Nature Activities

20160410_144649This April, we had a visit from the Melrose Brownies Troop 76133 to help them work on their Bugs Badge.  They, in turn, helped us build a bug hotel to bring in pollinators to our garden.  Pollinators, such as bees, insects, birds, butterflies, and many more, help bring pollen from one plant to another, allowing the flowers and buds of many of the trees, fruits, and vegetables we love and eat to grow.

Did you know at least 1 in 3 foods we eat are directly impacted by pollinators?

Here’s a round up of some great ideas and links to information and ideas to bring pollinators into your garden:

Basic information on pollination for kids. http://sciencewithme.com/learn-about-pollination/

The inspiration for our bug hotel (note: we used a found shelf to create the structure for ours and it is a work still in progress): http://babbledabbledo.com/science-for-kids-insect-hotel/

Planting a wide variety of plants in your gardens will help support a healthy and diverse pollinator population.  The Fish and Wildlife Service offers some ideas on creating a pollinator garden: http://www.fws.gov/pollinators/pollinatorpages/yourhelp.html

Need more ideas for creating a pollinator garden, or ready to create your garden and get counted toward the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge?  Head here to find out more: http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/

Monarch butterflies migrate annually from Mexico throughout Massachusetts and well-beyond.  You can help the Monarch Butterfly Journey North Citizen Science Project by reporting when you first see Monarchs in your neighborhood (or when you see Monarch eggs or larva, or when milkweed plants start to sprout in the spring).  To find out more info or to report, head to: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/SpringWatch.html

High Mowing Seeds, the company that donated seeds for our children’s garden this year, has a great round-up of types of flowers and plants to help attract and support pollinators.  While the contest this was written for is no longer running, the information is still great: http://www.highmowingseeds.com/blog/bee-the-change-inviting-pollinators-to-the-table/

Have fun, get in the dirt, get gardening, and welcome those pollinators back to your communities!

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20160114_130516In these winter months, you may find that your kids are more enthusiastic about any pending snow than you are. Snow, however, can make a great theme for activities either in the classroom, in after school programs, or even at home.

Here’s a small round up of the snow-related activities we explored while creating our Explore Club curriculum.

1.  Salt+ Watercolor: Sprinkling salt on watercolor is a great way to talk about crystals. Plus, the final products wind up looking very cool. We used our watercolor paintings to make our binoculars too. For more information, this website has a good overview: KinderArt.com

2. The Story of Snow, by Mark Cassino. This book is a wealth of information, and you can pare down the book for use with younger kids, or read the whole thing with upper elementary. The real life pictures are absolutely incredible. You can find it on Amazon.

3. Making paper snowflakes is a classic way to talk about the idea that no two snowflakes are exactly alike, and also to talk about symmetry. Want to get even more complicated with the snowflake patterns? You may inspire your kids by showing them some templates to make ever-more intricate snowflakes. There are some great templates on FirstPalette.com

4. If you’re blessed with a lot of snow, utilizing that natural resource is always an option. Some of our favorites include:
Make a winter shelter. Everyone thinks of an igloo, but you may want to try building a quinzee.

Make maple snow candy. We tried this at one of our community programs, and it was challenging to get the popsicle sticks to work particularly well, but the candy tasted just as great picked up whole from the snow. Receipe at Backtoherroots.com

Tracking animals becomes much easier in the snow. Paul Rezendes’ book Tracking and the Art of Seeing is a classic, and very in depth. Mass Department of Fish and Wildlife has a very handy pocket guide to animal tracks, which you can pick up through them, but it is also online here.

Insta-snow can be a fun way to have the sensation of playing with snow even if you are not blessed with snow around. It is a super absorbent polymer, and in addition to just being a fun thing to play with, can be an excellent way to introduce that topic. You can find it here.

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It’s stick season so make catapults!

December 16, 2015

You may be familiar with the different seasons of the calendar year. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of some of these: ski season, mud season, leaf peeper season, strawberry season But, have you ever heard of stick season? That’s the time of year after the leaves have fallen but before the snow […]

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Acorns and Pinecones and Leaves, Oh My!

November 14, 2015

Every year around this time we post several acorn crafts that you can do at home. This year we’ve chosen a few that will use the beautiful fall leaves and pinecones that are dropping in Massachusetts right now. Also before getting started with any of the crafts below it’s a good idea to be sure […]

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November is Family Literacy Month

November 13, 2015

Did you know November is Family Literacy Month? Whether it’s a jumping off point for an activity, something for a participant to engage in if they’ve finished their art project early, or perhaps just a resource for our staff to inspire their own time in nature, we love to use children’s books in our program. […]

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Leaf Lanterns Bring Autumn Inside

October 16, 2015

If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest you know just how many autumn crafts are out there. Choosing one to feature this month was hard! We decided on a leaf lantern since it encourages you to take a walk in the woods with your family to find leaves of all colors and sizes to use […]

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Birds of a feather: Making Bird Beaks

October 16, 2015

Did you know bird beaks are different based on the type of food that they eat. Birds that eat seeds tend to have smaller, thicker beaks perfect for cracking them open. Birds that eat nectar have long, slender beaks so that they can lap up nectar with their tongues. Birds of prey have peaks on […]

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Playing with Leaves to make Land Art

September 18, 2015

“Land Art” is a movement made famous by the work of British artist/sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Land artists go to a natural area – a patch of trees, a riverbank, a shoreline, or an open field – and create there an astonishing, implausible, graceful work of art, made from the natural things found in that place […]

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Nature Art: Flower Window Gardens

August 4, 2015

This activity is a perfect way to bring a little bit of nature indoors and preserve the beautiful flowers and leaves growing outside. To make a window garden, you will need a paper plate, scissors, tape or contact paper, markers (or other decorating supplies), and an assortment of flowers, leaves, and things found in nature. […]

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Nature Art: Treasure Hunt Stick

August 4, 2015

project from Kiwi Crate This art activity is great to accompany a fun hike in the woods. Not only does it encourage artistic creativity, but it also promotes exploration and discovery of the beautiful treasures in nature! All you need is yarn, scissors, and a good Y-shaped stick. The first step is to find a […]

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