Annie's Big Nature Lesson – #2

Last week we had a second teacher from Hunt Elementary School come out for a week-long program:  Annie’s Big Nature Lesson.  Each day the students have an “expert” lesson from Dahlem staff, then have lessons taught by their own teacher.  After lunch, they spend an hour doing observations and journaling.  Debriefing sessions after each activity help reinforce the lessons learned.

Here are a few of the highlights from Emily Matz’s fourth grade class’s week here.

Every day upon first arriving, they went outside for First Look, during which they took note of the weather, and the sights, sounds and smells all around them.

Monday, after First Look, we took them on a hike through the frozen woods.  Everything was coated with ice, thanks to the storm over the weekend.  It was beautiful!

After an hour with our staff, they did a second Discovery Walk with their teacher, walking around the Nature for All Trail.


There were so many things to see, like these raccoon tracks,

a bract from a basswood tree,

and these great rabbit tracks, where the hind toes were spread out to give the animal greater flotation on the snow.

Diego took out his hand lens to get up close with a plant and discovered the seeds had hooks on them to help them stick to clothes and fur!

Debriefing allowed everyone to warm up a bit and see what others had recorded from these walks.

Observation time on Monday was spent in the hay field.

Some students looked up and saw part of a sundog.

One students had great views of a downy woodpecker as it searched (very thoroughly) for insects to eat.

After Tuesday‘s First Look, students went inside to investigate six mystery skulls.

I was VERY impressed with some of the drawings!

This was followed up with the Expert Lesson – Carried identified the skulls, pointed out key traits of each, and shared with the students pelts from each animal.

Tuesday’s Observation Time was in the woods.

Wednesday morning, another sunny, but chilly day, we were out learning how to do mapping.  Our goal was to record on our trail maps the various habitats we walked through.

Students warmed up before lunch with a couple stories.

Then it was back outdoors for Observation Time – this time in The Bug Field.

Not all came out unscathed.  This girl got her hair tangled in some stick-tight seeds!  Carrie gently removed them.

Thursday…schools were closed due to the weather.  🙁  We hope to reschedule in late February.

On Friday, we were ready to go!  First on the docket was learning some basics about animal tracking and scats.  Sadly, I was teaching the tracking bit, so I have no photos.

Carrie covered the scat section, and was a big hit when she demonstrated that sometimes you have to taste scats to determine what they are (a joke:  we used Raisinettes for deer scat).  Each student got a baggie of rabbit scat (coco puffs) to take home to try the same trick.
After learning all these IDs, we played a couple rousing rounds of Animal Scat Twister before going out to look for tracks.
We changed the schedule a bit and did Observation Time next.  Our destination:  the stream.
The wind had picked up this day and even though they were bundled up, it was cold.
 Still, stuff had been happenin’ here over night!  How great to see this right after they had learned about tracking!
After lunch, it was time for the Community Service Project.  We worked with our Stewardship Coordinator, Gary, and had the kids tackle some “cut-n-dab” – removing invasive plants.

And every day we got to spend a few minutes playing…enjoying the fun things that Mother Nature gives us to do in winter.

If you know a teacher who might want to do a week-long Annie’s program with us, have them give us a call:  782-3453.  Ask for Ellen.  We plan to offer training this summer, possibly in August, for ten new teachers.

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