Are your animal instincts a bit rusty? At nature school today we were tuning up our skills, using our noses to catch a scent, making keen-eyed observations of small signs like chew marks, and learning the signature prints of some pretty amazing local animals. If you dig deep, you too can get caught up in the amazing mystery of the great unseen.
Animals leave evidence and we nature detectives are not easily fooled. We notice track shapes, the pattern of footfalls, trajectory of movement, and signs left behind. We even tested our noses to see if they could also give us information to raise the invisibility cloak of mother nature.
Children took off in all directions, following leads and finding a crisscrossing of different animals. Popsicle sticks marked each dead-end where evidence could be gathered. Some keen detectives even sniffed down small earthen holes. What happened here, did these animals meet or avoid each other? Were the animals moving fast or ambling along in a winding trail? One person shouted "I found a hole with scattered seeds where the tracks end, where did they go?". The air was filled with excited shouts, 'come look at this!'. We imagined all the tiny eyes peeking out watching us unravel their antics from the night before. Must have been one big party!!!
White-tailed deer are abundant on these lands. We remember following trails to the back forest last week and noticing a hunting stand near the field edge. Learning about these large and beautiful creatures helps us appreciate the dynamic web of life playing out right near us. Roleplaying deer involves making a deer bed, adding trails to feeding areas, and marking territory. Ask your child about these parts of becoming a deer. How do they tell others that this is their area, what foods are they looking for, and what strategies are used to evade predators? We had two predators in our game, what were they? Learning through active roleplay is a wonderful way to feel the elements at play in these animals' lives; fear, anticipation, teamwork, and preparedness. Talk about how they felt as a deer, were they successful at finding food, will they make it through the harsh winter?
Farms are busy places and there are always chores to be done. Our team approach to getting the animals cleaned, watered and fed worked wonderfully. Ask about your child’s chores today, what did they do and who did they work with? Dragonfly claims ‘poop heaven’ (mucking stalls) is the best job ever!. Thanks for those helpful hand forest friends:).
Journaling is our way of locking in the new concepts and vocabulary. Sharing this at home will help bring out more details and add connections to other things. If the deer is a herbivore, what does that make me? What other animals are herbivores? Ask to see your child’s journal, spend time looking and asking questions. See if they want to add something else that they didn’t have time for at nature school.
Our closing saying goes…”May the nature spirit make the sun rise in our hearts". We certainly had happy hearts and lots of nature spirit today! We end in a circle, as we began, with the song 'Happy Trails', which takes us on our way home with joy in our hearts. Happy trails until next week:)