weather we have had this year has made for a bumper crop of fleas in the yard. Fleas see me coming from a mile away and pack their bags to travel from neighboring yards to my person when ever I am about. Today has been all about doing war with them. I have brought out the big guns. Both Raid flea killer which makes me gasp even if does nothing for the fleas and diatomaceous earth. Raid is like the first strike. It gets the adults and any eggs that might be around but it has a short life span. I don’t believe the 4 months thing they say on the can. I followed this with a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth. This is a fine white powder that is made from the shells of bazillions of diatoms that died and fell to an ocean floor eons ago. It is non toxic to me and my family but it cuts the cuticle of the chitin shell of the flea and causes the flea to dehydrate. It goes down for the long-term. To help keep anything that does hatch from surviving long enough to breed. All the bedding went through either the dryer and the washer/dryer on high heat to kill what ever might be lurking in there to nosh on my tender flesh. This deals with the inside territory but doesn’t get me out side again.

To address that issue I have powdered all the yard near where I garden with the diatomaceous earth. This will kill fleas, cockroaches and other things we have an unnatural dislike of but it will also kill some of the things I want, in the same way, so I use it judiciously. I don’t put it in my garden beds, for example, so I don’t hurt any of the caterpillars that might pupate there. I also don’t want to harm the spiders and other such beasties who populate my garden. They kill many insect pests I don’t want and are important to the ecosystem.

Thinking about how the fleas in my yard have driven me inside got me thinking about how we tend to hide from discomfort in nature and in our lives in general. I reached a point where I’d had enough but, if it had stayed safe to stay inside, if the fleas had not hitched a ride on my shoes and socks from those times when I was out watering and such to invade the inside of the house, I might have not gotten past the talking part. I might have found a cozy nook and holed away for the summer, waiting for the time when the weather got cold enough to send the fleas packing for the winter.

There are a lot of tools out there, like diatomaceous earth to deal with unwanted pests in your yard. Another tool are predatory nematodes. A microscopic worm like creature that will eat anything insect it finds. Put it down where you want to limit insect activity but not in butterfly gardens. Like Diatomaceous earth it can be harmful to things you want to keep so use it with deliberation. Because I plant for wildlife I avoid broadcast toxins because many of them transport up the food chain. You can learn more from your local master gardeners clubs but, do be aware that because they are part of the local agricultural extension offices of the USDA they do tend to the chemical solution. If you are clear that you want to avoid such things Master Gardeners will help steer you in that direction.

Don’t let the insect pests keep you inside.