Summer Activities

Summer

“In the warmth of rain and sunny days, the forest floor literally teems with life.  Seeds swell and burst and grow, colored fungi and lichens all but spring from the ground.  Flowers are bolder in their hues than those of spring.  They bloom in crannies on cliffs, on bare rock faces, in swamps and forest shades…There is a sense of almost tropical lushness after the stark severity of winter.”

-Wilderness Days, 61

Summer Activity Ideas

-Find another nature writer who expresses the same joys of summer that you feel.  Share these writings with friends.

-Keep a phenological record of the flowers that bloom in wild areas near your home or school.

-Collect rain water samples during any summer month and measure the temperature of the rainwater compared with the surrounding air temperature.  Share your results with friends and family.

Add outdoor activity ideas of your own design:

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Lessons:

Beaver Pond
Meeting Our Neighbors

Activity:  Find, Explore, and Monitor a Beaver Pond or Wild Field Edge

Key Quote:
“On our Saskatchewan Prairie the nearest neighbor was four miles away, and at night we saw only two lights on all the dark rounding earth. The earth was full of animals-field mice, ground squirrels, weasels, ferrets, badgers, coyotes, burrowing owls, and snakes. I knew them as my little brother, as fellow creatures, and I have never been able to look upon animals in any other way since.” …” I hope I learned something from knowing intimately the creatures of the earth…”

Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

Objectives:
Students will:
1) Detail the many inhabitants of an active beaver pond
2)  Learn to sit quietly and observe nature
3)  Illustrate some of the food webs observed at the pond
4)  Explain what they think they have learned from watching animals.

Background:

Procedures:
Your arrival at the pond or field will temporality disrupt the natural flow of inhabitants.  Find places where your students can lean against a tree or sit in their crazy creek chair. Be sure they are prepared to sit for a lengthy time (perhaps for an hour). Consider weather, biting insects, and communication with your students before sending them out. When sending students out, I like to occupy no more than 20% of the perimeter, allowing residents more access to come and go from the observation areas.
You can have the students observe and record everything they see or you can divide up tasks. An important watch word is “Up, down, all around.”  I have listed some of the things I like to watch for in the student journal page. Enjoy!

Related Essays:

Additional Activities:
-Visit the pond or field edge during different times of the day or of the year to note variations in activity level of residents.
-If it is a prairie you happen to be observing, perhaps your class can assist in plant inventory or a yearly burn. Check with your local natural resource agency.

Evaluation:
-Have students compare their lists of observations. Check lists from previous years.
-Have students explain what they have learned by observing this area.
What have learned about the area and its inhabitants and what they have learned about themselves?

Participant Journal Page                                Date: _________________

Activity:  Find, Explore, and Monitor a Beaver Pond or Wild Field Edge

Location:
Time:
Temperature:
Wind Speed and Direction (Use the Beaufort Scale):
Cloud Cover:

Other Observations:
-Number of minutes in full sun, shade, and partial
-Speed and direction of the wind-continuous or intermittent
-Number, size, identity of birds, what are they doing? If flying over –where are they flying from (direction) and which direction are they heading. How high are they?
- Describe movements of animals
-Watch the leaves on plants, do any of them move with the sun. When a breeze comes through, which ones move? Why is this?

Activity:  Meeting Our Neighbors and Learning the Local Flora

Key Quote:
“There must above all be joy and excitement in living, and I became convinced the field trips were as important as books and laboratories.”
“Spring days when the first flowers were popping [meant] field trips of identifications, hundreds of them. I could barely wait, and I am afraid I wore out my students so insistent was I that they feel what I felt.”

-Spirit of the North: The Quotable Sigurd F. Olson, Edited by David Backes

Objectives:
Students will be able to:
1)  Name 15-50 plants in their neighborhood
2)  Describe the benefits of learning local flora.

Background:
In the beginning of this guide Paul Gruchow reminded us that  being on a first name basis with our wonderful surroundings has immeasurable value. He notes, “ one way to understand our relationship with nature is to undertake the basic work of naming its constituents… We will love the earth more competently, more effectively, by being able to name and know something about the life it sustains.”

Learning the names of trees and plants and observing their patterns of flowering and leaf out lays the foundation for more rigorous phenological and scientific plot studies of natural areas surrounding your school. It is a key that leads to a much larger room, a place of natural wonder and intrigue! Get out and enjoy and learn some names as you go!

Procedures:
If you don’t know the local flora, I advise you go out several times with a local expert to learn some of the basics, discover places to see a diversity of local plants and wildflowers, weeds and grasses. Guides are always being updated and may have keys in the front or back. I have always had good luck with the Peterson series and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.

If you are going to teach your class to use a key, I recommend a few sessions in class or under a shade tree with some common samples. Once they have it down, you can load up some day packs with wildflower guides, hand lenses, water, snacks, and a first aid kit. Then head out to some overgrown fields with natural, unmowed edges. It is a great feeling to learn about a few more of your neighbors.

Related Essays:
If you know of any good essays for this topic, let me know!

Additional Activities:
-Create a timeline of the flowers and trees that bloom on and around your school grounds. Compliment your timeline with color chips (from the paint store) that match the colors of the flowers.
-Start a school herbarium or work in conjunction with a local museum.

Evaluation:
-Teach your class to prepare herbarium samples.
-Bring in some preserved specimens of the plants you discovered or use pictures, and have the students identify the common name and/or its Latin name-genus and species. For extra credit, they can mention the uses of the plant.
-Have your class plant and care for a local flora wildlife garden.  Use extra large popsicle sticks to name plants so others can learn more about them. If there is no room in your school grounds for such a garden, work with city council, local businesses or agencies to find a spot for your project.
-Have your students teach younger ones or arrange for them to lead a nature walk in the community.

Participant Journal Page                                Date:_________________

Activity:  Meeting Our Neighbors~Learning the Local Flora

Location:
Time:
Temperature:
Wind Speed and Direction (Use the Beaufort Scale):
Cloud Cover:

Other Observations: