Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tiny Adventures: Parting Gifts

     To set the tone for the changing of the season, I'd like to share this video of acorn bliss from this past week.  Kiddos have been joining the ranks of the Blue Jays and Gray Squirrels participating in this year's acorn mast.

     The times they are a changing, and this week's Spreading Joy challenge will turn our minds and hearts to the winged things starting their big journey to their wintering grounds.  Make a parting gift for the winged traveller of your choice.  Find out which creatures leave Vermont for the winter (don't forget butterflies and bats!), and create something to help send them on their way.  This could be a tasty energy packed treat, a song, a dance…really anything that lets that creature know you're sending it with blessings on its journey.

     Or, if you like, make a gift for a winged friend that chooses to stay and brave the winter alongside us.  There hasn't passed a winter that the Black-Capped Chickadee hasn't lifted my spirits as it continues to live and play alongside me in the snow.

    OR! Consider the species that actually travel from colder climates to spend their winter in balmy Vermont.  Make them a welcome back gift that celebrates their hardiness.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tiny Adventures - Nature Mysteries

An ant discovering a tiny world
Carrying on with the theme of tiny, this week's challenge is to find a tiny world and study it. At the Field School, we create fairy houses, build orc shelters, discover hidden lairs, caverns, hideaways, magical lyceums, and so many other worlds. We imagine them inhabited by Dale the Fire Gnome, Kludos Bagma, Spiro Sardis, and all other creatures of the woods. When I go home, inspired by the imaginations of the kids, I seek out these tiny worlds.

The challenge is to go out in your backyard with your kid(s) and find one of these tiny worlds. Imagine you were a famous explorer and naturalist like Isabella Bird, investigating a new, previously unknown world. Who lives there? How do they construct their homes? What things are they afraid of? What things might they eat? What signs do they leave behind? To find my tiny world I went to a service road and watched ants running back and forth over the gravel. I followed one ant as it made its way up a landscape rock, then paused on the moss for a while before running off in search of food. You're the first person to ever witness this tiny world! Be a naturalist, describe, draw, inquire, explore!

7-bug challenge
To go a step further, you can take the 7-bug challenge. It's one of my favorite ways of getting myself to look closer. It'll get harder with the waning warm weather and chilly (34 degrees on Thursday) nights, but still possible. The 7-bug challenge is simple: find a shrub or tree nearby, and don't leave until you've found 7 different insects (or sign of their presence). On the short way back to my front door, I found another tiny world in the branch of a black locust. The more I looked the more I saw. Mystery after mystery opened up. Initially I was full of questions, and then my questions turned into answers. See the photos below for my 7-bug challenge. Feel free to post drawings or photos below.

Bonus question: What in the world is in the photo below? I found it on the ground, but there were tons more growing on a plant twisting up my neighbor's fence. Feel free to post guesses as comments.